UN: Pollution is leading cause of death

Each Week the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional , national and international articles about water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

 Polluted water is leading cause of death, U.N. says
More people die from polluted water every year than from all forms of violence, including war, the U.N. said in a report that highlights the need for clean drinking water.

 The report, launched to coincide with World Water Day, said an estimated 2 billion tons of waste water — including fertilizer run-off, sewage and industrial waste — is being discharged daily. That waste fuels the spread of disease and damages ecosystems.

 ”Sick Water” — the report from the U.N. Environment Program — said that 3.7 percent of all deaths are attributed to water-related diseases, translating into millions of deaths. More than half of the world’s hospital beds are filled by people suffering from water-related illnesses, it said.
–The Associated Press

 EPA announces drinking water changes
The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would overhaul drinking water regulations so that officials could police dozens of contaminants simultaneously and tighten rules on the chemicals used by industries.

 The new policies, which are still being drawn up, will probably force some local water systems to use more effective cleaning technologies, but may raise water rates.

 “There are a range of chemicals that have become more prevalent in our products, our water and our bodies in the last 50 years,” the E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson said in a speech.
–The New York Times

Endocrine disruptor BPA detected in sea water
Scientists have reported widespread global contamination of sea sand and sea water with the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) and said that the BPA probably originated from a surprising source: Hard plastic trash discarded in the oceans and the epoxy plastic paint used to seal the hulls of ships. 

“We were quite surprised to find that polycarbonate plastic biodegrades in the environment,” said Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D. He reported on the discovery March 23 at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held in San Francisco. 

Saido and Hideto Sato, Ph.D., and colleagues are with Nihon University, Chiba, Japan. “Polycarbonates are very hard plastics, so hard they are used to make screwdriver handles, shatter-proof eyeglass lenses, and other very durable products. This finding challenges the wide public belief that hard plastics remain unchanged in the environment for decades or centuries.
–Science Daily

 EPA forcing cities to levy storm water fees
New environmental regulations are prompting cities to impose fees on property owners for the cost of managing storm water runoff, the leading cause of water pollution in most of the nation.

The Environmental Protection Agency has started issuing a series of limits on storm water pollution that will require local governments to spend large amounts of money on water quality and soon start slowly reshaping America’s roads, housing developments and even the traditional lawn.

The EPA for the first time is placing specific limits on how much storm water pollution can flow into the nation’s streams, rivers, lakes and bays. Federal courts have ruled that the Clean Water Act requires more stringent regulations.
–USA Today 

California at odds over tracking groundwater use
A state report says California should start tracking how much water is being pumped from underground aquifers to get a better measurement of what some officials consider unreliable supplies.

Each year, California gets at least one-third of its water supply from the ground. A bill passed by the Legislature last year set up a largely voluntary program to monitor groundwater basins, but the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommends measuring how much is being pumped out as well.

Both cities and farmers have resisted attempts at groundwater permitting because they consider it a freely available resource.

The legislative analyst says groundwater is a shared public asset and suggests California follow models in other Western states that require active measurement of groundwater pumping.
–The San Jose Mercury News

Quenching the Middle East’s thirst
Historically, water unavailability has been a key concern across the Middle East and Africa. Many countries in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have renewable water resources per capita less than 1000 m3/year; the level that defines water scarcity.

 Furthermore, the geographic distribution of these limited water resources is highly uneven. Over 80% of the region is desert and receives little or no rainfall. Water supply provisions under such conditions have always been a key policy issue with social, economic and environmental ramifications. In the past it has been erratic rainfall and prolonged drought periods, widely believed to be manifestations of climate change, which have added a new dimension to the problem. This is particularly the case with Syria, Jordan, Israel and Algeria, which are facing severe water shortages.

While supplies are constrained, the demand for freshwater over the years has continued to increase at a rapid pace. This increase in demand is a result of several interplaying forces. Across MENA, the agricultural sector is the prime consumer of water. In some countries, it accounts for over 80% of the total annual water withdrawals. Agricultural subsidies, improving irrigation and pumping technologies and the discovery of fossil groundwater reserves have helped expansion of agricultural activity.
–Water World

Turtle Lake, Wis., cheese plant fined for pollution
Lake Country Dairy, Inc., which owns and operates a cheese production facility in Turtle Lake, has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle state claims under Wisconsin’s water pollution laws. The judgment resolves charges that Lake Country Dairy failed to properly manage its discharges of wastewater into the Village of Turtle Lake wastewater treatment plant since 2006.

Wisconsin law requires manufacturers such as Lake Country Dairy, Inc. to pre-treat wastewater resulting in discharges that do not contain pollutants at levels that contribute to a violation of the local water treatment plant’s permit and do not have a pH below 5.0 unless the treatment plant is specifically designed to handle acidic waste.

The complaint charges that Lake Country Dairy operated in violation of state water pollution statutes since 2006 by causing violations of the Village of Turtle Lake’s treatment plant permit on at least 13 occasions, and that it discharged wastewater with a pH below 5.0 on at least 15 occasions.
–The Barron News-Shield