Report criticizes ag pollution regulation

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

Regulation of ag pollution lacking, report says
A new report addresses the failures and successes of agricultural regulations in Iowa, Wisconsin, California and other agricultural states meant to reduce agricultural pollution that harms waters and aquatic life both locally and downstream, such as in the Gulf of Mexico where farm run-off from states upstream has created an aquatic Dead Zone the size of Massachusetts.

The report, conducted by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Mississippi River Collaborative a partnership of environmental organizations and legal centers from states bordering the Mississippi, examined the effectiveness of state-based rules and laws meant to regulate non-point agricultural pollution.

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, nonpoint source pollution, or polluted run-off, is one of the most pervasive forms of water pollution in the U.S. Nonpoint source pollution is not directly regulated by the Clean Water Act and is left up to the states.

Authors of the study, titled “Cultivating Clean Water,” said they found “a fragmented and poorly-implemented system of state-based regulation of nonpoint pollution.”

 Cities struggle to pay for wastewater plants
Under a federal order to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant, Buffalo, Mo., residents approved a $3.4 billion bond two years ago fully anticipating that its largest employer — and its largest water user — would repay the bulk of that loan.

But Petit Jean Poultry shut down in October 2008, months before the upgrade was completed. And the town, which has fewer than 2,500 households, was left to pay back the bond minus about 500 jobs.

 “Had we known they would close, we wouldn’t have went to the extent of improving the wastewater facility as we did,” Mayor Jerry Hardesty said. “The citizens passed the bond with Petit Jean figured into that. We were counting on that.” 

Buffalo is not alone.
–The New York Times

An unexpected divide on global warming
The debate over global warming has created predictable adversaries, pitting environmentalists against industry and coal-state Democrats against coastal liberals.

 But it has also created tensions between two groups that might be expected to agree on the issue: climate scientists and meteorologists, especially those who serve as television weather forecasters. 

Climatologists, who study weather patterns over time, almost universally endorse the view that the earth is warming and that humans have contributed to climate change. There is less of a consensus among meteorologists, who predict short-term weather patterns.
–The New York Times

 DNR  maps underground water routes
When snow is melting in the woods and fields of southeastern Minnesota, Jeff Green wants to know where it’s going.

For Green, a karst hydrologist for the state Department of Natural Resources, the running waters of spring offer a chance to work on maps of underground pathways that water takes in the fragile geology of southeastern Minnesota. His maps will help fire departments, land-use planners, farmers, and people who want to protect trout streams. 

Finding underground pathways are important, because Minnesota’s driftless area wasn’t scraped by the last glacier. The area’s honeycombed limestone bedrock makes it highly vulnerable to pollution caused by chemical spills, development or poor farming practices. 

The first step in making groundwater maps is dye tracing, a process in which scientists pour dye in melting snow and track where it leads.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 EPA takes new look at plastic compound
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to add bisphenol-A, or BPA, a plastic widely used in food packaging and plastic bottles, to its list of chemicals of concern because of potential adverse impacts on the environment and human and animal health. 

The agency will require new studies of concentrations of the plastic in surface water, groundwater and drinking water to determine where it exists in levels requiring action. More than a million pounds of the chemical, used to harden plastics, are released into the environment each year, the agency said. 

The environmental agency will also require manufacturers that use BPA to provide test data to help evaluate effects on growth, reproduction and development in aquatic organisms and wildlife.
–The New York Times

Renewable energy gulps water
Rising U.S. water usage is worrying experts who will gather April 15 at this year’s intelligent water summit in Washington.

 Ironically, water consumption has risen because of the drive toward renewable energy

 Solar power generation consumes huge quantities of water, as does production of other forms of energy.

 Despite educational programs and official exhortations, waste remains a major issue in water usage for landscaping and gardens, experts who are to attend the summit said ahead of the meeting.

While inefficient use of sprinklers and other devices for landscaping and gardening is an old problem, federal land managers have raised concerns that some types of solar energy projects in the western United States consume far too much water.

Grants awarded for Lake Superior projects
Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program has awarded $502,041 in grants for 13 projects that protect and preserve the coastal resources of Lake Superior.

The grants include $75,000 to Carlton County to aquire 4 miles of right-of-way for the St. Louis River Trail in Clouqet and $7,600 to the Lake Superior Maritime Museum to create a new exhibit on shipwrecks in Lake Superior. 

Funding for the grants comes from the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. The Governor’s Council on Minnesota’s Coastal Program, a 15-member citizen advisory board, helped select the projects.
–DNR news release



Ruling jeopoardizes Everglades project

The Miami federal judge overseeing Everglades cleanup issued a ruling that could prove the final nail in the coffin of Gov. Charlie Crist’s controversial Big Sugar land buy — or serve as a judicial kick in the butt to finally seal the much-delayed, twice-downsized deal.

Saying he was tired of waiting, Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno ordered water managers to restart construction on a $700 million reservoir in western Palm Beach County — a project once touted as critical to Everglades restoration but halted two years ago and left in limbo while the state bargained to buy massive tracts from the U.S. Sugar Corp.

Moreno sided with the Miccosukee Tribe, which had argued that halting the reservoir exposed tribal lands to worsening pollution that the $536 million sugar deal, scaled back in size and cost twice by the deteriorating economy, might not alleviate for a decade or more.

–The Miami Herald




Baby, it’s cold inside

Some like it hot. Apparently, the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog is not among them.

The three-inch-long amphibians much prefer it cold as melting snow. So conservationists at the San Diego Zoo have placed two dozen of the nearly extinct frogs in refrigerators they jokingly refer to as “Valentine’s Day retreats” in hopes the animals will emerge with the urge to mate.

The big chill at the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research represents one of the most ambitious wildlife reintroduction experiments in the nation. If it is successful, the frogs could produce upward of 6,000 tadpoles next month, all of them scheduled for a spring homecoming in a remote San Jacinto Mountains stream from which they have been absent for a decade.

–The Washington Post