Manure, local food and Asian carp

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes 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.

Manure clean-up effort lags in Minnesota
Thousands of small farms may still be allowing animal manure to contaminate waters across Minnesota, a decade after a state environmental program was created to help curtail the hazardous practice.

The cleanup effort, which had a deadline of Oct. 1, has languished because of funding shortages, oversight problems by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the inability to get more farmers to participate. MPCA officials said last week they don’t know how many farms still need fixing. Two years ago, the last time they checked, more than 3,000 farms in the state did. 

At stake is the health of many Minnesota lakes and streams, where manure from so-called animal feedlots can carry disease-causing bacteria that make waters unsafe for swimmers, anglers and others. Untreated waste can also kill fish, harm aquatic plants, and create a chain of environmental problems.
–The Star Tribune

Wisconsin DNR suspects manure in fish kill
Investigators with the state Department of Natural Resources and Dane County say it is likely that a fish kill in late September on the Sugar River was caused by manure runoff.

But Dave Wood, a DNR conservation warden, said investigators have not been able to pinpoint the origin of the manure. 

“We found out there was a lot of liquid manure being spread in the upper watershed then,” Wood said. The Dane County Land and Water Resources Department also worked on the investigation. 

The fish kill probably happened between Sept. 23 and Sept. 26 and killed more than 50 fish, including some trophy-sized brown trout. The stretch of river where the fish died is near Riley; the fish were found along a section of river running roughly from the intersections of highways P and S southeast to Highway PD.
–The Wisconsin State Journal

 Horner pledges to make water quality a priority
Calling conservation of natural resources a defining issue for Minnesotans, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner pledged to make restoring water quality a top priority if he is elected governor.

 Standing in warm autumn sunlight at St. Paul’s Como Park, Horner said his first goal is “reversing degradation to our lakes, streams and waterways and groundwater.”

With the state facing a projected $5.8 billion budget deficit, Horner acknowledged that he wouldn’t be able to significantly increase funding for natural resources in the next two years, but said, “Let’s not take any more money away.”

 He would borrow money through the sale of bonds to purchase conservation reserve easements along farm drainage ditches to protect water quality and offer low-interest loans to small cities to upgrade their sewage-treatment facilities.

To properly staff the front lines in protecting lakes from invasive species and pollution, Horner also pledged to hire a “full complement” of conservation officers. Currently, 10 percent of those jobs are vacant, he said. 

“That can’t be sacrificed to a budget deficit,” he said.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Wal-Mart announces focus on local food
The local-and-sustainable food movement has spread to the nation’s largest retailer.

Wal-Mart Stores announced a program that focuses on sustainable agriculture among its suppliers as it tries to reduce its overall environmental impact.

The program is intended to put more locally grown food in Wal-Mart stores in the United States, invest in training and infrastructure for small and medium-size farmers, particularly in emerging markets, and begin to measure how efficiently large suppliers grow and get their produce into stores.

Advocates of environmentally sustainable farming said the announcement was significant because of Wal-Mart’s size and because it would give small farmers a chance at Wal-Mart’s business, but they questioned how “local” a $405 billion company with two million employees — more than the populations of Alaska, Wyoming and Vermont combined — could be.
–The New York Times

Asian carp may lead to re-engineering of Chicago waterways
The battle over closing Chicago-area outlets into Lake Michigan is not only about preventing Asian carp from decimating the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry, experts said. It has also prompted efforts to re-engineer a century-old waterway system that Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, has compared to “having left Michigan Avenue a dirt road while we built up a modern city around it.”

Michigan and four other states have filed suit in federal court demanding the closure of locks that connect rivers and channels to the lake.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has countered that Asian carp pose no imminent ecological threat and shutting the locks would mean billions in losses for tour boats, shipping and other industries.

Urban planners and environmental groups said there is another way to deal with the Asian carp threat: separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, which were joined a century ago by the man-made reversal of the Chicago River and the building of canals.

Separation could also involve overhauling Chicago’s outdated wastewater-treatment system and reduce the city’s controversial diversion of two billion gallons of water a day out of Lake Michigan into the Chicago River.
–The Chicago News Cooperative

EPA plays catch-up on Florida pollution
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is supposed to enforce the nation’s rules on water pollution, has suffered a pair of black eyes from two recent court cases in Florida.

In both cases, the agency has been forced to agree it has done a poor job of stopping pollution in Florida. In both, the EPA has now pledged to impose tougher standards to clean up the mess. In both, industry officials and politicians are strongly objecting to the EPA’s crackdown because the fix will cost so much money.

“Had they been doing their job all along, we wouldn’t be in this boat,” said Paul Schweip, an attorney for Friends of the Everglades, one of the organizations that sued over pollution problems.

Both cases are causing the agency major headaches.
–The St. Petersburg Times

Seattle U. eliminates plastic water bottles
Out with plastic at Seattle University. In with stainless steel water bottles.

The university is the sixth in the nation — and the first in Washington state — to eliminate plastic water bottles from cafeterias, stores and vending machines. Instead, students are encouraged to purchase a reusable water bottle for $9.99.

SU installed more than 30 water fountains with bottle fillers around campus, preparing to eliminate disposable bottles as part of a “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign.

A portion of the proceeds from reusable water bottles will be donated to Engineers Without Borders.

“For every bottle sold, four Haitians will drink clean water for ten years from the water treatment systems bought and maintained by Engineers Without Borders,” SU officials wrote.
–The Seattle Post Intelligencer

Manitoba considers ‘grey water’ rules
Attic insulation. Check

Last night’s bathtub water in the toilet. Huh?

Yup, the province is on the cusp of updating the building code to include grey water collection systems that use bathtub and shower water in toilet systems instead of freshwater as clean as your drinking water.

“We do think it’s a pretty innovative way to reduce water consumption, to be easier on our municipal water infrastructure,” Labour Minister Jennifer Howard said in outlining changes to Manitoba’s new building and plumbing codes.

“Right now we flush our toilets with drinkable water. The same water that comes out of your tap to drink is the water we flush down the toilet. Lots of countries in the world have a different view of that. They have the ability to use, you do your dishes, you use that water to flush the toilet.”

Howard said the province will approve in-home grey water collection systems if they meet Canadian Standards Association requirements, which are expected to be released in December.
–The Winnipeg Free Press