Florida gets 15-month grace period from EPA

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.

EPA downplays cost of Florida rules
For months, everyone from Florida’s new Republican governor to its Democratic senator to its farmers, sewer plant operators and utilities has been trying to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to back off new water pollution standards for Florida.

Cleaning up the waterways, they warned, would ruin the state’s already shaky economy.

EPA officials announced they were ready to unveil the new pollution limits for Florida’s rivers, lakes and springs — but with a catch.

The federal agency will not implement the 168 pages of new standards, which could cost residents an extra 11 to 20 cents a day per household, for another 15 months.

The delay is necessary to counteract all the “exaggerated, doomsday claims” that opponents have been spreading, explained the EPA’s Atlanta regional administrator, Gwen Keyes Fleming.

For instance, a lot of the opposition to the new standards has come from agricultural concerns. However, Fleming pointed out, the standards apply only to industries that pipe their pollution into a waterway. Farmers do not do that, and therefore they won’t be affected, she said.
–The Miami Herald

$25 million prize fails to solve global warming
Not long ago, it seemed that big money and boundless optimism were all that were needed to solve some of the biggest environmental problems facing the planet.

An initiative from Richard Branson,  the shaggy-haired billionaire owner of Virgin Atlantic airlines, was emblematic. In February 2007, he offered a cash prize of $25 million to anyone who could come up within just a few years with a process that would suck large amounts of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

 Flanked by Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president and the author of the book “An Inconvenient Truth,” Mr. Branson likened his offer to an 18th century competition for a method of estimating longitude accurately that eventually saved thousands of lives at seas.

 “Man created the problem, therefore man should solve the problem,” said Mr. Branson, who was referring to global warming. His initiative to help ensure the stability of the climate was “the largest ever science and technology prize to be offered in history,” Mr. Branson said.

Nearly four years later, Mr. Branson’s plans to award that prize, known as the Virgin Earth Challenge, are effectively on hold.
–The New York Times

Carp barriers planned in Washington County 
The Comfort Lake Forest Lake Watershed District has received a $283,000 grant to pay for three rough fish barriers for Bone Lake in Scandia and Moody Lake in Chisago Lake Township, said Doug Thomas, district administrator. The district’s project was the only one in Washington County project to receive funding through a competitive grant process administered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

 The barriers are intended to keep aggressive fish, such as carp, from harming the lakes. They will be designed and approved next year, with plans calling for installing them in the two lakes in winter 2012, Thomas said.
–The Star Tribune

 Haiti desperately needs clean water
Aid workers in Haiti say the government has done little to improve water and sanitation since a Jan. 12 earthquake, making it likely that the cholera epidemic there will continue to spread.

 “The situation has deteriorated. We really need a massive push of political will,” says Joia Mukherjee, medical director of Partners in Health, which is helping the Haitian government halt the outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 people. “This can’t just be about handing out water purification tablets.” Haiti’s leaders must expand the country’s treated water and sewer systems to prevent future outbreaks of waterborne diseases, Mukherjee says. Oxfam, an aid group focused on water and sanitation, says it’s still operating in emergency mode instead of creating permanent water and sewer systems.

California utility to buy ‘Erin Brockovich’ homes
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. confirmed that the utility has sent letters to more than 100 residents of Hinkley this week, offering to buy their properties.

 The High Desert town has long been threatened by a toxic plume of groundwater contaminated with cancer-causing chromium 6; the situation was made famous by the 2000 movie “Erin Brockovich.”

 PG&E previously settled with more than 600 Hinckley residents for $333 million. But company officials say they are now expanding their property purchase program due to residents’ demand.

 “More residents have expressed concern and want to relocate,” said Jeff Smith, a PG&E spokesman. He added: “We have complete confidence in our remediation efforts in the area.”
–The Los Angeles Times

Report: BP sharply criticized for oil spill 
An “insufficient consideration of risk” and “a lack of operating discipline” by oil giant BP PLC contributed to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, according to a report from a team of technical experts.

The report from the National Academy of Engineering represents the most comprehensive examination so far of the causes of the disaster. The panel’s interim report reaches few firm conclusions, repeatedly saying that possible causes require further investigation.

 Nonetheless, its tone is sharply critical of the companies involved, especially BP, which owned the troubled well that exploded on April 20. Eleven rig workers died in the accident.

 The panel also criticizes regulators and the broader industry, according to a copy of the report viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked the academy in May to probe the Gulf disaster, saying he wanted “a set of fresh eyes on the issues surrounding” the incident and an independent, science-based understanding of what happened.
— The Wall Street Journal

EPA names chemicals to be screened 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified a list of 134 chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and possibly disrupt the hormones produced or secreted by the human or animal endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism and reproduction.

 “Endocrine disruptors represent a serious health concern for the American people, especially children. Americans today are exposed to more chemicals in our products, our environment and our bodies than ever before, and it is essential that EPA takes every step to gather information and prevent risks,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

The list includes chemicals that have been identified as priorities under the Safe Drinking Water Act and may be found in sources of drinking water where a substantial number of people may be exposed. The list also includes pesticide active ingredients that are being evaluated under EPA’s registration review program to ensure they meet current scientific and regulatory standards.

The chemicals listed include those used in products such as solvents, gasoline, plastics, personal care products, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals, including benzene, perchlorate, urethane, ethylene glycol, and erythromycin.
–U.S. EPA News Release

DNR seeks input on Grand Marais-area waters
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reviewing proposals for changing the ways it manages fish populations and fish stocking over the next 5 to 20 years in a number of lakes and streams near Grand Marais. 

 Some management changes also are considered for several popular lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 

Citizens have until Dec. 31 to ask questions about the proposals or comment on them.
–Minnesota DNR News Release

Coal to fuel power plants for years to come
LIVELY GROVE, Ill –On the coasts, states are limiting carbon dioxide output, banning new coal-fired power plants and building wind turbines to fend off global warming. But here in the heartland, thousands of workers are building a $4 billion new coal plant with a 700-foot chimney, 70 feet higher than the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Around the country, construction of coal plants has been slowed, partly by opposition but also by the recession, which has stunted electric demand and forced cancellation or deferral of all kinds of utility projects. But numerous coal plants under construction today are likely to be pumping out carbon dioxide profusely until at least 2050, when, as President Obama would have it, American carbon output will be 80 percent lower.

 And the project here is not just a power plant; it is the Prairie State Energy Campus,  because it includes a vast new coal mine as well, which will supply 6.5 million tons a year. Everyone here, 40 miles southeast of St. Louis, has heard about the idea of cap and trade or other strategies for limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Some day, one might get enacted, they believe. But it does not keep them awake at night.
–The New York Times

 Iowa feedlot penalized for water pollution
The owner of a cattle and hog feedlot in Plymouth County, Iowa, has agreed to pay a $5,850 civil penalty to the United States to settle alleged violations of the facility’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

 Mark Beitelspacher, doing business as Beitelspacher Farms, of LeMars, Iowa, did not maintain adequate records associated with the land application of liquid effluent from his feedlot, as required by the NPDES permit.

 Beitelspacher Farms’ facilities have the capacity for approximately 3,000 cattle and 4,700 hogs, according to an administrative consent agreement filed by EPA Region 7 in Kansas City, Kan.

 An EPA representative conducted a compliance inspection of Beitelspacher Farms on April 28, 2010, and found that the facility did not maintain adequate records of its liquid effluent land applications.
–U.S. EPA News Release