A new DNR commissioner; Farm Bureau sues 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.

Dayton names Landwehr to lead DNR
Few state agency jobs are as daunting as the top one at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Tom Landwehr knows that, but he is still looking forward to tackling it.

“Its pretty intimidating, awe-inspiring and exciting all at the same time,” said Landwehr, Gov. Mark Dayton’s pick Thursday to be the new DNR commissioner, replacing Mark Holsten.

Landwehr, 55, brings loads of experience to the job.

He has a master’s degree in business, taught at the University of Minnesota’s School of Natural Resources and worked s a DNR scientist and wildlife manager for 17 years. After leaving the agency in 1999, he was state conservation director for Ducks Unlimited in Minnesota and Iowa until 2003. Since then, he’s been assistant state director for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

He’ll need all those skills to navigate his way at the DNR, which oversees hunting, angling, parks, timber and mining pursuits, balancing competing economic, environmental and conservation interests that all have zealous constituencies.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Farm Bureau sues EPA over Chesapeake plan
It didn’t take long for the Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” to get challenged in court.

The American Farm Bureau Federation filed suit, contending that the plan unveiled less than two weeks ago by the Environmental Protection Agency is “dangerous and unlawful,” in the words of the national farm group’s president.

The suit, joined by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, was filed in federal court in that state, but could affect whether the cleanup plan is enforced in Maryland and the rest of the region.

The farm groups contend that the EPA overstepped its legal authority under the Clean Water Act by specifying pollution reductions for farms, municipalities and other sources within the 64,000-square mile watershed – something the suit argues is the purview of the states, not the federal government.

The suit also asserts that the “total maximum daily load,” as the diet is officially known, is based on erroneous information about pollution sources, that the EPA relied on computer models “unsuitable” for simulating the impacts on bay water quality and that the agency did not allow adequate time for public comment and review before imposing its diet.

“We all want a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay,” farm bureau president Bob Stallman said in a statement. “This lawsuit is about how we get there. Farm Bureau believes EPA’s ‘diet’ for the Chesapeake is dangerous and unlawful.”  A farm bureau federation official told The Virginian-Pilot that the intent of the lawsuit is to force EPA to “start over” in assigning state-by-state pollution reductions to restore the bay.
–The Baltimore Sun

U.S. to lower fluoride-in-water recommendation
In a remarkable turnabout, federal health officials say many Americans are now getting too much fluoride because of its presence not just in drinking water but in toothpaste, mouthwash and other products, and it’s causing splotches on children’s teeth and perhaps more serious problems.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced plans  to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in nearly 50 years, based on a fresh review of the science.

The announcement is likely to renew the battle over fluoridation, even though the addition of fluoride to drinking water is considered one of the greatest public health successes of the 20th century.

The U.S. prevalence of decay in at least one tooth among teens has declined from about 90 percent to 60 percent. The government first began urging municipal water systems to add fluoride in the early 1950s. Since then, it has been put in toothpaste and mouthwash. It is also in a lot of bottled water and in soda. Some kids even take fluoride supplements. Now, young children may be getting too much.
–The Associated Press

 MPCA seeks  comment on Fillmore County dairy plan
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency seeks comments on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet prepared for Johnson’s Rolling Acres proposed dairy expansion in Fillmore County.  Comments must be in writing and accepted by 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 9.

Richard Johnson proposes to expand his dairy operations from 870 to 1,400 cows and 110 to 500 heifers, with a decrease in calves from 40 to 30.  Johnson plans to build a new barn, change an existing manure-storage basin, add a manure-storage basin, and expand areas used to store feed and bedding material.  In addition, the expansion would include features to collect and store silage leachate and rainwater to prevent pollutants from washing into nearby streams.  The dairy is located in Norway Township in northeast Fillmore County, near Peterson.

After expansion, the dairy would generate 11 million gallons of liquid manure a year.  Johnson plans to apply manure from the storage basins to cropland twice a year.  The dairy would have three manure-storage basins with a total storage capacity of 21.1 million gallons.

The existing and proposed dairy facilities are surrounded by land zoned for agriculture, though 25 residences are located within one mile of the proposed expansion and manure-application sites.  Based on a computer modeling study, the MPCA expects the new facility to comply with state air quality standards, with odors below levels usually considered unpleasant.

The expansion area and manure application sites include sinkholes and exposed or shallow bedrock, which can lead directly to groundwater used for drinking wells.  Federal and state laws require setbacks to prevent bacteria from manure draining to groundwater through sinkholes and exposed bedrock.

The EAW provides information about how the proposed project could affect the environment and helps determine whether an Environmental Impact Statement, a more comprehensive environmental review, is needed.  Interested parties may comment on the EAW during the public notice period through Feb. 9.

The EAW is available and on the MPCA Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us. Send questions and comments on the Johnson’s Rolling Hills EAW to Charles Peterson, planner principal for Environmental Review and Feedlot Section, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., Saint Paul, MN 55155 or charles.peterson@state.mn.us.
In addition to the environmental worksheet, this project requires a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System Permit.  This permit will also be available for comment through Feb .9.  Comments on the permit, which must be in writing, should go to Steven Schmidt, pollution control specialist, MPCA, 18 Wood Lake Drive S.E., Rochester, MN 55904 or steven.schmidt@state.mn.us.
–MPCA News Release

 Minnehaha district considers rules on invasives
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed district is proposing tough new rules to help curb the spread of invasive species like milfoil and zebra mussels. The district wants to require anything, including boats, personal watercraft, and docks, to be inspected before being allowed in the water.

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Administrator Eric Evenson agrees there are already rules in place to curb invasive species, “The problem is that they’re not being enforced by the local police departments.”

While the exact plan is still being developed, one idea would be to label each lake as infested or un-infested. Boats based on infested lakes would carry a red sticker, boats on un-infested lakes would carry a green sticker. All boats would be inspected before getting a sticker, and any boat moving from a red lake to a green lake would require re-inspection.

New Jersey adopts fertilizer limits
New Jersey adopted the nation’s toughest restrictions on fertilizer as part of a package of bills signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie to protect the fragile Barnegat Bay from further pollution.

Runoff from fertilizer applied to lawns and farms eventually makes its way into waterways and contributes to water pollution and fish-killing algae blooms.

The bills require upgrades to malfunctioning storm drains, force contractors to loosen soil that becomes hard-packed.

A key provision requires that at least 20 percent of nitrogen in fertilizer sold in New Jersey be the slow-release type to prevent it from easily washing into waterways.
–The Associated Press

Potty training for pigs?
Taiwan’s environmental authorities said they are planning to promote potty training for pigs to help curb water and waste pollution.

The Environmental Protection Administration made the pledge following the success of a pig farm in southern Taiwan, where the breeder started to potty-train his 10,000 pigs in late 2009, it said in a statement.

To keep his animals from defecating in nearby rivers, the breeder has established special “toilets” smeared with faces and urine to attract the pigs, it said.

This reduced the amount of waste water by up to 80 percent. As well as making the farm cleaner and less smelly, it also helped reduce illness among the pigs and boosted their fertility by 20 percent, it added.
–The Times of India

 EPA approves Klamath pollution plan
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved California’s water quality improvement plan for restoring salmon fisheries and water quality in the Klamath River. The plan calls for massive pollution reductions for the California portion of the river, including a 57% reduction in phosphorus, 32% in nitrogen, and 16% in carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand.

The plan also calls for annual reductions in the river’s reservoirs of more than 120,000 pounds of nitrogen, and 22,000 pounds of phosphorus.

The Klamath River, a federally protected “Wild and Scenic River,” flows 255 miles southwest from Oregon through northern California, and empties into the Pacific Ocean. The Klamath River drains an extensive watershed covering over 12,600 square miles, and has been called the “Everglades of the West.” The Klamath River and its tributaries support the highest diversity of anadromous fishes of any river in California, including salmon, cutthroat trout, steelhead and sturgeon. Upstream in Oregon, the river hosts the state’s most robust population of redband and bull trout. In 2002, a massive die-off of more than 33,000 salmon brought national attention to this area.
–U.S. EPA News Release

 Green jeans: Levi’s saves water
Back in 2007, Levi’s did a cradle-to-grave assessment of the resources required for its famous 501 denim and found out something surprising: its jeans were practically made of water. The San Francisco-based company discovered that over the lifetime of its jeans, from the cotton fields needed to make the fabric to consumers’ tossing their dirty dungarees in the washing machine, each pair used up 3,480 L of water, which is the equivalent of running a garden hose for 106 minutes.

There wasn’t much Levi’s could change about cotton farming or consumer hygiene, but company executives realized they could use ozone processing to reduce the amount of washing needed to soften jeans before they’re sold — i.e., the wash in stonewashed. The result is Levi’s Water‹Less jeans, a new line that hits stores in January. On average, the jeans, which will cost the same as conventional ones, use 28% less water in the finishing process. Multiply that by the more than 1.5 million pairs of Water‹Less jeans Levi’s expects to sell this spring and the savings add up to approximately 16 million L of water.

Deferred maintenance slows barge traffic
BELLE VERNON, Pa.—Barges nearly two football fields long, piled high with coal, float smoothly down the lower Monongahela River here—until they reach the 75-year-old Charleroi Locks and Dam, where many get waylaid at the gate.

The lone functioning lock is set in crumbling concrete. Pieces of steel hang loose, threatening to gouge barges as they pass. Part of the river is blocked by construction. For barge operators, Charleroi is a choke point on the river.

“You can be here for two hours up to 12 hours—that’s right out of my pocket,” said Michael Somales, general manager of river operations for Consol Energy Inc., a Pennsylvania company that carries coal from Appalachia downriver to power plants along the Ohio River Valley.

In 1994, when the Army Corps of Engineers started a project to replace two aging locks at Charleroi, completion was expected by 2004. Now, the work is estimated to drag on until 2023, according to the Corps, which blames insufficient funding and design complications.

The problems at this aging and deteriorating lock some 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh are typical of much of the nation’s waterway infrastructure, which hampers U.S. shippers and the economy as a whole.
–The Wall Street Journal