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.
‘Big Chicken’ examines poultry pollution
“Big Chicken,” a new report by the Pew Environment Group, looks at the United States’ fast-growing poultry industry and the water pollution that often results from the highly concentrated manure chickens produce.
Chicken, once a distant third to pork and beef, is now the most popular meet in America. Each of us, on average, consumes 84 pounds of chicken a year, according to the Pew report.
High-phosphorus chicken manure from big poultry operations in Maryland and Delaware long has been implicated as major cause of pollution in Chesapeake Bay.
About 9 billion broiler chickens – grown for food, not eggs — are grown each year in the U.S., according to the report. Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas account for 65 percent of the total. Minnesota, a big turkey-producing state, grows about 48 million broilers a year, less than 1 percent of the total, according to data
on the Pew web site.
New carp evidence found near Chicago
Federal officials announced that they will begin intensive monitoring of waterways near Lake Michigan after genetic material from the invasive Asian carp showed up in a third consecutive round of testing.
Crews will use electric jolts to stun fish, sweep the waterway with half-mile-long nets and conduct additional sampling in Lake Calumet and the Calumet River near Chicago during a four-day period beginning Monday, the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Council announced.
DNA from silver carp, one of two Asian species threatening to enter the Great Lakes after migrating northward from the South for decades, was found in 11 samples in the lake and the river during testing in July. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on July 22 that it had found two consecutive samples containing DNA from silver carp and would increase its response if DNA was
found in a third sample.
–The Associated Press
Chesapeake Bay ‘dead zone’ expanding
A giant underwater “dead zone” in the Chesapeake Bay is growing at an alarming rate because of unusually high nutrient pollution levels this year, according to Virginia and Maryland officials. They said the expanding area of oxygen-starved water is on track to become the bay’s largest ever.
This year’s Chesapeake Bay dead zone covers a third of the bay, stretching from the Baltimore Harbor to the bay’s mid-channel region in the Potomac River, about 83 miles, when it was last measured in late June. It has since expanded beyond the Potomac into Virginia, officials said.
Especially heavy flows of tainted water from the Susquehanna River brought as much nutrient pollution into the bay by May as
normally comes in an entire average year, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources researcher said. As a result, “in Maryland we saw the worst June” ever for nutrient pollution, said Bruce Michael, director of the DNR’s resource assessment service.
–The Washington Post
A mid-summer update on Minnesota lakes
If you missed it, listen to Patrick Sweeney from the Freshwater Society and Luke Skinner and Jason Moeckel from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources discuss water quality and invasive species in Minnesota’s lakes. The three were
interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio’s Midday program on July 29.
Judge excoriates EPA for inaction
A federal judge blasted the Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland and District of Columbia for ignoring the impact of pollutants on the Anacostia River in approving a cleanup plan that was more than 30 years in the making.
Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth lamented the trio’s failure to adhere to the letter and the spirit of the Clean Water Act in a decision granting summary judgment to Anacostia Riverkeeper Inc. and Friends of the Earth.
The 67-page opinion forces the agency to reconsider the total daily maximum loads (TDML) of pollution that can be discharged into the river.
“The CWA [Clean Water Act] was enacted in light of severe threats to the nation’s navigable waters, and it was intended to spur immediate action by both federal and state authorities,” Lamberth wrote. “Yes (sic) despite the act’s command that states identify and develop TMDLs for implemented waters, the district and EPA spent 20 years ignoring these obligations and fighting attempts to compel them to act. Then, despite the act’s unmistakable requirement to develop a total maximum daily load for each
pollutant, EPA and the district spent the next 7 years insisting that they need only develop annual loads. And now, despite the act’s clear instruction that each TMDL set levels necessary to implement all applicable water quality standards, EPA and the District – now joined by Maryland-have spent the last 4 years arguing that they need only pay attention to some of those
standards. The Court will not countenance such conduct.” (Italics in original.)
–Courthouse News Service
EPA tells Wisconsin to improve permitting
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has informed the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that its permit system to control water pollution doesn’t meet standards set by the 1972 Clean Water Act.
The EPA’s action is a victory for the Clean Water Action Council of Northeastern Wisconsin, which has opposed for years the state’s water pollution permit to the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Green Bay. The council claimed the permit, which expired last year, allowed unlimited discharges of mercury and increased amounts of phosphorous into the Fox River.
In a letter to DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, the EPA’s Regional Administrator Susan Hedman wrote that there are “numerous apparent omissions and deviations between Wisconsin’s current statute and regulations and federal requirements.”
Hedman said the EPA has not approved elements of Wisconsin’s permits that “are less stringent or comprehensive than federally required.” The EPA requires states to meet at least the minimum standards in the Clean Water Act.
–The Green Bay Press Gazette
Opinion: House GOP ‘riders’ attack environment
While almost no one was looking, House Republicans embarked on a broad assault on the nation’s environmental laws, using as their weapon the 2012 spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. When debate began, the bill included an astonishing 39 anti-environmental riders — so called because they ride along on appropriations bills even though they have nothing to do with spending and are designed to change policy, in this case disastrously.
Riders generally are not subjected to hearings or extensive debate, and many would not survive on their own. They are often written in such a way that most people, even many Capitol Hill insiders, need a guide to understand them. They are, in short, bad policy pushed forward through a bad legislative process.
A rider can be removed from the bill only with a vote to strike it. The Democrats managed one big victory when, by a vote of 224 to 202, the House struck one that would have gutted the Endangered Species Act by blocking the federal government from listing any new species as threatened or endangered and barring it from protecting vital habitat — a provision so extreme that even some Republicans could not countenance it.
–The New York Times
California regulates chromium 6 in water
The California Environmental Protection Agency released the nation’s first standard for limiting a cancer-causing chemical in drinking water.
The agency set a public health goal for hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6, that will be used by the state’s Department of Public Health to help create a legally enforceable limit on the chemical in drinking water. The agency set the goal at .02 parts per billion.
Chromium 6 gained national infamy after a toxic plume contaminated water in the Mojave Desert town of Hinkley (San Bernardino County) – leading to a $333 million settlement from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. – and was dramatized in the film “Erin Brockovich.”
Dr. George Alexeef, acting director of the agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said the goal “is the culmination of years of study and research on the health effects of this chemical. As the nation’s first official goal for this contaminant, it will be an important tool” to develop a regulatory standard.
–The San Francisco Chronicle
4 million Chinese face pollution crisis
The drinking water for a major city in China’s Sichuan Province has become unusable due to pollution from an electrolytic manganese plant. Bottled water and some food items have become scarce as people emptied store shelves to stock up. In addition, it took authorities five days to make a public announcement that tap water was unsafe for consumption.
Four million people in Mianyang, the second largest city in Sichuan Province, have been left without municipal drinking water when the Fujiang River, the city’s water source, became polluted by manganese tailings.
Torrential rain on July 20 in the upstream area of the Fujiang River threatened the gangue dam of an electrolytic manganese metal plant in Xiaohe Village, Songpang County. Fearing the possibility of landslides, the plant released floodwater in the early morning of July 21, resulting in 10,000 cubic meters (353,146 cubic feet) of the tailings being washed into the Fujiang River, the
Southern Metropolis Daily reported on July 28.
On July 26, five days after the initial pollution incident, the environmental
protection department of Mianyang City reported that samples
from both upstream and downstream contained manganese levels about 20 times
higher than allowed by the state’s water quality standards.
–The Epoch Times
USDA announces non-food biofuel sites
The US Department of Agriculture announced the designation of nearly 80,000 acres in six different states for the production of non-food crops that can be converted into biofuels.
Four project areas in California, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington will be set aside for growing camelina, hybrid poplar trees and switchgrass under the Agriculture Department’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).
These designations add to five BCAP project areas announced earlier this year for up to 250,000 acres in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
These crops are the first-ever national investments in expanding U.S. biomass resources beyond corn and forestry to meet domestic energy security.
California water users sue water ‘bankers’
Peter Key knew something was strange when the water levels in his tropical fish tank began to go down last summer. Then the
washing machine took 40 minutes to fill, and the toilets would not flush.
But even as Mr. Key and neighbors spent $14,000 to deepen their community well here, they had identified a likely culprit.
They blamed water banking, a system in which water-rights holders — mostly in the rural West — store water in underground
reservoirs either for their own future use or for leasing to fast-growing urban areas.
So the neighbors’ small local water utility has gone to state court to challenge the wealthy farming interests that dominate two of the country’s largest water banks.
–The New York Times (Second installment in the Times’ Precious Waters series about dwindling water supplies across the U.S.)
Wisconsin suit challenges 4,300-cow dairy
Factory farm opponent Family Farm Defenders along with Bob Clarke, a property owner near the proposed Richfield Dairy, have
filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in an effort to slow down the process that would allow construction of a new 4,300-cow dairy near Coloma.
Clarke and Family Farm Defenders, in their lawsuit filed in Dane County, are asking for judicial review of an administrative decision by the DNR that approved plans and specifications for Richfield Dairy, a concentrated animal feeding operation in Adams County owned by MilkSource.
Richfield Dairy applied for plans and specifications approval on Feb. 23, and received statutory approval from the DNR on June 24.