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January-June, 2006 Environmental News

 

June, 2006

Purified water may cut risk of Alzheimer's, scientist says

Drinking purified water rather than tap water may cut your risk of getting Alzheimer's disease, according to new findings by D. Larry Sparks, senior scientist at Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City. Sparks said his initial findings are based on animal research. Clinical trials on people would be required to confirm the benefits of drinking purified water in fighting Alzheimer's. The results of his recent research were published in the June edition of the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. Sparks demonstrated that trace copper ions often found in tap water hastened the development of Alzheimer's. His tests ruled out aluminum and zinc as contributing to the malady. Arizona Republic_ 6/28/06

EPA plan targets animal waste and water
Large factory-style chicken, hog and cattle farms might soon have to get permits from the Environment Protection Agency when animal waste from their operations finds its way into local rivers, streams and lakes.  The agency proposed the new requirement Thursday, but it said it will leave up to farmers to define what constitutes pollution, and that if it's only stormwater, never mind. A federal appeals court had ordered EPA to also consider issuing new standards for controlling disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites in farm runoff. The agency opted not to adopt any.  "Basically, EPA has chickened out, they've been pressured by the farm lobby," said Melanie Shepherdson, a staff attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. "They're letting the factory farms police themselves, which flies in the face of the whole purpose of the Clean Water Act permitting process."  Washington Post_6/22/06

A close call for the Clean Water Act
The most alarming aspect of Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Clean Water Act is that four justices were ready to put one of the nation's most successful environmental laws through the paper shredder. As the first environmental case of the Roberts court, it gives us plenty of reason to worry that longstanding protections to our water, air, endangered species and public lands could be in jeopardy.  Only moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, a California native, stood in the way of a decision that would have put at risk 150,000 miles of the state's protected streams and would have endangered waterways that provide drinking water to one in three Americans.  Opinion, Mercury News_6/22/06

Aerojet, others try to halt Rancho Cordova, California toxic water flows

Cleaning up rocket fuel and solvents in groundwater flowing from Aerojet could take up to 240 years and the costs, mostly paid by the U.S. government through defense contracts, remain unknown. Aerojet has already spent $250 million to $300 million on the effort to cleanse toxic leftovers from decades of military and industrial activity. The focus now is on stopping the western and northern flows of the groundwater pollutants, including contamination that has flowed under the American River and threatens Carmichael water supplies. Sacramento County and Golden State Water Co., formerly Arden Cordova Water Service, have closed wells infiltrated by contaminated groundwater and brought in supplies with financial assistance from Aerojet. They say none of the water served in Rancho Cordova comes from the contaminated parts of the aquifers, but it's still unclear how much polluted water residents may have consumed in the past. Last month, Aerojet agreed to a $25 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by current and former Rancho Cordova residents who alleged they were harmed by contaminated groundwater over many years. Sacramento Business Journal_ 6/16/06

U.S. Supreme Court splits over protecting wetlands; federal Clean Water Act may not prevent building

The federal government does not have the power to reach far upstream to protect every ditch and wetland in a watershed. In a ruling restricting federal authority to protect the environment, the US Supreme Court on Monday said the reach of federal regulators under the Clean Water Act is limited. But the high court's nine justices were unable to reach majority agreement about how and where to draw those limits. The result is a decision best described as 4-1-4. Four justices agreed that the law called for a restrictive view of the scope of federal jurisdiction to reach remote wetlands. Four other justices concluded that the statute permits the government to take upstream actions to prevent downstream degradation of federal water resources. At dead center of the court sits Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the critical fifth vote on the restrictive side of the case. That action sends the two consolidated cases back to the lower courts where judges must divine a coherent approach to federal jurisdiction from the high court's splintered decision. Christian Science Monitor/ABC News_ 6/19/06

Columbia University study: Risk for skin lesions increases with low-dose exposure to arsenic in drinking water

Millions of persons around the world are exposed to low doses of arsenic through drinking water. However, up until now estimates of the health effects associated with low-dose exposure had been based on research from high-dose levels. In a study of more than 11,000 people in Bangladesh, research conducted by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health clearly provides evidence that a population exposed to well water with arsenic concentrations of as little as 50 ug/l is at risk for skin lesions. The report also concludes that older, male, and thinner participants were more likely to be affected by arsenic exposure. The full study appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Press Release_ 6/13/06

U.S. court upholds $5 million water penalty against NYC.
Pristine trout stream at issue

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on Tuesday affirmed a $5 million penalty against New York City for discharging contaminated water into a mid-state trout stream, Esopus Creek.  The case under the Clean Water Act, Catskill Mountains Chapter Trout Unlimited v. City of New York, was brought by a coalition that included Theodore Gordon Flyfishermen and Riverkeeper Inc.  Karl S. Coplan, Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic co-director, said in a media release that the city transfers up to 500 million gallons of water per day from the Schoharie Reservoir to the Esopus Creek through the Shandaken Tunnel as part of the Catskill water-supply system. The Schoharie Reservoir is contaminated with silt particles that make it highly turbid.  Coplan said the turbid discharge from the tunnel into the normally crystal clear Esopus Creek turns the "fabled trout stream mud-brown."  "The 2nd Circuit has now laid to rest any argument that New York City can avoid Clean Water regulations for this discharge," Coplan said. New York City Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Ian Michaels said, "We believe it’s inappropriate to apply rules intended to regulate sewage and industrial wastewater to the conveyance of untreated, natural drinking water that is part of a public water supply. "Over 15 percent of the city’s drinking water supply is transferred through the Shandaken Tunnel each year," Michaels added. "Releases are also made through the tunnel to meet state requirements for maintaining trout habitats. This decision has the potential to compromise the reliability of the city’s water supply, which serves nine million New Yorkers daily."  The Daily Star_6/15/06

Dry-cleaning chemical makers responsible for Modesto pollution
Three chemical manufacturers were ordered to pay the city of Modesto $178 million for contaminating its water with suspected carcinogens, a jury decided.  Jurors in San Francisco Superior Court found the companies acted with malice because they failed to tell dry cleaners how to use perchloroethylene or trichloroethylene without harming the environment.  The jury levied more than $175 million in punitive damages late Tuesday and $3.2 million in actual damages for groundwater contamination.  Vulcan Materials Co. was ordered to pay $100 million in punitive damages, Dow Chemical Co. was ordered to pay $75 million and RR Street & Co. Inc. was hit with a $75,000 verdict.  Pennsylvania-based PPG Industries and Occidental Chemical Corporation, of Texas, do not face punitive damages, but were ordered to contribute to the $3.2 million awarded in actual damages.  "We're gratified at the jury's verdict," said attorney Duane C. Miller, who represented the city in the case. "We believe it's the first time the manufacturers of PCE have been held accountable for damages caused by that product."  Star-Telegram_6/14/06

Growing coastal areas contaminating water

A U.S. study shows the increase in coastal area population is directly correlated to an increase in contaminated waters and shellfish bed closings.  The University of North Carolina-Wilmington research determined more than 85 percent of all U.S. beach closures and advisories during 2004 were a result of excessive counts of bacteria in the beach waters.  UNC Professor Michael Mallin, the author of the study, says the increasing popularity of coastal areas results in large sections of farmland, forests and wetlands being turned into resorts, strip malls, restaurants, and office complexes.  With such development, he said, comes another change: Soil that acts as a filter for removing bacteria and viruses from runoff water is replaced with impervious materials, such as asphalt and concrete.  When storm water runoff moves across such surfaces it carries pesticides, fecal matter, heavy metals and other dangerous materials with it. That polluted water, in turn, contaminates shellfish beds, recreational areas and drinking water, causing such illnesses as gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, ear infections, respiratory infections, hepatitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome.  Mallin's study, entitled "Wading in Waste," appears in the June issue of Scientific American.  UPI_6/8/06

EPA internal report urges more help for small U.S. water systems

Despite gains by states and USEPA in recent years to help small water systems strengthen their capacity to meet federal drinking water regulations, more effort and resources are needed, concludes an internal agency report. Based on discussions with agency officials at the national and regional levels and primacy agencies, third-party assistance organizations and 19 small systems in three states (Kansas, Maine and Massachusetts), USEPA's Inspector General documented a litany of known obstacles that continue to plague the almost 46,000 systems serving 3,300 or fewer people. Among the major obstacles facing small systems cited by OIG were well-documented financial and management challenges, including problems in raising rates to cover capital expenses needed to address aging infrastructure and compliance demands, and difficulties obtaining financial assistance. OIG especially noted impediments in getting assistance from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), adding that only one of the small systems it reviewed had received a DWSRF loan or grant. OIG called on USEPA to work with states to help small systems benefit from the program. AWWA press release_ 6/2/06

Farmington, Illinois residents continue to boil water as extra chlorine added to kill bacteria

The latest test results of tap water in this Fulton County city with about 2,600 residents showed four of six samples had total coliform bacteria. Health officials say the bacteria isn't dangerous but can be an indicator of other bacteria that are. City officials have been testing the water every day since results of a routine test May 26 showed four of six water samples were contaminated with E. coli bacteria, caused by fecal contamination. The boil order was issued that day. Samples are now testing negative for E. coli, and city officials are working to get the samples free from total coliform. The city's water, drawn from two 1,600-foot wells, began running through the new reverse osmosis treatment plant on April 14 to address sporadic elevated radium levels not always within Environmental Protection Agency standards. City Administrator Roger Woodcock said the water plant's chlorinator was replaced Wednesday because it wasn't always working properly. On Thursday city workers infused extra chlorine into the system. Peoria Journal-Star_ 6/2/06

EPA won't regulate water transfers
The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will not regulate transfers of water from one place to another - no matter how polluted the water is at the start.  The EPA proposal would let water transfer authorities, corporate farmers and other businesses skip having to obtain a Clean Water Act permit in certain cases.  The exemption would apply to water, even if it contains pollution, that is moved in tunnels, channels or natural streams and isn't put to industrial, municipal or commercial uses.

A permit would still be required if the process of the water transfer itself might introduce pollutants.  The idea is to allow "needed flexibility to protect water quality, prevent costly litigation and promote the public good," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water.  FederalNewsRadio_6/1/06

USGS study finds arsenic near or above federal safety levels in many private wells in New Hampshire and Maine

Bedrock aquifer wells -- often known as rock, deep, or artesian wells -- are the most common type of well installed for homes in the region and it is the bedrock aquifer that is the primary source of arsenic in the locations where it is elevated, according to the findings by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, identifies factors that may contribute to high arsenic in wells, and confirms findings from previous studies. Private wells supply drinking water for over 40 percent of the population of northern New England (20 percent of all of New England) and are not regulated by state and Federal agencies. Officials recommend that all private well users test their wells for arsenic. The study was conducted by the USGS, the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, Dartmouth Medical School, and the departments of health in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. USGS Press Release_ 5/25/06

View full study

Ohio River water quality change meets opposition

More than 60 people showed up for the start of a public hearing Thursday on a proposal to weaken water quality standards for the Ohio River.  “People see this as a giant step backward,” said Tim Guilfoile, a Sierra Club representative from Edgewood.  The staff of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORANSCO) has said it wants to establish more “realistic” standards for wet weather, when bacteria levels are higher.  So it has proposed to abandon its “body contact” standards for fecal coliform and E. coli — which are associated with human and animal waste — whenever the river flows faster than 2 mph from May through October — the river’s recreational season.   The change would mean that during and just after rainy weather, bacteria levels would be allowed to be 10 times higher than they are now, before authorities could say they are out of compliance with standards for body contact.  When the standards are exceeded, environmental agencies are required to investigate the cause, which can lead to penalties for polluters. No such standards are in force for the other months of the year because the river is not used as much then, according to ORSANCO.  Courier Journal_5/25/06

US beachgoers may be at risk from polluted water
An environmental group said on Wednesday it would sue the U.S. government for failing to protect millions of beachgoers from contaminated water.  The Natural Resources Defense Council said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has moved too slowly to update beach water quality standards and protect people from diarrhea, skin rashes, earaches, pink eye, respiratory infections and other ailments from polluted water.  The agency missed an October 2005 deadline mandated by Congress to revise outdated water quality standards and says it will not be able to finish the job until 2011, the group said.  "A day at the beach is not worth a night at the hospital," Nancy Stoner, the director of group's clean water project, said during a telephone news conference five days before Memorial Day, the traditional beginning of the U.S. beach season. The Natural Resources Defense Council said it had served the EPA with a notice of its intent to sue in 60 days, as required by law, on Wednesday.  Reuters_5/24/06

U.S. warns that water from Florida's Lake Okeechobee poses risks to pregnant women

Levels of potentially hazardous chemicals have been reduced in the water supplies of South Bay and Pahokee, but a draft report prepared by federal health officials warns that the water still could pose health dangers to pregnant women. Pregnant women in those cities are being advised by federal scientists to avoid excessive contact with the public water, which comes from Lake Okeechobee and is then treated. The warnings apply to drinking and bathing water. The draft report angered Pahokee Mayor J.P. Sasser. He lambasted Congress, which he said has provided almost no money for a new regional water treatment plant scheduled to open in 2008. The draft report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the level of one potentially dangerous substance — trihalomethanes, or THMs — has been slashed by new treatment procedures employed by the two cities. THMs have been linked by epidemiologists to cancer and birth defects in lab animals exposed to high doses. Palm Beach Post_ 5/24/06

Mangroves, once regarded as a nuisance, could be the answer to pollution and erosion

The Mangrove trees which line the western coast of Africa are often thought to be nuisance, but recent studies show that they could be a salvation to the problems of erosion and preserving the environment. The trees have survived by a unique technique, living in the border between salt water and sweet water where few other plants exist. The trees roots can filter out salt but the trees also have exposed above ground roots which can take in oxygen. As a result, the trees which were often described as “useless swamp growth,” are seen as one important way to resist erosion. Their falling leaves and branches support a whole ecosystem. But their existence is threatened. Afrol News_ 5/15/06

Nuclear industry to monitor radioactive water in groundwater

The nuclear industry took steps Tuesday to head off a growing public relations if not health problem, promising to closely monitor leaks of slightly radioactive water into groundwater at power plants. The issue has become particularly troublesome in Illinois where three power plants reported leaks of tritium into groundwater, including one case where 6 million gallons was released into soil outside the plant boundary. While the levels of contamination have been well below the health standards, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has formed a task force to examine the extent of such releases and why they are happening. AP/ABC News_ 5/9/06

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency reviews plans to remove Teflon chemical C8 from western Washington County water

Customers of the Little Hocking Water Association are one step closer to having C8-free water after the water association Friday submitted construction plans and specifications to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for a treatment center. Construction on the estimated $2 million facility will begin once the review is complete, said Bob Griffin, general manager of the Little Hocking Water Association. Griffin said he hopes the treatment plant will be completed by the end of the year. Submission of the construction plans and specifications is one aspect of the bottled water agreement that Little Hocking Water and DuPont entered into last year. The issue revolves around DuPont’s use of ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as C8, at its Washington, W.Va., Works plant near Parkersburg. Residents claim DuPont contaminated their public and private drinking water wells with C8, used to make the consumer product Teflon. Though used since World War II, C8’s long-term effects on humans, if any, are unknown. DuPont has maintained that C8 is not hazardous to human health. Marietta, Ohio, Times_ 5/9/06

Madison, Wisconsin's television News 3 investigates manganese in city water supply
A News 3 investigation found that more than two years after the natural mineral manganese was first found in the city's water supply, the Madison Water Utility is still fighting to control it and public opinion. "The quality of the water coming out of the tap almost all the time is way better than the water you pay large sums of money for off the shelf at the grocery store," said Water Utility Board Commissioner John Standridge. The water utility is busy these days trying to maintain customer confidence. But a News 3 investigation found high levels of manganese in some of the water supply and the utility's response to it already has some customers turning off their tap. video also WISC-TV Channel 3_ 5/9/06


More than half of US streams polluted: EPA
More than half of U.S. streams are polluted, with the worst conditions found in the eastern third of the country, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency.  In its first-ever study of shallow or "wadeable" streams, the agency found 42 percent were in poor condition, and another 25 percent were considered fair. Only 28 percent were in good condition, EPA said. Another 5 percent were not analyzed because of sampling problems in New England.  Streams running in the East, from the Atlantic coast through the Appalachian Mountains, fared the worst, with 52 percent listed as poor.  In contrast, 45 percent of streams running west of the Rocky Mountains were the least polluted, the report found.  Streams in 48 states were sampled from 2000 to 2004. The EPA plans to extend the study to Alaska and Hawaii.  The survey found activities such as farming and logging helped raise the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the water, said Mike Shapiro, an EPA administrator who worked on the report, in a conference call. Those chemicals promote the growth of plants and algae that gobble up oxygen. That, in turn, kills aquatic life.  Reuters_5/6/06

New straw kills disease as you drink

A new straw that purifies water as it is drunk is hoped to be part of a solution to water-borne disease killing thousands in developing countries. The LifeStraw, the creation of Danish innovator Torben Vestergaard Frandsen, is made of plastic and resembles a flute. Inside are filters and a chamber impregnated with iodine. These remove the bacteria from the water as it is drunk. In the developing world, one person in six does not have access to drinking water, and 6,000 people a day die from water-borne diseases. BBC News_ 5/3/06

Arsenic found in Seattle schools' water; drinking water system to be shut down

Seattle Public Schools will supply bottled water to all schools after tests revealed levels of arsenic that exceed Environmental Protection Agency standards. Superintendent Raj Manhas announced today that systems would be shut off for further investigation. Arsenic levels of 11 to 18 parts per billion--above the EPA standard of 10 parts per billion--were found in drinking fountains at five elementary schools. All of the affected water fixtures, except one, had been turned off and not in use. The district started testing its water systems more than two years ago and began installing new fountains last year. In January, a citizens committee recommended replacing aging water pipes, at a cost of up to $20 million. School district officials said today that local and state health officials did not request the district shut off its water system. Seattle Times_ 5/1/06

April, 2006

Study links cancer rate to Mass. dye plant

A disturbingly high number of cancer cases have been linked to a former textile dye-making plant and its waste ponds, where several people now battling cancer swam when they were children, state health officials say.  A seven-year study found that people who grew up in Ashland between the late 1960s and early '80s and swam in contaminated ponds were two to three times more likely to develop cancer than those who had no contact with the water.  The cancer rate was nearly four times greater among people with a family history of cancer and who also swam or waded in waste lagoons and contaminated wetlands near the Nyanza Inc. dye plant, the Department of Public Health said Tuesday.  Investigators interviewed 1,387 people who were aged 10 to 18 years old during the period 1965 to 1985 and lived in Ashland. The study found 73 cases of cancer and eight cancer-related deaths. About two-thirds of the cancers were diagnosed before age 35, and many involved rare forms.  Although the contamination was well-known, some residents didn't consider it a risk. "People in the town will tell you, they knew what color of dye was being made on almost any day of the week, because the brook down the street would turn purple or red, or whatever color they were making dye for that day," said Suzanne Condon, state assistant commissioner of public health.  The Associated Press_4/26/06

Putin orders Lake Baikal oil pipeline shifted
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the route of a controversial new oil pipeline should be altered to avoid the world's largest freshwater lake. Mr Putin said the route, which would have passed close to Lake Baikal, should move 40km (25 miles) north. Environmentalists who feared the eastern pipeline would pose a risk to Lake Baikal's unique biodiversity say the decision is a campaign victory. The pipeline will link the Siberian oil fields and the Pacific coast. The state-backed pipeline monopoly Transneft has in the past said that rerouting the 1.6 million-barrel-a-day pipeline from the proposed path along the shores of Lake Baikal would cost up to a billion dollars. Mr Putin's orders go against recommendations from the state environment watchdog, which had backed Transneft's plans. BBC News_ 4/26/06

Chicago suburbanites sue over contaminated water

Carcinogenic chemicals have seeped from a closed landfill on Forest Preserve District of DuPage County property into groundwater that supplies well water to dozens of west suburban families, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Thursday.  The vinyl chloride contamination affects about 80 homes with more than 150 residents in unincorporated DuPage southwest of the Mallard Lake Forest Preserve, site of a 534-acre landfill in Hanover Park, according to the potentially multimillion-dollar suit, which seeks class-action status. The district and BFI Waste Systems of North America Inc., which manages the landfill, were named as defendants.  The plaintiffs seek to be compensated for the cost of hooking up to "a permanent and safe domestic water supply," said attorney Shawn Collins, whose Naperville firm represents the families. He added that the proposed hookup likely would be to a public system that supplies Lake Michigan water. He estimated the cost would be about $50,000 per household, or $4 million total for the 80 homes.  The suit also asks the court to reimburse the plaintiffs for losses in their property values as well as to award punitive damages. The suit alleges the landfill operators knew for years the risks to families of groundwater contamination but failed to act to protect them.  Chicago Tribune_4/20/06

Alzheimer's linked to aluminium pollution in UK tap water
A rare case of Alzheimer’s disease has reopened the investigation into the worst water pollution incident in Britain.  Carole Cross, who died in 2004 aged 58, was exposed to high levels of aluminium after 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate was dumped accidentally into the water supply at Camelford, in north Cornwall, in 1988. A post-mortem study of her brain, published today, shows that it contained high levels of aluminium and she died of a rare form of dementia.  The findings, reported to Mrs Cross’s inquest this year, are the first suggestions of a causal link between the incident and the disease.  Timesonline_4/20/06

Questions continue over cost of arsenic treatment
The high cost of the Prescott, Arizona's chosen route on arsenic treatment for its drinking water, along with concerns from Chino Valley about review of the plans, dominated this week's discussion about the $23.5 million plant. Facing a mandate to comply with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards on arsenic by December 2007, the Prescott City Council appeared poised Tuesday to approve nearly a half-million dollars worth of design-related work for the arsenic-treatment plant.  Prescott Courier_4/13/06

Drinking more water does no harm in elderly men
Increasing fluid intake by about a liter per day appears to have no negative effects in healthy older men, Dutch researchers report.

Dr. Mark G. Spigt of Maastricht University and colleagues note in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society that older people are often dehydrated, partly because their sensation of thirst may be blunted. On the other hand, the elderly can easily become overly hydrated, because their kidneys tend to work less efficiently. Retaining excess water can dilute the level of sodium in the body, which can have serious consequences.  Reuters_4/6/06

Americans worry about running out of clean water within their lifetime; In drought-hit Australia, the time to worry is now

The poll of online consumers by Global Market Insite, Inc. found 85% of Americans worry about pollution of lakes, rivers and reservoirs; 78% about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste and nearly 56% of respondents are somewhat or very concerned about the possibility of running out of clean, drinkable water in their lifetime. Unsurprisingly, the top issue affecting Australians in 2006 remains the water crisis. 84 percent of those polled believe it is a top priority. GMI press release_ 4/3/06

EPA may weaken rule on arsenic in rural drinking water

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to allow higher levels of contaminants such as arsenic in the drinking water used by small rural communities, in response to complaints that they cannot afford to comply with recently imposed limits. The proposal would roll back a rule that went into effect earlier this year and make it permissible for water systems serving 10,000 or fewer residents to have three times the level of contaminants allowed under that regulation. About 50 million people live in communities that would be affected by the proposed change. In the case of arsenic, the most recent EPA data suggest as many as 10 million Americans are drinking water that does not meet the new federal standards. Washington Post/Detroit News_ 4/1/06

March, 2006

Sewage spill leads to unprecedented water monitoring in Hawaii
As a sewage spill in Waikiki drew national attention and threatened tourism marketing, health officials began water quality tests they've never done before.  The Hawaii Department of Health's Clean Water Branch says its personnel and Honolulu city officials are monitoring water quality stations from Kewalo Basin, west of Waikiki, to Diamond Head, east of the tourist district.
While water quality has long been monitored closely in fishing areas, it was the first time the Health Department had monitored water quality at surf spots. This came in response to a sewer pipe break that forced the dumping of effluent into the Ala Wai, a canal that forms the inland border of the entire Waikiki hotel district before turning to the ocean at the west end. Officials are testing water at 10 sites from Point Panic to the surf sites off the coast at the Sheraton Waikiki as well as at six beach stations. They also are monitoring five stations along the Ala Wai itself, and another dozen stations from Kewalo to Diamond Head.  Pacific Business News_3/30/06

2nd of Los Angeles Times 2-part investigation: Cancer stalks a 'Toxic Triangle' in Texas; Residents blame TCE which seeped into the groundwater

On nearly every block surrounding the former Kelly Air Force Base, small purple crosses sprout from front lawns, marking the homes where cancer has struck. The residents call their neighborhood the "toxic triangle," alleging that the Air Force poisoned it with an industrial solvent, trichloroethylene, or TCE. It was casually dumped at the base for decades and spread for miles through a shallow aquifer under 22,000 nearby houses. Hundreds of communities with major TCE contamination have waited more than a decade for scientists to explain the cancer risks created by exposure to TCE. The clear solvent used to take grease off metal parts is officially branded as a probable carcinogen by half a dozen state, federal and international agencies. It is most often linked to liver and kidney cancer, as well as birth defects and childhood leukemia. A panel of elite scientists organized by the National Academy of Sciences will issue a report this summer that is supposed to shape government policy on TCE. The report is all but certain to intensify the battle — no matter what it says. Los Angeles Times_ 3/30/06

How the EPA lost the battle over TCE in groundwater

After massive underground plumes of an industrial solvent were discovered in the nation's water supplies, the Environmental Protection Agency mounted a major effort in the 1990s to assess how dangerous the chemical was to human health. Following four years of study, senior EPA scientists came to an alarming conclusion: The solvent, trichloroethylene, or TCE, was as much as 40 times more likely to cause cancer than the EPA had previously believed. Instead of triggering action, however, the assessment set off a high-stakes battle between the EPA and Defense Department, which had more than 1,000 military properties nationwide polluted with TCE. By 2003, after a prolonged challenge orchestrated by the Pentagon, the EPA lost control of the issue and its TCE assessment was cast aside. As a result, any conclusion about whether millions of Americans were being contaminated by TCE was delayed indefinitely. What happened with TCE is a stark illustration of a power shift that has badly damaged the EPA's ability to carry out one of its essential missions: assessing the health risks of toxic chemicals. Los Angeles Times_ 3/29/06 (logon required)

Melting ice sheets could spur oceans' rise: study

Miami would be a memory, Bangkok a soggy shadow of its former self and the Maldive Islands would vanish if melting polar ice keeps fueling a faster-than-expected rise in sea levels, scientists reported on Thursday. In an issue of the journal Science focusing on global warming, climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona reported that if global trends continue, Earth could ultimately see sea levels 20 feet higher than they are now. By the end of this century, Earth would be at least 4 degrees F (2.3 degrees C) warmer than now, or about as hot as it was nearly 130,000 years ago. Back then, significant portions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melted, pushing the global sea levels to about 20 feet higher than current levels. A similarly dramatic, and in some cases catastrophic, rise in ocean levels could happen by the year 2500, Overpeck said in a telephone interview, but he noted it could come sooner. Reuters_ 3/23/06


Toxin found in Connecticut well water
Ridgefield town officials are seeking state aid to pay for public water hookup after uranium was found in an Acre Lane community well.  Acre Lane is a development built in the 1960s. The community well that is used by 14 houses there tested positive for the presence of uranium.  Gary Ginsberg, a toxicologist with the state Department of Public Health, said Friday, that uranium is a natural element found in soil and bedrock.  "It has been found for no other reasons than natural reasons in the western part of the state," Ginsberg said. Uranium, at high levels of exposure, can cause kidney damage, Ginsberg said. But those levels have to be excessively high, he said. Newstimeslive.com_3/18/06

Teflon biproduct still not filtered from Little Hocking, Ohio water system

DuPont officials are waiting on the Little Hocking Water Association to approve design plans so the company can move forward with the installation of a filter to remove traces of C8 from the water system. Once approval is granted and then approved by the Ohio EPA, construction should take about two months. DuPont is installing the filtration system at six local water systems as part of a court settlement reached last year. Little Hocking water has the highest concentrations of C8 of the affected water systems, but is the furthest from having filters installed. The chemical C8, also known as ammonium perfluorooctanoate or PFOA, has been used by DuPont since 1951 at its Washington Works plant in the production of Teflon, which is used in a variety of consumer goods, including non-stick cookware. It was recently reported by the federal Environmental Protection Agency that the chemical is a “likely” carcinogen to humans. The EPA’s review is ongoing. Marietta Times_ 3/10/06

Pesticides found in most U.S. rivers, streams: USGS study

Pesticides linked to cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders contaminate almost all of the nation's rivers and streams and most fish found in them, but seldom at concentrations likely to affect people, government scientists said. Though the pesticides were less common in ground water, the U.S. Geological Survey's study of data between 1992 and 2001 found them present in streams in both urban and agricultural areas at concentrations that could affect aquatic life or fish-eating wildlife. The USGS report is based on an analysis of data from 51 major river basins and aquifer systems nationally, and a study of an aquifer system that runs through eight states from South Dakota to Texas, east of the Rocky Mountains. It found that concentrations of individual pesticides nearly always complied with Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standards, though no water samples from streams were taken at drinking-water intakes. AP/USA Today_ 3/3/06

UN sees signs of a short-term La Nina

Cool sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific point to a La Nina phenomenon, but it is too early to predict the impact on global weather, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday. But the U.N. agency said it was very early in the year for the appearance of a basin-wide La Nina, which can upset normal weather and bring heavy rains and droughts, and this made it hard to predict its impact. Furthermore, the phenomenon was expected to be relatively short-lived, with a return to what the agency called "neutral" conditions by the middle of the year or shortly thereafter. Reuters_ 3/3/06

Radioactive water found near Palo Verde, Arizona, nuclear plant

Arizona Public Service Co. discovered radioactive water near a maze of underground pipes at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station this week and plans more tests to ensure that the tainted water hasn't leaked into the area's water supply. Work crews discovered the tritium-laced water in an underground pipe and tests confirmed it contains more than three times the acceptable amount of tritium. State officials say there is no immediate evidence that the tritium, a byproduct of nuclear power generation and a relatively weak source of radiation, poses any public health concerns. They said the nearest public well is about three miles from the plant. Some homeowners operate private wells closer to the plant. Several nuclear power plants around the country have reported tritium leaks. Arizona Republic_ 3/3/06

Utah's mine-tainted water will be purified, ready for home taps
After years of development and an investment of millions of dollars, the state's first large-scale reverse osmosis water-treatment facility is scheduled to begin delivering municipal water to residents and businesses in the southwest part of the Salt Lake Valley by early May. State and local water officials on Thursday unveiled the Bingham Canyon Water Treatment Plant, the first phase of a two-part project that will initially deliver 3,500 acre-feet of water yearly to the equivalent of 4,300 homes - water that until now has been rendered undrinkable because of mining pollutants, primarily sulphate. "After all the dust settles, we've made something good out of a real bad situation," said David Ovard, general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. The Salt Lake Tribune_3/3/06

Antarctica's annual melt equals water in Lake Tahoe, study says

Antarctica is melting at an annual rate equal to dumping Lake Tahoe into the ocean, causing global seawater to rise as much as 0.6 millimeters (0.02 inches) a year, according to a study published by Science. Researchers used two NASA satellites to measure the loss of the ice sheet on the Earth's fifth-largest continent between April 2002 and August 2005. The findings contradict an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment in 2001, which predicted the ice sheet would gain mass in the 21st century. ``We can now see Antarctica melting,'' said Isabella Velicogna, a member of the University of Colorado at Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research Environmental Sciences. ``We have a number for the ice sheet. It's a big step toward understanding how the sea level is going to change.'' Antarctica's annual loss of 152 cubic kilometers of mass is 36 times the amount of freshwater used by Los Angeles annually, said Velicogna, chief author of the report. The melting slowed in the last two years of the study, although the researcher said she didn't see this as an indication the warming of the ocean had stopped. ``The Antarctica ice sheet is the largest reservoir of freshwater on Earth,'' she said, adding the continent has 70 percent of the Earth's freshwater resources. ``It's important we know how the sea level changes for everybody's life.''  Bloomberg_3/2/06

Illinois County advises residents to use bottled water

Contamination from nuclear power plant feared

Will County health officials recommend residents near a nuclear power plant who fear their water supply may have been contaminated use bottled water for drinking and cooking. Health Department Director Jim Zelko said the county is trying to determine if water supplies were contaminated by three leaks of tritium-laced water in 1996, 1998 and 2000 from the Exelon plant at Braidwood.  Tritium is a radioactive hydrogen isotope that's a byproduct of the production of electricity at nuclear reactors. High levels are thought to cause cancer. "We are in the process of identifying the number of wells in an area and assessing the risks and are working to determine what sampling is necessary," Zelko told the county Board of Health.  The county plans to collect its own samples and will not rely on tests conducted and paid for by Exelon Corp. The Will County state's attorney's office is studying whether legal action can be taken against Exelon for the spills.  Chicago Sun Times_3/1/06

And related......

Radioactive water may be following cracks in bedrock to Hudson River

Radioactive water moving toward the Hudson River may be traveling along tiny cracks in the bedrock created decades ago by explosive charges used during a construction project, Indian Point engineers and federal regulators say.  Indian Point officials released test results Monday showing for the first time that tritium, a radioactive material, had traveled to a testing well within 150 feet of the river. They added that the hairline cracks in the bedrock are not large enough to create structural problems for buildings at the site.  Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy acknowledged that tritium probably was reaching the Hudson River, though the isotope did not show up in tests near the waterline.  A second, more dangerous radioactive isotope — strontium 90 — has been found, however, said state Department of Health officials who tested a well closer to the 400,000-gallon spent-fuel pool where a leak of radioactive water was discovered in August.  The Journal News_3/1/06

Reach of Clean Water Act at issue in 2 U.S. Supreme Court cases

More than half of the nation's streams and wetlands could be removed from the protections of the federal Clean Water Act if two legal challenges started more than a decade ago by two Michigan developers are supported by a majority of the newly remade Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the cases — the first before the newest justice, Samuel A. Alito Jr. — will pit developers and a phalanx of their industrial, agricultural and ideological allies against both the solicitor general and a who's who of environmental lawyers in an argument over the scope of one of the country's fundamental environmental laws. The central question is where federal authority ends along the network of rivers, streams, canals and ditches. Does it reach all the veins and arterioles of the nation's waters, and all the wetlands that drain into them? Does it end with the waterways that are actually navigable and the wetlands abutting them? Or is it some place in between? New York Times_ 1/19/06_ (logon required)

Anthrax spores may survive traditional drinking water disinfection methods

The spores can attach themselves to the inside surface of water pipes, suggesting water treatment facilities should be prepared to employ alternate disinfection methods in the unlikely event of the release of anthrax in the water supply, researchers reported at the 2006 ASM Biodefense Research Meeting. Jon Calomiris of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Edgewood, Maryland, who conducted the study, said in the unlikely event of the release of anthrax spores into the water supply, alternate decontamination protocols (such as exposure to higher concentrations of chlorine or an alternate disinfectant for an extended period of time) may be needed as regular treatment methods may not be effec. American Society for Microbiology press release_ 2/17/06

New Jersey utility draws fire over delayed reporting of water radiation

New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection is considering whether to fine a local water utility for failing to promptly report elevated radiation levels.  It took until Jan. 30 for United Water officials in Dover Township to inform the DEP that water testing going back to last May found seven instances of radiation levels exceeding state limits.  Federal and state regulations require notification within 30 days.  United is now issuing a letter to customers informing them of the sampling and assuring them that the levels are not "an immediate risk." The higher radiation levels involved three well locations where water enters the local distribution system.  Newsday_2/9/06

NASA's top climate expert, Dr. James E. Hansen, says Bush administration tried to stop him from speaking out
Hansen said the restrictions came after he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. The scientist is the longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He told the New York Times that officials at NASA headquarters ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists. Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. New York Times_ 1/29/06 (logon required)

Radioactive leak taints water in Illinois county

A plume of radioactive tritium seeping into groundwater near a Will County nuclear power plant has prompted Exelon Corp. to buy out one nearby property owner and offer to compensate 14 others for any loss in home value.  Levels of the radioactive isotope found outside the Braidwood Generating Station so far have been well below the amount the federal government considers unhealthy. But the company acknowledged Tuesday that there is more tritium in the nearby groundwater than occurs naturally and vowed to clean it up.  In one well on Exelon's property, the amount of tritium was more than 11 times higher than the federal limit for groundwater, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Based on that finding and tests of 15 nearby private wells, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency cited Exelon, the parent company of ComEd, for two violations of the state's groundwater standards and gave company officials until Feb. 3 to file a report detailing what they know about the tritium plume.  Chicago Tribune_1/25/06

California Water Institute on 'fingerprinting' mission
The California Water Institute (CWI), based at California State University, Fresno, is using high-tech fingerprinting to help address one of California’s biggest growth challenges: managing ever-increasing demand for the planet’s most precious resource – water.  Using the technique of Isotope hydrology, researchers are “fingerprinting” the source of water. It’s a very important tool to determine recharge areas, origin, quantity, flow directions and the fate of groundwater. By studying isotopes and learning about water, scientists gather vital information about distribution and availability of groundwater in areas such as the Sierra foothills, where potential development is dependent on finding a reliable water supply.  Fresno State News_1/25/06
 

Michigan water monitors will hasten word of toxic chemical spills

A $2 million high-tech system to protect the drinking water of much of Macomb County and 3.5 million southeast Michigan residents will debut this summer.  The system relies upon sensor equipment placed at key positions on the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair that continuously tracks any hint of several hundred toxic chemicals. The "real-time" monitoring equipment, with a price tag of $250,000 per site, will report back every 15 to 30 minutes and sound an alarm if any dangerous contaminants are detected.  Macomb Daily_1/12/06

Teflon chemical found in Ohio spring water

Bottled water provided to southeast Ohioans whose tap water contained a chemical used to make Teflon has tested positive for the same chemical, according to several tests.  DuPont hired three companies to provide bottled water to customers in one of the six districts in Ohio and West Virginia where drinking water contains C8.  The bottled water will be provided until filters are installed at the Little Hocking Water Association, in Washington County, Ohio. Tests have shown that customers in that district had 80 times more C8 in the blood than the general population.  More than 1,000 residents in the district received bottled water from Marietta-based Crystal Spring Water.    CBS/AP_1/12/06

EPA enforcement cuts pollution by 1billion pounds in fiscal 2005; requires $10 billion to be spent on clean up

EPA enforcement actions in fiscal year 2005 resulted in legal commitments by companies, governments and other regulated entities to reduce a projected 1.1 billion pounds of pollution and require that they spend a record $10 billion to come into compliance with environmental laws. This is an increase of $5 billion over last year. EPA's criminal enforcement program helped successfully prosecute some of the largest environmental crimes in history in FY 2005, with judges imposing significant sentences and large criminal fines. Most annual measures of the agency's enforcement and compliance activity surpassed or kept pace with previous years, indicating continued progress in deterring violations of the nation's environmental laws. Among the environmental benefits resulting from agency actions during FY 2005, EPA estimates that 1.6 billion cubic yards of contaminated water will be cleaned up; 1,900 acres of wetlands will be protected; and the drinking water of more than 8 million Americans be safer. Tackling the problems of older municipal water systems that cause overflows of raw sewage into streets, yards, basements, and bodies of water was an EPA enforcement priority again this year. Together with states, EPA has concluded major sewer cases in FY 2005 to reduce more than 19 billion gallons of raw sewage overflows since 1998. View the full reportPress Release_ 11/15/05

Escondido, Calif., fined $1.8 million over water treatment

A state water board has fined the city $1.8 million for numerous water-quality violations at its Hale Avenue sewage treatment plant.  In a letter dated Dec. 30, the state Regional Water Quality Control Board accused the city of a laundry list of violations at the plant. They range from a 354,000-gallon spill into Escondido Creek that affected the San Elijo Lagoon in Encinitas to 47 occurrences of overflows of wastewater from the plant between January and March of last year. The board also penalized the city for failing to meet deadlines for completing compliance reports. Under one violation, the city allegedly did not submit status reports on its water-reclamation program for seven years. The fines include a $1.2 million penalty the board imposed in 2004 for nearly 400 sewage-treatment violations over a period of weeks because of a failure of the treatment process used by the city plant.  San Diego Union_1/4/06

U.S. Storm Water Rules Revised to Exempt Oil and Gas Development

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a new regulation that exempts most storm water discharges from oil and gas exploration, production, processing, treatment operations, or transmission facilities from the requirement to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage. The exemption also covers associated construction activities. The revision to storm water regulations, proposed by the EPA on December 30, 2005, seeks to implement a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  In a fact sheet issued with the revision, the EPA says it interprets this exclusion to apply to construction of drilling sites, waste management pits, and access roads, as well as construction of the transportation and treatment infrastructure such as pipelines, natural gas treatment plants, natural gas pipeline compressor stations, and crude oil pumping stations.  Environmental News Service_1/04/06

 

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