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2008 Environmental Water News


December, 2008

Albuquerque, New Mexico meets federal arsenic standards ahead of schedule

Albuquerque’s drinking water has achieved compliance with federal drinking water standards for arsenic ahead of schedule, according to officials with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. Using new distribution pipes installed as part of the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project, the Water Authority can now move arsenic-free surface water, and water from wells with low arsenic levels, to parts of the city where groundwater arsenic concentrations are higher. Engineers combined this strategy with filtration of water at the West Side Arsenic Removal Demonstration Plant, the largest of its kind in the world. Arsenic in high concentrations has been linked to certain types of cancer and other health problems. New Mexico Business Weekly_ 12/22/08

California senators want probe of chemical in Merced neighborhood's drinking water

Both California's U.S. senators have called for a full review of allegations by residents in a Merced neighborhood who claim that a nearby manufacturing plant contaminated their drinking water with a cancer-causing chemical. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer made their comments in response to a Dec. 14 Chronicle story that reported that 2,200 residents of Merced's Beachwood neighborhood have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Fresno, saying the plant's operators concealed the contamination for years. Many cases of cancer and other illnesses resulted, they say. The companies whose subsidiary operated the plant, Merck & Co. of New Jersey and Amsted Industries of Chicago, say there is no evidence any plant discharge contaminated the area's water or caused anyone to become ill. Their lawyer, Stephen Lewis of San Francisco, says they are spending $38 million to clean up the site of the plant, which closed in 1994. From 1961 to 1994, the plant built cooling towers for industry. For most of that time, it used a cancer-causing chemical called chromium 6 to preserve wood used in manufacturing. The state Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, which enforces water laws and regulates industries' discharges, has confirmed there is chromium 6 in Beachwood's drinking water, but the agency says it is a small amount and the water is safe to drink. In their suit, the neighbors say the contamination is responsible for a cluster of cancer and other illnesses. San Francisco Chronicle_ 12/21/08

Proposed gas drilling threatens New York City water supply

Ambitious plans to expand drilling for natural gas in upstate New York are raising concern over the quality of drinking water for millions of residents 'down stream.'  Upstate, the push by energy companies to explore drilling under a broad swath of western and southern New York State have provoked alarm and protest among environmentalists and others.  But in New York City, opponents say that city residents and leaders have been slow to react, despite New Yorkers’ stake: the area under consideration for drilling includes the watershed that supplies most of the city’s drinking water.  New York Times_12/19/08

C&H Sugar charged with polluting California waterway
State water quality regulators are charging the century-old C&H sugar refinery in Crockett with dumping sugar, coliform bacteria, mercury and other chemicals into the Carquinez Strait over the last three years, potentially harming fish and marine life.  The more than 50 violations could cost the company as much as $500,000, depending on the findings of a hearing scheduled in February, according to the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board. San Francisco Chronicle _12/19/08

Southern Nevada Water Authority study analyzes pharmaceuticals in tap water

Trace levels of pharmaceuticals are found in drinking water in the U.S., researchers agree. The paper also is the first to analyze samples taken from the tap water of U.S. homes, says Shane Snyder, R&D project manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). The 1-year study by Snyder and colleagues at SNWA’s Applied R&D Center examines samples from 19 drinking-water treatment facilities across the U.S. The samples were taken from three sources: source water, finished (or treated) water, and distribution water that goes from the drinking-water plant through a series of pipes to private homes and businesses. The team looked for traces of 51 compounds, including 20 pharmaceuticals, and then took the analysis a step farther than a 2008 Associated Press news investigation by searching for 25 known or suspected endocrine disrupters. “The paper is a nice step forward and provides a very good baseline set of data that will help regulators and other scientists,” says U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research hydrologist Dana Kolpin, project chief of the USGS’s Emerging Contaminants in the Environment project. Environmental Science and Technology_ 12/17/2008

West Virginia  town's water "too toxic to touch"
Prenter residents import water, say groundwater contaminated

Residents of a northern Boone County community say their well water is "too toxic to touch," so they're trying to raise $15,000 to deliver barrels of clean water to about 300 homes.  The contaminated water in Prenter Hollow has caused widespread health problems, including high rates of gallbladder and kidney disease, community organizers said. Children also suffer from unexplained urinary tract infections and tooth decay.  Coal slurry injections from abandoned mines contaminated the groundwater. Blasting at nearby mines had made the problem worse.  Pam Johnson, a registered nurse who's surveying Prenter residents about health problems, said 98 percent of adults interviewed in the area have gallbladder disease.  Prenter residents also complain that their dental health has deteriorated, alleging that the toxic well water has dissolved children's teeth, Johnson said.  "There's a 5-year-old with a full set of dentures," she said. The Charleston Gazette_12/17/08

Florida Water Board, Approves U.S. Sugar Deal in the Everglades
Florida Water Board approves U.S. Sugar deal in the Everglades

Florida’s water managers agreed to buy nearly 300 square miles of land from United States Sugar on Tuesday, approving a $1.34 billion deal that could reshape the Everglades, the sugar business and several small towns that have relied on agriculture for decades.  The decision by the board of the South Florida Water Management District, moves the state closer to completing its largest and most expensive environmental acquisition. But supporters and opponents said economic uncertainties could keep the deal from closing.  New York Times_12/17/08

Obama picks Salazar as Interior Secretary

President-elect Barack Obama plans to name Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) to lead the Interior Department -- an appointment that could put the brakes on several controversial energy development projects across the West. Salazar was not the first choice of some environmental groups, who had favored Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). A coalition of 141 environmental groups, biologists and other scientists launched an e-mail and letter-writing campaign in support of Grijalva. Colorado bears a special burden as the home to the headwaters of the Colorado River. The state has an obligation under the Colorado River Compact to ensure it sends the required amount of water to the downstream states, including California. The state just completed an assessment of its water resources, with grim results. According to state officials, drought, explosive growth, agricultural use and intensifying energy development have overstressed the water supply. Salazar was joined by Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. and the Denver Water Board in voicing concern about the fast-tracking of federal oil shale leasing in the state, citing unanswered questions about its effects on water quantity and quality. Los Angeles Times_ 12/16/08

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson applauds President-elect Obama's choice of Lisa Jackson

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson issued the following statement on President-elect Barack Obama’s nomination of Lisa Jackson to be the next EPA Administrator. “Lisa Jackson has a wealth of experience and a solid record of achievement in environmental service. As a former EPA executive, she is uniquely qualified to recognize the challenges facing the agency and lead from day one. This is an exciting time at EPA, and Lisa will direct an agency that is poised to build on the many environmental successes accomplished since 2001." News Release_ 12/15/08

Hartford Courant investigation: Heavy metal showing up in Connecticut drinking water, but health effects uncertain

Uranium contamination poses a persistent problem in as many as 16 well water systems serving thousands of people around the state, according to a Courant analysis of test records from the state Department of Public Health. Brian Toal of the state Department of Public Health's water section said the department sent out letters a few weeks ago to all the towns affected by uranium contamination, recommending that they look around the wells in question and alert nearby private well owners to make sure it isn't a more widespread problem. Uranium, found as a trace metal in bedrock throughout the Northeast, is not highly radioactive, though it is a heavy metal known to damage the kidneys at high enough exposures. State health officials said they are unaware of any health problems directly linked to the contamination, and don't expect any at the levels that have been found. But the federal Environmental Protection Agency has required testing for uranium in communal well water systems only in the past few years, and the state and communities involved are just beginning to understand the scope of the problem and how to cope with it. Hartford Courant_ 12/14/08


Coca Cola's 'water neutral' claim: public relations 'Greenwash?'

Are Coke's environmental claims the real thing? After making a big contribution to the coffers of the World Wildlife Fund, Coca Cola has been pledging to the world that it is going "water neutral."  It is an intriguing phrase. But can a company whose products have water as their principal ingredient really go water neutral? And is WWF wise to proclaim Coke as a "partner" – even in return for Coke's contribution of $23m to the fund's protection of the world's rivers? Is this greenwash?...Clearly water neutrality is a slippery term. A year ago, a group of water scientists, including Richard Holland from WWF and Greg Koch, Coke's managing director of global water stewardship, wrote a "concept paper" about water neutrality.  They recognised its PR origins. "Water neutral was chosen as an inspirational phrase that resonates with the public," they noted. No other term had "the same gravity or resonance with the media, officials or NGOs."  Maybe (though I am sceptical) the scientists can come up with a serviceable definition of water neutrality. One that illuminates rather than obscures, keeps wells full rather than emptying them. But right now there is no agreed definition. So why does Coke insist on using the term? And why is WWF going along with it?  The whole idea of water neutrality is in danger of becoming fatally devalued. And that would be a shame. For water. And for the future environmental reputation of Coca Cola.  Guardian_12/4/08

Obama teams are scrutinizing federal agencies

Wearing yellow badges and traveling in groups of 10 or more, agency review teams for President-elect Barack Obama have swarmed into dozens of government offices, from the Pentagon to the National Council on Disability. A typical approach has been playing out at the Environmental Protection Agency, where the Obama team is led by Lisa Jackson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Robert Sussman, a former Clinton official and now a lawyer and fellow at the Center for American Progress. Both are considered front-runners for senior administration jobs (Jackson as EPA administrator, Sussman as a top EPA deputy). A top concern is climate change, an issue they want to address with several EPA program initiatives. They also are asking how much money the enforcement divisions need to go after polluters. The team also has focused on drinking-water standards, asking about how to reduce children's and mothers' exposure to perchlorate, a chemical in rocket fuel that is leaching into groundwater near military bases. Washington Post_ 12/2/08

November, 2008

New Mexico seeks higher U.S. perchlorate standards

New Mexico Environment Secretary Ron Curry wants the federal government to regulate the chemical perchlorate to ensure greater protection for the state's drinking water. Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel. It can have health effects for pregnant women, newborns and children. The federal Environmental Protection Agency made a preliminary decision this fall that it would not set a drinking water safety standard for the chemical. AP/KDBC4_ 11/27/08

ProPublica investigation: Is natural gas drilling endangering U.S. water supplies?

In July, a hydrologist dropped a plastic sampling pipe 300 feet down a water well in rural Sublette County, Wyo., and pulled up a load of brown oily water with a foul smell. Tests showed it contained benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia, in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for people. The results sent shockwaves through the energy industry and state and federal regulatory agencies. The process has been considered safe since a 2004 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that it posed no risk to drinking water. After that study, Congress even exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Today fracturing is used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States. An investigation by ProPublica, which visited Sublette County and six other contamination sites, found that water contamination in drilling areas around the country is far more prevalent than the EPA asserts. ProPublica.org_ 11/13/08

2004 EPA study pdf

Global warming 'greens' researchers wallets; $21 Million project examines climate's effect on Nevada water
Researchers are embarking on a more than $21 million effort to determine the impacts of a warming climate on Nevada, particularly on the arid state's precious water supply.  The five-year project will involve scientists from the Desert Research Institute, (DRI) the Universities of Nevada, Reno and Las Vegas and Nevada State College. They said they hope to narrow the potential impacts of a warming climate to a  Nevada-specific focus that can be used by land and water managers in making decisions.  The project is using  $15 million from the National Science Foundation and nearly $6.6 million from the Nevada System of Higher Education.  "This is really about the effects of climate change, developing the capability to demonstrate what those effects are and to predict what they will be in the future to help make decisions," said Nick Lancaster, a desert geomorphologist at DRI and a co-principal investigator for the project.  "We're not looking at why the climate is changing," Lancaster said. "We're looking at the effects on people, ecosystems, landscapes."  RGJ.com_11/7/08

EPA targets groundwater contamination

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has begun bringing together local, state and federal agencies in an effort to solve groundwater contamination in Washington state's Lower Yakima Valley. The EPA action was prompted by a series of Yakima Herald-Republic stories about the failure to remedy -- or even examine -- long-standing problems of nitrates contaminating small private wells. The newspaper reports local, state and federal agencies virtually ignored a study six years ago that found one in five of 195 wells tested outside five Lower Valley communities contained nitrates in excess of federal safety limits.  Nitrate is an odorless compound found in soil and water. It can exceed safe levels by leaching into aquifers from failing septic systems, old wells in disrepair or through excessive application of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Nitrates also often indicate the presence of other contaminants, such as bacteria and pesticides.  Yakima Herald Republic_11/7/08

EPA orders 10 California water systems to monitor for E.coli

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says 10 public drinking water systems in California are facing possible fines for failing to monitor for E. coli bacteria in their source water.  EPA officials said Thursday they are ordering the agencies to start monitoring for the pathogen, whose presence in water is a strong indicator of sewage or animal waste contamination.  The 10 agencies supply drinking water to small communities in Alpine, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt and Trinity counties.
They are required to conduct pathogen monitoring plans under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  The EPA says the 10 water systems face fines up to $32,500 per day for each violation. San Jose Mercury News_11/7/08

October, 2008

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency orders California water systems to decrease arsenic in drinking water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered 11 public drinking water systems throughout California to reduce the level of arsenic in their respective drinking water systems or face penalties of up to $32,500 per day for each violation. The EPA’s orders require the public drinking water systems to develop and meet a schedule to comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s arsenic standard of 10 ppb. Arsenic, a naturally occurring mineral found throughout the United States, is primarily found in groundwater and is a known carcinogen. Drinking high levels of arsenic over many years can increase the chance of lung, bladder and skin cancers, as well as heart disease, diabetes and neurological damage. Arsenic inhibits the body’s ability to fight off cancer and other diseases. For more information on drinking water standards, visit: and News Release_ 10/28/08

State rules on ballast water too weak, group says in suit

An environmental organization said the MPCA did not go far enough in its new rules to prohibit dumping of potentially destructive ballast water in Lake Superior.  Driven by concerns about a deadly fish virus that is spreading in the Great Lakes, a Minnesota environmental group has gone to court to appeal the state's precedent-setting plans to keep commercial ships from dumping untreated ballast water into state waters.  The new rule and permit system approved last month by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will take full effect by 2016, but environmentalists say they are not strict enough or fast enough.  "Frankly, the PCA didn't ask the shipping industry to do anything out of the ordinary until 2016, and even then, the treatment requirements are so minimal Lake Superior will remain at unacceptable risk," said Henry VanOffelen, natural resources scientist for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. The St. Paul-based group asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to set aside the regulations and require that they be rewritten.  Star Tribune_10/23/08

Group: Stop water leaks instead of adding reservoirs
American Rivers lists measures to fix Atlanta’s water supply problem

Metro Atlanta could use up to one-third less water instead of spending millions of dollars on new reservoirs, according to a report released Wednesday by a national river advocacy group.  Washington-based American Rivers offers nine solutions to the region’s water crisis in its report titled “Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast.”   Click here to read the full report.  The recommendations include raising the price of water and replacing old plumbing fixtures with water-efficient brands.  “Atlanta and the entire Southeast are sitting on an enormous and forgotten water supply. It’s in our kitchens, our laundry rooms, our bathrooms,” American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder said Wednesday at a sparsely attended news conference at the state Capitol.  Metro Atlanta has made some progress on seven of the nine recommendations, according to the water district’s annual reports. More than 90 percent of the region’s water systems are reducing leaks and charging tiered rates for water to encourage conservation.  American Rivers, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, opposes new dams and advocates tearing down unneeded ones. Wodder called recent congressional interest in building dams on the Flint River south of metro Atlanta “costly” and “destructive.”  Dam-building has widespread support among state and regional leaders. Four more reservoirs will be built in the “near future” in south Fulton County and Hall, Paulding and Walton counties.  AJC_10/22/08

'Green Plumbers' working for conservation

Working on the front lines of water efficiency, plumbers are becoming more environmentally aware through the help of a new environmental training and accreditation  program called Green Plumbers.  GreenPlumbers furthered its mission at the recent WaterSmart Innovations '08 conference in Las Vegas, by holding five free workshops over three days. The workshops encompassed 32 hours of continuing education for plumbers, including training on water conservation, climate care, solar hot water and new technologies. More than 450 plumbers and other industry professionals, from upwards of 30 states, attended the workshops and became accredited GreenPlumbers.  GreenPlumbers' participation in the WaterSmart conference marked the beginning of a new round of expansion for the accreditation program, as it makes inroads into Canada and continues to train plumbers across the U.S. GreenPlumbers has November workshops scheduled in California, Oregon, Wisconsin and Washington.  The GreenPlumbers program is open to all recognized plumbers and contractors. The program is partnered with the EPA's WaterSense program, the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the California Center for Sustainable Energy, the California Urban Water Conservation Council, and many more industry leaders in its mission of bringing environmental training to plumbers. For more information, visit Marketwatch_10/22/08

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California kept uranium contamination secret

Southern California's largest water agency kept a groundwater project on its books for eight years without disclosing to key officials or the public that the site is contaminated with uranium and other toxic chemicals, an Orange County Register investigation has found. Documents and interviews show that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provides water to 18 million people, knew in 2000 about a "major stumbling block" with the proposed Hayfield Groundwater Storage Program. Water tests found that uranium contamination at Hayfield averaged roughly 16 picocuries per liter, with a high of 35 picocuries per liter, documents from 2000 show. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's limit for uranium in drinking water is 20 picocuries per liter. General Manager Jeff Kightlinger, the top official at the water district says the contamination is isolated and the water can be diluted with clean Colorado River water to the point that it's not a problem. He said that everyone who needed to know about the contamination was told about it. Uranium is toxic to kidneys and in high enough doses can kill tissues surrounding the organs. Orange County Register_ 10/10/08

No safety standards needed for perchlorate in drinking water: EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency formally refused yesterday to set a drinking-water safety standard for perchlorate, a chemical in rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and young children. With little fanfare, the agency issued a news release yesterday afternoon saying that it had "conducted extensive review of scientific data related to the health effects of exposure to perchlorate from drinking water and other sources and found that in more than 99 percent of public drinking water systems, perchlorate was not at levels of public health concern. Therefore, based on the Safe Water Drinking Act criteria, the agency determined there is not a 'meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction' through a national drinking water regulation." Last month, The Washington Post reported that White House officials had extensively edited the EPA's perchlorate rule-making documentation to remove scientific data highlighting some of the risks associated with the chemical, which has been found in water in 35 states. The Defense Department and Pentagon contractors who face legal liability stemming from rocket fuel contamination have lobbied for six years to avoid a federal drinking-water standard for perchlorate. In the document released yesterday, the EPA assumes that the maximum safe perchlorate contamination level is 15 times higher than what the agency suggested in 2002. Washington Post_ 10/4/08

States sue EPA over water transfer rule
Minnesota and eight other states on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over what they say is an illegal ruling that could hurt fisheries and contaminate drinking water.  The lawsuit targets an EPA water transfer rule published June 9 that exempts the discharge of pollutants contained in "transfer waters" from permitting requirements, the attorneys general said.  The states contend the rule creates a loophole that could allow the transfer of polluted or contaminated water from one water body to another where it would do harm. Examples of water transfers include an oceangoing ship dumping salt water into the Great Lakes or a lake's water being drained into a river. Water transfers routinely occur throughout the country for irrigation projects, city drinking water, dams and ecological restoration.  Others suing the EPA include New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Washington and the Canadian province of Manitoba. Star Tribune_10/2/08

September, 2008

Fresno, California considers buying homeowners' lawns to save water

Would you sell your lawn to the city to save water and cut your utility bill? Would you buy a house with no lawn or with only water-stingy native plants? Both are possibilities as Fresno officials look at ways to conserve water as the city grows. Those ideas, along with more traditional conservation methods, are part of an Urban Water Management Plan approved by the City Council last month. Programs to buy back lawns from interested homeowners could achieve major water savings, said Garth Gaddy, Fresno's assistant director of public utilities. Fresno's peak water usage during the winter, when most residential sprinkler systems are shut off, is 75 million gallons a day. In the summer, it's more than 250 million gallons. Fresno Bee_ 9/29/08

Well Owners

Disaster recovery information

Disinfecting wells following an emergency

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers valuable information for people who draw water from wells to help monitor and disinfect well water after flood events or contamination.  Click here to access a PDF copy of well water contaminents data.  CDC_9/26/08

Minn. pollution agency OKs rules for ballast water
The state pollution control agency approved strict standards for ships that discharge ballast water into Lake Superior, hoping they will cut down on the spread of harmful invasive species.  Unlike federal proposals pending in Congress, the new permit process will cover both oceangoing vessels and ships that stay within the Great Lakes.  For now, ships will be required to follow practices set forth by the U.S. Coast Guard to reduce the risk of nonnative species from entering or spreading from lake to lake. And by 2016, ships will be required to treat their ballast water before dumping it into Minnesota waters.  Environmental advocates had argued that the deadline for treatment of ballast water should be earlier than 2016, but the shipping industry argued that the regulations would be expensive and take a long time to implement. Forbes_9/24/08

EPA expected to do nothing about perchlorate in water

The Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from the White House and the Pentagon, is poised to rule as early as Monday that it will not set a drinking water safety standard for perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and young children across the nation. According to a near-final document obtained by the Washington Post, EPA's "preliminary regulatory determination" - which was extensively edited by White House officials - marks the final step in a six-year battle between career EPA scientists who advocate regulating the chemical and White House and Pentagon officials who oppose it. The document estimates that up to 16.6 million Americans are exposed to perchlorate at a level many scientists consider unsafe; independent researchers, using federal and state data, put the number at between 20 million and 40 million. Some perchlorate occurs naturally, but most perchlorate contamination in U.S. drinking water stems from improper disposal by rocket test sites, military bases and chemical plants. A nationwide clean-up could cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars, and several defense contractors have threatened to sue the Defense Department to help pay for it if one is required. The new EPA proposal - which assumes the maximum allowable perchlorate contamination level is 15 times above what EPA suggested in 2002 - was heavily edited by officials of the White House Office of Management and Budget, who eliminated key scientific passages and asked EPA to use a new computer modeling approach to calculate the chemical's risks. Washington Post/San Francisco Chronicle_ 9/21/08

U.S. Court: EPA must set standards to control new development water pollution

Siding with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Waterkeeper Alliance, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Pasadena, California, affirmed a decision that the EPA must set standards to control storm water pollution from strip malls, subdivisions and other new development. The EPA and the National Association of Homebuilders had appealed the lower court's ruling from 2006. The decision will help to ensure that construction site pollution won't cause beach closings, waterborne disease, flooding, fish kills and contaminated drinking water supplies. The states of New York and Connecticut supported the conservation groups.  Click here to read the court's decision. Kansas City News_9/19/08

More monitoring of drugs and chemicals required
Pollution experts pressed a congressional panel Thursday for a new national approach that monitors the country's waters more broadly for the presence and impact of hundreds of recently detected contaminants from pharmaceuticals to fire retardants.  Equipped with more refined tests, researchers in recent years have discovered the existence of a complex brew of unregulated contaminants beyond conventional industrial and agricultural pollutants. These low-concentration, emerging contaminants include discarded and excreted pharmaceuticals, vitamins and cosmetics, as well as some pesticides and industrial compounds.  Some experts testified to the panel that the Clean Water Act, which aims to clean up pollution in rivers and streams, may not be equal to the task for a host of newly recognized pollutants occurring in complex mixtures.  In a continuing investigation, The Associated Press has reported that at least 46 million Americans are supplied with drinking water that has tested positive for traces of pharmaceuticals. The stories, which began appearing in March, have prompted a national flurry of water testing and federal and local hearings.  AP_9/18/08

CITGO is guilty of Clean Water Act Violations

$13 Million fine is largest ever for criminal misdemeanor violations

CITGO, a Delaware corporation, pleaded guilty today and was sentenced to pay a $13 million fine for the negligent discharge of pollutants into two rivers in Louisiana in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Justice Department announced. The $13 million fine is the largest ever for a criminal misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act.  CITGO pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Lake Charles, La., for negligently failing to maintain storm water tanks and failing to maintain adequate storm water storage capacity at its petroleum refinery in Sulphur, La. As a result of these failures approximately 53,000 barrels of oil was discharged into the Indian Marais and Calcasieu Rivers following a heavy rain storm.  MarketWatch_9/17/08

Idaho not required to test water for drugs

The Associated Press discovered what comes from your faucet may not be as safe as first thought. Its recent investigation found trace amounts of pharmaceuticals like sex hormones, steroids and antibiotics in drinking water supplies throughout the country, including California, Oregon and Nevada. Idaho isn't on the list not because residents don't have drugs in their water but because the Federal Environmental Protection Agency doesn't require testing for over the counter or prescription drugs. While researchers say the comprehensive risks of drinking trace levels of prescription drugs in water isn't clear yet, there is evidence that extremely diluted concentrations of pharmaceuticals harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species. 2News.tv_ 9/15/08

US Sugar Everglades land sale delayed over details
A gigantic land deal for a territory larger than the city of Chicago, intended to help restore the dying Everglades, has been delayed as both sides work out details of the proposal for the state to buy some 300 square miles from U.S. Sugar Corp, officials said Wednesday.  The initial announcement said the state would buy some 300 square miles of U.S. Sugar's holdings in the Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee, including its cane fields, mill, refining facilities, citrus groves, and railroad line.  U.S. Sugar would be allowed to farm the 187,000 acres for six more years, after which it would go out of business, leaving some 1,700 workers unemployed. The state would then protect the land from development, which has been encroaching on the Everglades for decades. Officials said in June they planned to sign a contract on the deal by November. It likely won't happen now until sometime in 2009, according to officials with the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees Everglades restoration for the state. The multibillion Everglades restoration effort, bogged down for years by bureaucracy, funding shortfalls and missteps, is the largest of its kind in the world. It is aimed at undoing or rerouting decades of flood-control projects that were built to make way for houses and farms.  AP_9/10/08

Utah refining company violated Clean Water Act

Federal court metes out light sentences for false statements

Johnson Matthey Inc., the owner and operator of a gold and silver refining facility in Salt Lake City, pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act for failing to properly report wastewater discharges at the facility, the Justice Department announced. The former plant manager and former general manager both pleaded guilty to making false statements and were sentenced to a light sentence of  probation, 20 hours of community service and afines of $1,000.00 and $500.00 each.  The plea agreement with Federal prosecutors  included a fine for the corporation of $3 million. MarketWatch_9/3/08

EPA to fine Cal Waste over water pollution
Federal regulators have charged a recycling company that serves the California cities of  Oakland and San Jose with repeatedly allowing trash, metal and oils to flow into Bay Area gutters and waterways in violation of the Clean Water Act.  On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is seeking fines totaling nearly a half million dollars from California Waste Solutions, a firm that handles curbside residential and commercial recycling in most of San Jose and the northwest portion of Oakland.  In its complaint, the EPA accused California Waste of not creating a plan to prevent pollution runoff. Specifically, the company has neglected to cover storm drains and stored recyclable materials next to storm drains, increasing the likelihood that harmful materials wash into the bay, regulators said. This week, the EPA said it will levy fines of $157,500 on each of the company's three facilities.  San Francisco Chronicle_9/3/08

August, 2008

Warnings issued in 2 Massachusetts towns about perchlorate in water

The North Shore town of Hamilton has warned residents that their water may be tainted with a potentially hazardous chemical. And Millbury, in central Massachusetts, meanwhile, has shut down one of its wells after detecting unsafe amounts of the chemical. John Tomasz, director of public works in Hamilton, said tests taken this month had found perchlorate in two locations. Tomasz warned that pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and people with thyroid problems should not drink tap water. He also said residents should also discard any beverage or ice prepared with tap water in recent days. In Millbury, the Millbury Avenue well was shut down on Thursday, according to a statement from Aquarion Water Co., which operates the well. Citing similar safety concerns as in Hamilton, the company also advised Millbury residents to discard ice and beverages prepared before Friday. Perchlorate is used in explosives and rocket fuel. Exposure to the chemical can cause, among other things, impairment in physical development, behavior, movement, speech, hearing, vision, and intelligence, according to DEP. The state issued its perchlorate regulation, the toughest in the country, in 2006 after high levels were detected in a Bourne aquifer. Boston Globe_ 8/31/08

Akron, Ohio's smelly drinking water gets a dose of carbon

Akron is getting a dose of August water. That's the term city officials have used for years to describe the late-summer taste and odor problems with Akron's drinking water. The water, which officials say is safe to drink, has a musty, earthy, swampy taste and odor. These problems are caused by the growth of blue-green algae in Lake Rockwell, Akron's main drinking-water reservoir on the Cuyahoga River in Portage County. The water's odors got ''a little more intense this past week,'' said James L. Six, Akron's water supply plant administrator. Things improved after powdered activated carbon was added to the water Thursday and Friday at the treatment plant, Six said. Akron provides about 35 million gallons of water a day to 300,000 customers in Summit County. Beacon Journal_ 8/30/08

California Teen Wins Stockholm Junior Water Prize

Silver nanoparticles cited during World Water Week

Joyce Chai, a student at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates, California, was awarded the prestigious 2008 Stockholm Junior Water Prize Tuesday for discovering the potential toxicity of silver nanoparticles, The prize was awarded Tuesday eveing in a formal ceremony in Stockholm during World Water Week.  She also received a US $5,000 scholarship and a crystal sculpture.  Chai's project entitled "Modelling the Toxic Effects of Silver Nanoparticles under Varying Environmental Conditions" explores the new category of micropollutants, now used in industry for a variety of purposes.  Silver nanoparticles, known for their ability to fight bacteria, are incorporated into items such as bandages, clothing, cosmetics, car wax, and toys. When these items are laundered or discarded, silver nanoparticles are released into the environment, including water bodies. This study repudiates the assertion that silver nanoparticles are more reliable and less environmentally hazardous than silver ions. The research questions the reliability of their use in consumer products.  Environment News Service_8/20/08

New study: Arsenic, water, diabetes linked

A new analysis of government data is the first to link low-level arsenic exposure, possibly from drinking water, with Type 2 diabetes, researchers say. The study's limitations make more research necessary. And public water systems were on their way to meeting tougher U.S. arsenic standards as the data were collected. Still, the analysis of 788 adults' medical tests found a nearly fourfold increase in the risk of diabetes in people with low arsenic concentrations in their urine compared to people with even lower levels. The findings appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. Arsenic can get into drinking water naturally when minerals dissolve. It is also an industrial pollutant from coal burning and copper smelting. Utilities use filtration systems to get it out of drinking water. AP/Time/CNN_ 8/20/08

E.coli detected in Pembroke, Massachusetts, water supply

The Pembroke Department of Public Works detected e. coli bacteria in the town's water supply and ordered residents to boil their water before use, until at least Wednesday. Local and state officials plan to continue testing the water to determine a source of the contamination, but no results are expected until at least Wednesday, said Terry Finnegan, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. Boston Globe_ 8/9/08

New York City wants state to protect water from gas drillers
New York City officials have expressed serious concerns about potential contamination of the state's drinking water supply — fed by six reservoirs in the Catskills — if drilling for natural gas moves forward.  Natural gas prospectors are stampeding through New York and Pennsylvania, negotiating big-dollar land leases with folks sitting on Marcellus black shale — an underground formation that holds enough natural gas to supply the entire country for two years. Recent advances in horizontal drilling have suddenly made that gas accessible and lucrative, but environmentalists are concerned about drilling's effects on the watershed.  "Just the sheer amount of water that needs to be extracted, polluted and then disposed of is unprecedented," said Ramsay Adams, director of the nonprofit Catskill Mountainkeeper in Youngsville.  The city's Department of Environmental Protection, in a letter to the state, made a slew of hard-hitting requests: no-drill buffer zones, comprehensive chemical disclosures and strong oversight commitments from the Department of Environmental Conservation — the lead agency for the gas rush.  Learning that the DEP shares similar concerns has bolstered the muscle of local grass-roots groups.  Hudson Valley Record_8/7/08

July, 2008

Court orders Apex Oil Company to perform $150 Million groundwater cleanup

Apex Oil Company Inc. has been ordered to remediate extensive soil and groundwater contamination from its former refinery operations in Hartford, Ill., the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ordered Apex Oil Company Inc. to clean up the contamination, at an expected cost of at least $150 million. The court's decision is based on evidence presented at a five-week trial in January and February 2008, in a federal lawsuit filed by the Justice Department and EPA. The soil and groundwater beneath Hartford has been contaminated with more than one million gallons of leaded gasoline and other petroleum products from refinery and pipeline leaks and spills. For years, Hartford residents have been forced to evacuate when vapors emanating from that contamination have seeped into homes and public buildings.  Fox Business_7/29/08

Salmonella found in irrigation water at Mexican farm: FDA
Hot peppers; not tomatoes

A salmonella outbreak in the United States and Canada which has sickened more than 1,200 people since April, has been linked to irrigation water and serrano peppers at a Mexican farm, the federal Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.  Serrano peppers are a variety of chili pepper similar to jalapeños but hotter.  The people made sick by a strain called "Salmonella Saintpaul" were found in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. At least 242 have been hospitalized, although federal health officials say only the elderly, infants and people with weakened immune system need to avoid raw peppers from Mexico.   CNN_7/30/08

AWWA's take on carbon sequestration

Don Broussard, water operations manager for Lafayette, La., Utilities System, today testified at a Congressional hearing on Geologic Carbon Sequestration (GCS) on behalf of the American Water Works Association (AWWA). The hearing was held by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials.  Broussard's testimony raised serious concerns about the potential effect this unproven technology may have on our nation's underground sources of drinking water. GCS is considered one option to prevent carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere.  "Our overarching concern regarding geologic carbon sequestration is the potential contamination of underground sources of drinking water and other unintended -- and possibly harmful -- consequences," said Broussard in his testimony. "AWWA is particularly concerned about the potential for contamination of sole source aquifers. These aquifers should be provided with special protective measures."  GCS threatens safe water supplies because contaminants released during the power generation process could be absorbed into previously-pristine aquifers during sequestration, rendering them unusable as a drinking water resource. GCS has not yet been proven through study and research, and many experts have raised concerns about the ability to safely contain carbon dioxide once it has been pumped underground.  Marketwatch_7/24/08

12-year cleanup scheduled to remove contaminated groundwater

It will take an additional 12 years to clean cancer-causing pesticides and other contaminates from groundwater at the old Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Air Force Base, environmental officials and the military say.  The military said it will cost about $723,000 to clean up a shop where pesticides were stored for 15 years at the base, which closed in 1993. The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reported that the contamination also has moved to 4 acres of private land next to the base.  The project would involve cleaning up pesticides and solvents including trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride.  Some residents were not pleased with the plan.  An alternate proposal would clean the contamination in about half the time, but it would cost about $400,000 more.  The Post and Courier_7/24/08

Judge rules EPA must regulate ship water discharge
An appeals judge says the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate the water discharged from ships as a way to protect local ecosystems from invasive species.  A handful of environmental groups and states had sued the EPA to require that ship discharges be subject to federal permit requirements under the 1972 Clean Water Act.  A federal court in San Francisco had ruled against the EPA in 2006. An appeals court judge upheld that ruling Wednesday. The ship discharges included in the lawsuit range from laundry soap on cruise ships to ballast water on cargo ships.  The EPA has drafted rules on ship discharges already and is taking public comments this month.  AP_7/23/08

EPA sued over fertilizer runoff standards

Environmental groups have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hoping to force stricter regulation of water pollution in Florida and nationally.  The federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Tallahassee claims the agency is violating the Clean Water Act by not setting standards for fertilizer runoff and other farm waste in Florida's waterways.  Earthjustice attorney David Guest says he hopes a favorable ruling will force the EPA to set national standards. Guest is representing the plaintiffs.  The groups say rain washes the runoff into rivers and lakes, contaminating waterways and nourishing algae blooms that poison the ecosystems. The EPA says it will review the lawsuit. Florida says the state is still studying ways to set such limits.  AP_7/17/08

Scientists: $200M loss from Great Lakes invasives

Close the St. Lawrence Seaway?
Foreign species that slipped into the Great Lakes in ballast tanks of oceangoing cargo ships cost the regional economy at least $200 million a year, according to a University of Notre Dame study released Wednesday, July 16. A separate report issued by the National Research Council rejects calls to stem the species invasion by closing the St. Lawrence Seaway or declaring it off-limits to oceangoing freighters.  Instead, the U.S. and Canada should work together to make sure that saltwater ships exchange their ballast water _ or rinse their tanks if empty _ while still at sea, the council's report said.  Both reports come as environmentalists are prodding the U.S. Senate to approve a bill ordering ships to install systems for killing invasive fish, mussels and other critters that can disrupt the Great Lakes' ecosystem. The measure has cleared the House but supporters say its prospects will be dim unless the Senate acts before its August recess.  Sport fishing has taken the biggest hit: $123.5 million in 2006, the year on which the data are based, the report said. Participation is 11 to 35 percent lower on the lakes than it would have been if fish populations hadn't fallen because of the invasive species.  Other damaged sectors of the economy include wildlife viewing ($47.6 million loss); raw water use by municipalities, power plants and industry ($27 million); and commercial fishing ($2.1 million).  FoxNews_7/17/08

EPA proposes first-ever rule to capture carbon and keep drinking water safe
Federal environmental officials have proposed a new rule to help curb greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard underground drinking water resources.  The federal rule, if adopted, would establish the first national guidelines for safely storing carbon dioxide in underground injection wells.  Injection wells are used to place fluids, like wastewater, into porous rock formations, such as limestone or sandstone, deep beneath the earth’s surface. They are located both onshore and offshore across the country, according to the EPA, and include depleted oil and gas fields and unmineable coal seams.  Geologic sequestration, or the long-term underground storage of carbon dioxide captured from air polluters, such as coal-burning power plants, is part of a process known as “carbon capture and storage.” Typically, carbon dioxide emissions, produced by combustion of fossil fuels at industrial facilities, are captured as a gas and converted to a “supercritical” fluid. It is then moved by pipeline to an injection well, where it is stored.  The EPA rulemaking would fall under the jurisdiction of the Underground Injection Control Program, part of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The law’s purpose is to protect underground drinking water aquifers from potential carbon dioxide leakage and contamination.  Carbon dioxide is not toxic or radioactive, said Ben Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator, but large quantities of injected carbon stored in wells under high pressure could cause the gas to migrate into underground water sources, possibly contaminating them with harmful pollutants, such as aresenic and lead.  The proposed rule would protect underground sources of drinking water by creating a sixth type of injection well, specifically for carbon storage. The new category would require the construction of wells, according to Enesta Jones, EPA spokeswoman, but it would be possible to convert some pre-existing wells for carbon storage purposes. In addition, the EPA would require evaluation, monitoring and testing of injection well sites and ground water.  Medill Reports_7/16/08

White House rejects conclusion that global warming is a threat to public welfare

It launched a comment period that will delay action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least until the next president takes office. The Environmental Protection Agency published a 588-page examination of the issues surrounding greenhouse gases but refused to adopt its staff's finding that such gases could cause disastrous flooding and drought and affect food and water supplies. Environmentalists angrily denounced the White House for what they said was political interference with government experts' proposed rules. An EPA official who worked on the rejected reports said Friday's announcement was unprecedented because agency staffers did not have a chance to respond to other agencies' criticism. Los Angeles Times_ 7/12/08 (logon required)

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U.S. faces era of water scarcity

Researchers warn that the U.S. is entering a new era of water scarcity. A GAO report from 2003 projected that 36 states could face water shortages by 2013. Five years sooner than forecast, the report has proved disturbingly prophetic. Scientists and resource specialists say freshwater scarcity, even in unexpected places, threatens farm productivity, limits growth, increases business expenses, and drains local treasuries. "I truly believe we're moving into an era of water scarcity throughout the United States," said Peter Gleick, science advisor to Circle of Blue and president of the Pacific Institute, a think tank specializing in water issues based in Oakland, California. "That by itself is going to force us to adopt more efficient management techniques." CircleOfBlue/CSRwire_ 7/9/08

In a changing climate, cities worsen water quality

A new study of more than 1000 Maryland streams finds that as climate patterns change, urban sprawl can pollute water with more nitrate than previously thought. A new study published in Environmental Science & Technology finds that urban areas become a bigger source of nitrogen pollution to water when rainfall patterns are more variable. This concerns scientists who are struggling to clean up water, because global warming is expected to cause exactly the kind of weather extremes that could make the problem worse: dry spells followed by intense rain. In 2003, the Chesapeake Bay saw both high rainfall and record-setting hypoxia (low-oxygen conditions linked to excess nitrogen that create lifeless dead zones), says biogeochemist and study coauthor Sujay Kaushal of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). These conditions spurred researchers to ask whether local streams were flushing more nitrate into the Bay than before and whether booming land use by humans in the region played a role. The research is part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a long-term project funded by the National Science Foundation. The Chesapeake Bay is not alone, says Nancy Grimm, an ecologist studying urban and desert streams in central Arizona. Environmental Science & Technology/American Chemical Society_ 7/8/08

EPA document undermines enforcement of Clean Water Act

An official administration guidance document on wetlands policy is undermining enforcement of the Clean Water Act, said a March 4 memo written by the Environmental Protection Agency's chief enforcement officer. The memo by Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, was obtained by the advocacy group Greenpeace and released yesterday by two House Democratic committee chairmen. It highlights the confusion that has afflicted federal wetlands protections since the 2006 Supreme Court decision known asRapanos v. United States. EPA's assistant administrator for water, Nakayama and his staff concluded that between July 2006 and December 2007, EPA's regional offices had decided not to pursue potential Clean Water Act violations in 304 cases "because of jurisdictional uncertainty." The administration's guidance instructs federal officials to focus on the "relevant reach" of a tributary, which translates into a single segment of a stream. In the memo, Nakayama argued that this definition "isolates the small tributary" and "ignores longstanding scientific ecosystem and watershed protection principles critical to meeting the goals" of the Clean Water Act. Washington Post_ 7/8/08

Idaho Public Utilities Commission orders private compay to supply water to mobile home park where well is contaminated with uranium

State regulators told the Eagle Water Co. to start water service to 74 homes at the Floating Feather Mobile Home Park in southwest Idaho by July 18. If the company declines, regulators said, residents at the park may request service from United Water of Idaho. AP/Argus Observer_ 7/6/08

A new Earth Systems Science Agency proposed

In an article published today in the journal Science, a group of former senior federal officials call for the establishment of an independent Earth Systems Science Agency (ESSA) to meet the unprecedented environmental and economic challenges facing the nation. They propose forming the new agency by merging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  The authors say, "Population pressure, development impact, and resource extraction affect land and sea alike. Just as the science of the Earth is seamless, so should the government responsibility be merged for these separate Earth agencies."  The authors express concern that federal environmental research, development, and monitoring programs are not presently structured to address such major environmental problems as global climate change, declines in freshwater availability and quality, and loss of biodiversity.  Eurekalert.org_7/3/08

Newburgh, New York required to build water treatment plant

The federal EPA Monday filed a lawsuit against the Town of Newburgh and then signed a consent decree with the municipality for it to build a water treatment plant for its drinking water system by May 1, 2013. The town gets its drinking water from the New York City Delaware Aqueduct that runs through the town. The settlement also requires the town to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and to undertake three supplemental environmental projects valued at about $912,000 to improve the quality of the town’s water. The town distributes unfiltered drinking water to some 23,000 people and adds chemical disinfectants to make it potable. The EPA charged in the lawsuit that between 2005 and 2007, the town’s drinking water repeatedly exceeded maximum contaminant levels for certain disinfectant byproducts, namely haloacetic acids. The feds also charged the town failed to comply with an EPA administrative order requiring the town to monitor drinking water quality and report the results to the Orange County Health Department. Mid Hudson News_ 7/1/08

June, 2008

Making the Negev Desert bloom once seemed like a good idea, but it's killing the Dead Sea

Water has long been a deeply political issue in the Levant; wars are waged over it. Aquifers and other sources of water tend to straddle political boundaries. Levi Eshkol, Israel's prime minister during the Six Day War, was a water-company executive who spent long hours poring over maps of potential sources. According to "The Iron Wall," a history by Avi Shlaim, Eshkol believed that "without control over the sources of water the Zionist dream could not be realized." In 1964 Israel completed the National Water Carrier, designed to pipe drinking water from the Sea of Galilee, in Israel's north, to the Negev in the south. Syria and other Arab states then moved to divert the headwaters of the Jordan, igniting fierce clashes that included Syrian-sponsored Palestinian guerrilla attacks. The water wars were one of the key factors in the establishment of the PLO in 1964. Diverting water from the Galilee has contributed to another devastating environmental consequence: the drying of the Dead Sea. The Negev is the laboratory for new technologies Israelis hope may solve their water troubles. Experts, though, wonder how far technology can boost supply. Drip irrigation and desalination can only do so much. Making the desert bloom was a good idea "in its time," says David Brooks, a Canadian water expert and environmentalistbut now "the very idea of developing the Negev is wrong." The day to rethink Israel's romance with desert farming may be here. Newsweek_ 6/28/08

Plans uncertain for use of $1.75 billion "missing link" in Florida Everglades water supply

Officials say much of the farmland that the state plans to buy from the U.S. Sugar Corp. for $1.75 billion would become the Everglades' missing storage tank -- a massive patchwork of dammed reservoirs, pollution treatment marshes and diesel-burning pumps. It's hardly a picture postcard, but it's the only way engineers will be able to solve the biggest problem they have -- how to catch enough water, clean it and get it to the Everglades. Last year -- only months before Gov. Charlie Crist first floated the idea of a U.S. Sugar buyout -- conservation groups once again urged the South Florida Water Management District to consider making a natural ''flow-way'' of water through Big Sugar's land. No one can say exactly how the 187,000 acres will be used or how much any future plans may ultimately cost. Also unknown: how long the deal may delay the already backlogged restoration effort. Miami Herald_ 6/28/08

Singapore scientist discovers dragonflies may be water pollution detectors

Researcher Nanthinee Jeevanandam, at the National University of Singapore, said she hopes to use their genetic fingerprint to help national water agencies like Singapore's Public Utilities Board to determine the level of cleanliness in reservoir water. Different dragonfly species that live at the reservoirs have varied tolerance to pollutants such as lead and sulphate, the report said. Some require cleaner water or more oxygen. Studying the species would be a quick and chemical-free method of evaluating water quality, Jeevanandam said. Times of India_ 6/29/08

Water sector corruption threatens lives, environment
Corruption has made the cost of water more expensive in some developing countries than in cities like New York, London or Rome, threatening billions of lives, watchdog Transparency International said on Wednesday.  The Berlin-based non-governmental organization found in its latest global corruption report that bribes, graft and other forms of wrongdoing are the main reasons for a "global water crisis" that is speeding the pace of environmental degradation.  The report, released in Berlin and New York on Wednesday, said water sector corruption ranges from petty bribery in water delivery to the looting of irrigation and hydropower funding.  Such corruption -- seen in rich countries as well as poor -- threatens to exacerbate a global food shortage.  Reuters_6/25/08

Florida drinking water supplies to benefit from $1.75 billion Everglades deal

U.S. Sugar Corp.'s saie of thousands of acres of wetlands will reconnect scattered parts of the Everglades to capture new water supplies for a thirsty state. In one of the largest environmental land deals in U.S. history, Florida will get the ``missing link'' between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, Governor Charlie Crist said yesterday. The state will regain control of water reserves that are being channeled to the sea to allow for real estate and industrial development. The conservation effort will help replenish groundwater needed for drinking supplies and buffer the area against hurricanes. It also will cut the flow of agricultural chemicals entering the region known for its alligators and crocodiles. Since the 1600s, more than half of the original wetlands in the lower 48 United States have been destroyed, with recent losses concentrated in the southeast around Florida, according to the Common Sense Environmental Fund, a Washington-based nonprofit conservation group. The Everglades have shrunk to 50 percent of their size during the last century by dredging to prevent flooding and accommodate construction. Bloomberg_ 6/25/08

Higher than safe arsenic levels in Mount Rushmore water prompts new well

Even though it is still considered safe to consume, the drinking water at Mount Rushmore National Memorial violates a federal standard that was changed in 2006. The water has tested for a slightly higher arsenic content than permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency, which considerably lowered the allowable level for the element. Plans to drill another well at the mountain are currently under way, according to Duane Bubac, chief of cultural resources and facilities. Drilling could start as soon as this month, Bubac said. Rapid City Journal_ 6/22/08

European Union approves limits on chemicals in surface water

The European Union approved limits on chemical pollution of surface water, expanding an environmental-protection campaign with legislation the EU says will reduce the cost of producing drinking water. The European Parliament voted today to set concentration limits for 33 substances including pesticides and heavy metals in rivers, lakes and coastal waters. EU governments, which had already given their approval, will have until 2018 to meet the standards. Bloomberg_ 6/17/08

Indiana health officials offer free well water tests after floods

Flooding throughout South Central Indiana has called into question the safety of many well systems. Individuals on well systems are urged to get their well water tested before starting to use the water again. Health officials recommend using bottled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, and bathing until well water has been tested. The Indiana State Department of Health will provide water sampling kits to local health departments. Individuals on well systems may obtain sampling kits from their local health departments. Collection and shipping of the kits for testing will be the responsibility of the individual and not the local health department. Indianapolis Star_ 6/10/08

EPA: Water transfers will not need permits

The movement of billions of gallons of water around the country for drinking, irrigation and other uses will not require permits under the Clean Water Act, even though the water could contain contaminants, the Bush administration announced Monday. The new rule will allow water to be diverted from one body to another without a discharge permit, which is typically required when pollutants are released directly into streams, rivers and other surface waters. Instead, Environmental Protection Agency officials said, the agency will focus on preventing contaminants from entering water sources in the first place. In addition, safe drinking water laws ensure water is clean before it flows into households, and other parts of the Clean Water Act — such as water quality standards — will still protect supplies. Benjamin H. Grumbles, the EPA's assistant administrator for water, said the decision reaffirmed the agency's 30-year view of the Clean Water Act. Environmental groups criticized the decision, saying it continues to allow pollution to flow into the nation's waterways. AP/Yahoo_ 6/9/08

download the rule

Environmentalists threaten suits over EPA water transfer  decision

An environmental group said Monday it will go to federal court after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it won't require Clean Water Act permits when water is transferred between water bodies. The EPA's statement follows suits linked to the South Florida Water Management District's sending farm runoff into Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The environmental group Earthjustice said it will file motions, on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, asking the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to have the new rule, as stated Monday by the EPA, declared illegal. Earthjustice said the EPA's statement "flies in the face of court decisions" and "makes it easier for polluters to pump filthy water into the public's clean water supplies." The EPA said Monday it was clarifying confusion that stemmed from a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Palm Beach Post_ 6/9/08

Canada mulling regulations on water-wasting toilets, shower heads and faucets

The federal government is mulling regulations on household appliances that send an increasingly scarce resource down the drain. Limits on the water flowing through plumbing fixtures like toilets, shower heads and dishwashers are being studied by Natural Resources Canada as part of Ottawa's energy savings plan, a department official said. They could eventually require manufacturers to sell low-flow fixtures that use less water than their conventional counterparts. Canadian Press_ 6/8/08

May, 2008

New U.S. government report foresees big water and other climate changes

The rise in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities is influencing climate patterns and vegetation across the United States and will significantly disrupt water supplies, agriculture, forestry and ecosystems for decades, a new federal report says. The changes are unfolding in ways that are likely to produce an uneven national map of harms and benefits, according to the report, released Tuesday and posted online at The authors of the report and some independent experts said the main value of its projections was the level of detail and the high confidence in some conclusions. That confidence comes in part from the report’s emphasis on the next 25 to 50 years, when shifts in emissions are unlikely to make much of a difference in climate trends. The report also reflects a recent, significant shift by the Bush administration on climate science. According to the report, Western states will face substantial challenges because of growing demand for water and big projected drops in supplies. From 2040 to 2060, anticipated water flows from rainfall in much of the West are likely to approach a 20 percent decrease in the average from 1901 to 1970, and are likely to be much lower in places like the fast-growing Southwest. In contrast, runoff in much of the Midwest and East is expected to increase that much or more. New York Times_ 5/28/08 (logon required)

Feds punish three companies for Scottsdale, Arizona chemical-tainted water supply

Motorola and two other companies will pay a half-million-dollar penalty for two recent incidents in which a groundwater contaminant was released into the drinking supply. In October and January, the chemical trichloroethylene was found in water in amounts exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's maximum limits. The chemical releases occurred when processes at a water-treatment plant broke down. The three companies, identified as the source of decades-old TCE contamination under North Indian Bend Wash, built the plant 10 years ago as part of a federally mandated Superfund cleanup. The plant is now owned by Arizona American Water Co. It was designed and built by the North Indian Bend Wash Participating Cos., which is made up of Motorola Inc., Siemens Corp. and SmithKline Beecham Corp. The three formed the company and built the plant to handle the Superfund cleanup. Arizona Republic_ 5/20/08 (logon required)

Embalming fluids could have threatened New Zealand community's drinking water

The threat of embalming fluids contaminating the water supply has prompted New Plymouth District Council to cut plans for a super cemetery in half. The council paid $500,000 for 7 hectares of land near Egmont Village, 12km southeast of New Plymouth, for a $3 million cemetery development. But an investigation has found that, because the land is bordered on two sides by the Waiwhakaiho River, the primary source of the city's water supply, lower levels alongside the waterway could not be used as a cemetery, because of a high risk of contaminants such as embalming fluids entering the groundwater, and eventually the river. New Zealand Herald_ 5/20/08

Federal EPA likely to pass on regulating perchlorate

The Bush administration likely won't follow California in regulating a rocket fuel chemical that has contaminated drinking water supplies in at least 35 states, a federal official told a Senate committee Tuesday. Benjamin Grumbles, the Environmental Protection Agency's assistant water chief, said agency officials do not dispute studies showing that the chemical -- perchlorate -- increases developmental health risks for babies. But, Grumbles said, there's a "distinct possibility" EPA officials won't take action because they don't know whether regulation would meaningfully reduce those risks. The Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. is considering three bills that would the give the EPA an 18-month deadline to set drinking water standards limiting the amounts of perchlorate and trichloroethylene (TCE), a toxic solvent that has been linked to brain damage, liver cancer, skin diseases and immune disorders. The Defense Department has deemed the chemicals "mission critical." But their decades-long use in munitions and rockets has led to widespread contamination of soil and water. In the absence of EPA action, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey have set their own enforceable standard, which is permissible under the federal Clean Water Act. Large doses of the chemical have been shown to interfere with the thyroid gland, which plays a major role in children's brain development. Perchlorate contamination is especially acute in California because of the large number of military operations and defense contractors. Sacramento Bee_ 5/6/08

April, 2008

U.S. House passes ballast water treatment standards

The battle to keep ocean freighters from dumping more foreign species into the Great Lakes made an historic advance Wednesday, when one branch of Congress passed the nation's first ballast water treatment standards.  On a vote of 39-7, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Coast Guard funding bill that contained language requiring some freighters to disinfect ballast water tanks beginning next year. By 2015, all ships operating in the Great Lakes must have treatment systems on-board that kill all living organisms in ballast tanks, including pathogens.  The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate, which has been debating similar legislation. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush, the legislation would enact the world's most stringent ballast water treatment standards.  Ballast water discharges from ocean freighters that enter the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway account for nearly half of the 185 foreign species in the lakes, according to government data. The invaders that transcontinental freighters imported to the lakes -- including zebra and quagga mussels and the round goby -- cause $5 billion in economic and ecological damage annually, according to a Cornell University study. The Muskegon Chronicle_4/24/08

Southampton, Massachusetts tapped for nation's best small-town water; and look what's happened to Lorain, Ohio

Tap water from Southampton, Massachusetts, was named the best-tasting Tuesday among samples from the nation's small-town water departments. The National Rural Water Association organized the Great American Water Taste Test in Washington. The other finalists included North Kingstown, Rhode Island; Lewes, Delaware; Lorain, Ohio; and Avilla, Indiana. For Lorain, just being a finalist was a victory for a water system that draws from Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, which caught fire about 40 years ago because of high levels of petroleum-based pollution. The contamination helped inspire the federal Clean Water Act. CNN_ 4/22/08

America's 10 most endangered rivers listed

American Rivers, a nonprofit organization has published its 2008 list of America's 10 Most Endangered Rivers.  Topping the list is the Catawba-Wateree River  which runs through North and South Carolina.  Diminished by drought, impounded by 11 hydroelectric dams, and the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court water battle between the states, this river supplies drinking water to more than a million people along the way and supports the water needs of numerous coal and nuclear power plants. Duke Energy's renewal of its federal license to manage the Catawba is set to expire this year.

Each year since 1986, American Rivers has published a list of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country. To select the rivers to list, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer watchdogs.  The report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.

America's Most Endangered Rivers in 2008 are:

#1: Catawba-Wateree River in North Carolina and South Carolina
#2: Rogue River in Oregon

#3: Poudre River in Colorado

#4: St. Lawrence River in New York and Canada
#5: Minnesota River in Minnesota
#6: St. Johns River in Florida
#7 Gila River in New Mexico and Arizona
#8 Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine
#9 Pearl River in Louisiana and Mississippi
#10 Niobrara River in Nebraska

Read the full report, click here.   ENS_4/18/08

Study backing more water exports to Southern California is nullified
Report failed to account for effects on endangered fish

A federal judge Wednesday invalidated a plan that justified boosted water exports from Northern California, ruling that it failed to account for the effects on endangered salmon and steelhead. U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger of Fresno found that a 2004 study by the National Marine Fisheries Service didn't adequately address global warming, the loss of habitat and other factors that could hurt the fish. Wanger's ruling is the second setback in the last year for federal biologists and California's water managers. In August, the judge ordered a shift in operations that could cut water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta by 30%.  The decision comes days after federal regulators canceled the 2008 salmon fishing season because of a sharp decline in the Sacramento River's fall-run chinook salmon, the backbone of the commercial industry.  Los Angeles Times_4/17/08

AWWA urges science-based approach to water analysis

To responsibly address the issue of pharmaceutical compounds in drinking water, scientists must know at what concentration these substances impact human health, not simply whether they can be detected, a leading expert today told a U.S. Senate subcommittee.  Testifying on behalf of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), Shane Snyder, Ph.D., research and development project manager for Southern Nevada Water Authority, stressed that advanced analytical methods allow scientists to detect substances that would have been impossible to find only a few years ago.  The hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation, Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality, was scheduled following recent media reports about trace levels of pharmaceutical compounds in drinking water. Snyder has served as principal investigator for many research projects related to the trace-level detection, removal, and toxicology of pharmaceuticals in water supplies.  "I can tell you with absolute certainty that, if we regulate contaminants based upon detection rather than health effects, we are embarking on a futile journey without end," Snyder said.  Fox News_4/16/08

U.S. Supreme Court sets fall debate on standards of Clean Water Act

In accepting an appeal on the role of cost-benefit analysis in establishing standards under the Clean Water Act, the Supreme Court on Monday set the stage for what could be an important post-Election Day debate over environmental policy. While the Bush administration opposed Supreme Court review of appeals filed by industry groups, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement notified the court that if the justices did decide to hear the case, the administration would side with the industry challengers. In its brief, the administration told the justices that the federal appeals court that barred the Environmental Protection Agency from adopting the cost-benefit approach erred “by purporting to micromanage the agency’s decision making." The court’s new case, Entergy Corporation v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 07-588, concerns a provision of the Clean Water Act that applies to the use by power plants and manufacturing facilities of “cooling water,” water drawn from rivers or lakes and used to absorb heat generated by the industrial process. Both the intake of the water and its outflow have environmental consequences for aquatic organisms. Section 316 of the act provides that the design of structures used for cooling water must “reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact." New York Times_ 4/15/08 (logon required)

Feds not addressing drugs in U.S. water

A White House task force that was supposed to devise a federal plan to research the issue of pharmaceuticals in drinking water has missed its deadline and failed to produce mandated reports and recommendations for coordination among numerous federal agencies, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. More than 70 pages of the task force's documents, including e-mails and weekly reports, were released under the Freedom of Information Act as a Senate subcommittee prepares to convene a hearing Tuesday prompted by an AP investigation about trace concentrations of drugs in America's drinking water. The lack of public disclosure and failure of federal agencies to act on the pharmaceutical issue is expected to be a focus at Tuesday's hearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Among others, officials from the EPA and U.S. Geological Survey are scheduled to testify. The hearing could produce a showdown between committee members and EPA officials. AP_ 4/13/08

New date set to restart Arizona American water treatment facility after TCE contamination
A target date for the restart of Arizona American's facility in Scottsdale to treat groundwater contaminated with trichloroethylene, a suspected cancer-causing chemical, has come and gone. Arizona American Water Co. and Motorola Inc., the main business responsible for cleaning up the contamination, must work out agreements in order to bring the facility back on line. The goal was to restart the plant by late March. It remains shut down. The new target date is the end of April, said Paula Thornton-Greear, spokeswoman for Motorola and other businesses participating in the cleanup. The Participating Companies (Motorola, Siemens and GlaxoSmithKline) are obligated to clean up the contaminated groundwater at what is known as the North Indian Bend Wash Superfund Site. Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is an industrial solvent that was dumped decades ago, contaminating the wash's underground aquifer. In January, a malfunctioning blower at Arizona American's TCE treatment plant at in Scottsdale caused untreated water containing more than four times the federally mandated level of TCE to flow into Arizona American's water-distribution lines. That resulted in a three-day ban on using the water for drinking and for food preparation, affecting nearly 5,000 Arizona American residential and commercial customers in Paradise Valley and Scottsdale. Arizona Republic_ 4/13/08

Two parasites mean more testing for Alamosa's water
Alamosa's water wasn't just tainted with salmonella — state tests completed Wednesday also turned up traces of giardia and cryptosporidium in the Colorado city, two parasites that can cause diarrheal illnesses. Those organisms showed up in water samples pulled from taps before city and Colorado state officials flushed the water system with heavily chlorinated water. It will be at least Saturday before the city's water can be deemed safe to drink. The salmonella could have entered the system through a crack in a pipe somewhere in the 49 miles of the city's water distribution system, officials said. The parasites could have gotten in the same way — or they may be normally present in Alamosa's system but at such low levels they rarely cause disease. As of Tuesday afternoon, the city is reporting 389 total cases of salmonella infection, 107 of those confirmed with laboratory tests, and 16 people hospitalized.  The Denver Post_4/10/08

Arizona firm fined $69K for tainted water delivery
State environmental officials Thursday slapped Arizona American Water Co. with $69,000 in fines for two recent mishaps in which elevated levels of a suspected cancer-causing chemical entered the drinking water supply of 12,000 people in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. Steve Owens, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the agency that levied the fines, said in a statement issued by ADEQ that it’s the maximum penalty allowed under state law. “The company delivered contaminated drinking water to its customers, failed to maintain and operate its facilities to deliver safe drinking water, and failed to implement an adequate emergency plan,” Owens stated. “This is simply unacceptable.” Customers may have been exposed to trichloroethylene, or TCE, levels on Jan. 16 at quadruple the maximum allowable limit because of a mechanical breakdown at Arizona American’s Miller Road Treatment Facility in Scottsdale. The company had a previous TCE problem in October, but at the time officials said the tainted water was blended with TCE-free water, lowering concentrations to within federal limits. The fines also apply to the private water utility’s decision to purge the system of lingering TCE-tainted water by opening fire hydrants and letting the contaminated water flow into the street and stormwater sewer without a permit, according to ADEQ.  Scottsdale Arizona News_4/3/08

March, 2008

Alamosa, Colorado finishes first stage of drinking water salmonella treatment;  some residents may be allowed to take showers

High-level doses of chlorine meant to disinfect the city's salmonella-tainted water made it through the last of the system's pipes Friday night. Jacki Kelley, public information officer for the emergency operations center, said she anticipated that noticing for stage two, which will feature lower levels of chlorine and allow most adults to take brief showers, will start in some sections of the city today. The flush, which started Tuesday, is expected to clear the city's water system of the salmonella bacteria that's sickened 293 people in the last three weeks and resulted in 12 hospitalizations. Alicia Cronquist, a food borne and intestinal disease epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said health officials believe the number of cases have peaked. Pueblo Chieftan_ 3/29/08

Warming felt more in Western U.S.

Note: There is an excellent graphic with this story
The American West is heating up faster than any other region of the United States, and more than the Earth as a whole, according to a new analysis of 50 scientific studies. For the last five years, from 2003 through 2007, the global climate averaged 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer than its 20th century average. During the same period, 11 Western states averaged 1.7 degrees warmer, the analysis reported. The 54-page study, was released Thursday by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization -- a coalition of local governments, businesses and nonprofits. It was based largely on calculations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The consequences of Western temperature increases, the report said, are evident in a rash of heat waves. Montana, Idaho and Wyoming had their hottest Julys on record last summer, while Phoenix suffered 31 days above 110 degrees. "Temperature rises have been much larger and more noticeable in the Western states," said Kelly T. Redmond, regional climatologist at Nevada's Desert Research Institute. "The past 10 years have been particularly warm, unlike any similar 10-year period we have seen over the past 115 years." Martin Hoerling, a NOAA meteorologist, has predicted that the West could heat up as much as 5 degrees by mid-century. In Alaska, the annual mean air temperature has risen 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last three decades. A bill to slash greenhouse gases nationwide, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.), is expected to reach the Senate floor by June. A recent tally by the newsletter Environment & Energy Daily counted 44 votes for the bill so far. As many as 10 Republican senators from Western states are leaning against the bill, according to the newsletter, which based its research on interviews with lawmakers, staff, industry and environmental groups. Los Angeles Times_ 3/28/08 (logon required)

download full .pdf report Hotter and Drier

EPA chief shelves agency findings on greenhouse gases

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson has shelved his agency's findings that greenhouse gases are a danger to the public, and on Thursday told Congress that he will initiate a lengthy public comment period about whether such emissions are a risk before responding to a U.S. Supreme Court order. The move means there is virtually no chance the Bush administration will act to regulate greenhouse gases in response to the high court's decision in the time left in office. The decision by the Environmental Protection Agency infuriated Democratic lawmakers, and attorneys who won the landmark case before the high court last spring. The EPA administrator's position of prolonged evaluation mirrors that advocated by a coalition of industry groups and conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation. The groups emphasized to the White House and lawmakers that the Supreme Court had set no deadline by which the EPA needed to act -- and that during an economic downturn, seeking comprehensive public comment and a "go-slow" approach would be far better. EPA staffers told The Los Angeles Times they had concluded that such greenhouse gases were a major threat to water supply, crops, wildlife and other aspects of public welfare, and their finding was forwarded to the White House for review in December.  Los Angeles Times_ 3/28/08 (logon required)

Plan to force ships to treat ballast water
Fearful of a deadly fish disease and other invasive pests, Minnesota lawmakers and state pollution officials are trying to force ships to stop dumping untreated ballast water in Lake Superior. Although a bill in the Legislature has come under heavy opposition, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is moving forward with its plans to begin to regulate shipowners.  The shipping industry has opposed a state-by-state approach to the problem, saying that national and international rulemaking is already making progress.  Mary Jean Fenske, MPCA vessel discharge program coordinator, said that more than 5 billion gallons of water from other places was dumped into Duluth-Superior Harbor in 2005, making it the top location in the Great Lakes for ballast water discharge. Among other foreign species already established at Duluth from past discharges are zebra and quagga mussels, and two types of fish: round gobies and Eurasian ruffe.  Fenske told the MPCA Citizens' Board Tuesday that invasive species compete with native species for food and habitat, disrupt ecosystems and cost cities and industries millions of dollars.  To prevent future invasions, she said that Minnesota is moving toward establishing a permit system by late September that will eventually require shipowners to treat ballast water to kill or to remove foreign bacteria and other organisms before the water is dumped.  StarTribune_3/26/08

Alamosa, Colorado starts flushing salmonella-tainted water system

This isolated, agricultural crossroads began to flush its water system this morning with concentrated chlorine in an effort to drive out the salmonella that is believed to have sickened more than 200 people. That may get rid of the contamination, but for now it has made Randy Wilhelms' hygienic dilemma worse. Dirty dishes have been piling up in his apartment. For the last week, he has dared take only the briefest of showers; he has sprouted an unkempt goatee because he hasn't shaved. But the added chlorine makes it risky for anyone to come in contact with tap water. Even boiled water will not be safe. "How do you not shower?" said Wilhelm, 40. "I can't wash my dishes. My house stinks." The inconveniences are immense in this town of 10,000 or so. Bottled water is scarce, with most residents relying on public distribution centers. Businesses have closed. Officials say it could be several weeks before the system is cleaned out. It is rare for municipal water sources to be contaminated by salmonella. One of the largest instances occurred in Riverside, California, in 1965, when 16,000 residents were sickened; three died. Los Angeles Times_ 3/25/08

Alamosa set to flush water system after salmonella outbreak
Water officials say they are set to begin treating the city's water system that has been linked to a salmonella outbreak. Alamosa City Water Department officials say they will begin a three-stage treatment process of the city's water system, beginning Tuesday at 9 a.m. The first stage involved adding a high concentration of chlorine to the water system, neighborhood by neighborhood. According to city officials, during this stage, residents should only use the water to flush the toilet. Residents won't be able to drink or cook with tap water, even if it's boiled. It was not immediately clear how long the first stage would take. As of Saturday, 163 cases of salmonella were believed to be linked to the town's water system. The affected individuals range in age from infancy to 89 years old. 9NEWS_ 3/23/08

Alamosa, Colorado water officials declare salmonella 'state of emergency'

Officials in Alamosa declared a "state of emergency" this morning over the city's contaminated public water. "We have an emergency when we can't deliver potable water through the normal distribution system," said Don Koskelin, the city's public works director. City, county and state officials are meeting this morning to decide whether they'll flush the water system out today, Koskelin said. The number of likely salmonella poisoning cases was upped to 139 this morning, and 7 people have been hospitalized, according to the state health department. "This may be the tip of the iceberg," Julie Geiser, Alamosa County's director of nursing and public health, said during a midday news conference Thursday. While there will be an effort to track down the source of the contamination, said state health department spokesman Mark Salley, "we may never know." Alamosa's water comes from five deep wells, said Ken Carlson, an environmental engineering professor at Colorado State University, and it is not disinfected. That is not unusual, he said. More than half of the drinking water in the United States is untreated groundwater. In theory, groundwater never comes into contact with potentially- contaminated surface waters and it does not need treatment, Carlson said. In the past 20 years, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found five cases of municipal water contaminated with salmonella, said Michael Beach, the associate director for healthy water at the CDC. One case was similar to Alamosa's with untreated groundwater somehow becoming contaminated, Beach said. Denver Post_ 3/21/08

No tap water in Alamosa, Colorado for up to three weeks

It could be three more weeks before residents of a southern Colorado town can drink water straight from the tap after dozens of cases of salmonella poisoning were linked to municipal water, putting seven people in the hospital. An analysis indicates the municipal water system in Alamosa is the source of the bacterial outbreak, as suspected, said Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the state health department. The city and county of Alamosa have declared emergencies, which would allow them to use state funds as officials scramble to provide safe water and disinfect the system with chlorine. The earliest the city water system could be flushed is Tuesday, and disinfecting it and making sure it is safe could take many days, said James Martin, executive director of the state health department. Water agencies from Denver, Aurora and Fort Collins were helping. AP_ 3/21/08

Colorado salmonella outbreak may be tied to water

State health officials warned residents of a southern Colorado town Wednesday to stop drinking and cooking with tap water because they said it might be linked to a salmonella outbreak.  The state health department said 33 cases of salmonella have been confirmed and 46 other reports were being investigated in Alamosa, a city of 8,500 about 160 miles south of Denver. Officials said that the tap water tested positive for bacteria believed to be salmonella, but that the results had not been confirmed.  Water-borne salmonella outbreaks are fairly rare, said Mark Salley, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.   Boiling water for 15 seconds will kill the bacteria, but health officials advised residents to use bottled water for brushing teeth, washing dishes, making ice, cooking, drinking and making baby formula. People can use tap water to bathe, as long as they are careful not to ingest it, Salley said.  City officials plan to start flushing and disinfecting the water system in the next few days, a process that could take a week or more. While the flush is under way, no municipal water should be used, even if it is boiled, they said.  AP_3/20/08

New screening processed developed to remove TCE from water
Scientists at Arizona State University (ASU) have found a new way to transform Trichloroethane (TCE), a common toxin proven to be a carcinogen in animal studies into a harmless substance.  Dr. Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, working with Director Bruce Rittmann of the Biodesign Institue and another researcher, Jinwook Chung, used the membrane biofilm reactor, a treatment system Rittmann developed several years ago.  In Rittmann's process, microorganisms grow as a biofilm on a membrane that is pumped through with hydrogen, Krajmalnik-Brown said. In a chemical reaction, the microorganisms reduce contaminants, such as TCE, into de-chlorinated structures that aren't harmful to humans.  "One of the good things about this reaction is it encourages growth of those [detoxifying] microorganisms," said Krajmalnik-Brown.  Because the microorganisms in the biofilm feed on TCE, the treatment process is highly effective. Krajmalnik-Brown said the way microorganisms grow in biofilm is a new area of study.  More basic research is needed to understand how they work because the microorganisms in the biofilm have not been studied before, Krajmalnik-Brown said.  TCE, used as a common degreasing agent in cleaning products, can cause liver damage when it is in a water supply.   "TCE is one of the most common contaminants in the groundwater in the U.S.," Krajmalnik-Brown said. Web@Devil_3/20/08

UN: Glaciers melting at record speed

Glaciers across the globe are melting faster than at any point in the last century. Many could disappear within decades, and their decline could cause droughts and chaos for billions of people who depend on rivers fed by glaciers. This was the sobering message delivered Sunday by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), along with a plea to international leaders to act swiftly and drastically to address climate change, which the UNEP says is to blame for the glacial melt. Glacial melt is the "canary in the climate change coal mine," said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner in a statement. "It is absolutely essential that everyone sits up and take notice," he said. The announcement was based on a study that tracked glacial melt at nearly 30 glaciers across the globe. Some of the most dramatic losses were in Europe; Norway's Breidalblikkbrea glacier topped the list by shrinking 3.1 meters (10.2 feet) in 2006. Business Week_ 3/17/08

More details from the United Nations Environment Programme

Corps of Engineers to take on Wyoming TCE cleanup

The Army Corps of Engineers will apparently “do the right thing” when it comes to taking responsibility for treating one source of Cheyenne’s drinking water for trichloroethylene, or TCE, which is a result of Cold War-era nuclear missile maintenance east of Cheyenne. Paul Johnston, public affairs officer for the Omaha district of the Army Corps of Engineers, said the Corps is charged by the Department of Defense to administer the FUDS (formerly used defense sites) program. But right now, the city of Cheyenne is paying the $20,000 a year it takes to remove the TCE from the water before it arrives at residents’ taps. It also paid $600,000 for the aeration basin that removes the chemical when it was first found in 1998, Jane Francis, geological supervisor at the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, said. Johnston said there are two areas of contamination. One is obviously because of the work at the missile site. The Army Corps is taking full responsibility for that site, he said, and taking steps to clean it up. If it is found that water at the second site is also contaminated because of the missile maintenance, the Army Corps will take full responsibility and clean it up, he said. Francis predicts that the water will have to be treated for the next 100 to 300 years, and hopes that the Army Corps will pick up the tab for that long-term treatment. Wyoming Tribune-Eagle_ 3/16/08

Water in dams, reservoirs slows sea-level rise
Dams and reservoirs have stored so much water over the past several decades that they have masked surging sea levels, a new study in the journal Science, says. But dam building has slowed, meaning sea levels could rise more quickly than researchers predicted in a 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The oceans are on average about 6.3 inches (16 centimeters) higher now than in 1930, when they started a noticeable upward climb. Melting glaciers and ice caps, along with ocean warming—water expands as it heats up—are the main culprits behind the increase.  But the new study shows that reservoirs are also an important factor.  Rather than adding to sea-level rise, however, they have counteracted it by storing more water on land.  Since 1930 the storage of water has prevented a total of about 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) of sea-level rise.  National Geographic News_3/13/08

AP water probe prompts U.S. Senate hearings

Two veteran U.S. senators said they plan to hold hearings in response to an Associated Press investigation into the presence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. Also, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., has asked the EPA to establish a national task force to investigate the issue and make recommendations to Congress on any legislative actions needed. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, chairman of the Transportation, Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality Subcommittee, said Monday the oversight hearings would likely be held in April. Boxer, D-Calif., said she was "alarmed at the news" that pharmaceuticals are turning up in the nation's drinking water, while Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who said he was "deeply concerned" by the AP findings, both represent states where pharmaceuticals had been detected in drinking water supplies, but not disclosed to the public. Associated Press_ 3/11/08

Metropolitan Water Agencies statement about the AP investigation.

International Bottled Water Assn. statement: Bottled water is regulated by the FDA and is safe.

AP investigation: No mandates to test, treat or limit drugs in water

Last of three-part series

Though U.S. waterways coast to coast are contaminated with residues of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, there's no national strategy to deal with them - no effective mandates to test, treat, limit or even advise the public. Benjamin H. Grumbles, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assistant administrator for water, told the AP the agency recognizes that this contamination in water supplies is a growing concern and that government has some catching up to do: "Our position is there needs to be more searching, more analysis." He said the EPA has launched a four-pronged approach: to identify the extent of the problem, to "identify what we don't know and close the gap," to take steps using existing science and regulatory tools, and finally, to increase dialogue and awareness with water providers and state and local agencies. But none of those goals has any regulatory firepower. Some researchers, environmentalists, health professionals, water managers and bureaucrats say it's time for government to do more. "The onus has been on the scientific community to provide the research, but at this point the evidence is conclusive," says U.S. Geological Survey scientist Steven Goodbred, who has studied carp in drug-tainted waters. "Now it's up to the public and policy makers to decide what they want to do about it." Yet water regulators are barely budging. AP/Centre Daily Times_ 3/11/08

Drugs in water hurt fish and wildlife

2nd in a three-part series

A five-month Associated Press investigation has determined that trace amounts of many of the pharmaceuticals we take to stay healthy are seeping into drinking water supplies, and a growing body of research indicates that this could harm humans. But people aren't the only ones who consume that water. There is more and more evidence that some animals that live in or drink from streams and lakes are seriously affected. Pharmaceuticals in the water are being blamed for severe reproductive problems in many types of fish: The endangered razorback sucker and male fathead minnow have been found with lower sperm counts and damaged sperm; some walleyes and male carp have become what are called feminized fish, producing egg yolk proteins typically made only by females. Meanwhile, female fish have developed male genital organs. Also, there are skewed sex ratios in some aquatic populations, and sexually abnormal bass that produce cells for both sperm and eggs. There are problems with other wildlife as well: kidney failure in vultures, impaired reproduction in mussels, inhibited growth in algae. AP_ 3/10/08

Cities rarely release water test results

When water providers find pharmaceuticals in drinking water, they rarely tell the public. When researchers make the same discoveries, they usually don't identify the cities involved. There are plenty of reasons offered for the secrecy: concerns about national security, fears of panic, a feeling that the public will not understand — even confidentiality agreements. "That's a really sensitive subject," said Elaine Archibald, executive director of California Urban Water Agencies, an 11-member organization comprised of the largest water providers in California. She said many customers "don't know how to interpret the information. They hear something has been detected in source water and drinking water, and that's cause for alarm — just because it's there." AP/USA Today_ 3/10/08

About the AP drugs in drinking water study

At least one pharmaceutical was detected in tests of treated drinking water supplies for 24 major metropolitan areas, according to an Associated Press survey of 62 major water providers and data obtained from independent researchers. Only 28 tested drinking water. Three of those said results were negative; Dallas says tests were conducted but results are not yet available. Thirty-four locations said no testing was conducted. Test protocols varied widely. Some researchers looked only for one pharmaceutical or two; others looked for many. Some water systems said tests had been negative, but the AP found independent research showing otherwise. Both prescription and non-prescription drugs were detected. AP/USA Today_ 3/10/08

Associated Press investigation: Drugs in U.S. drinking water

1st in a three-part series

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows. To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe. But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health. In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky. And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife. "We recognize it is a growing concern and we're taking it very seriously," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. AP_ 3/9/08

Riverkeeper files petition over Florida's Seminole County water plan
The St. Johns Riverkeeper made good on its promise Tuesday to file legal actions over Seminole County's plan to withdraw water from the St. Johns River.  The organization is seeking to block the St. Johns River Water Management District from issuing a permit to withdraw up to 262 million gallons per day from St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers.  "This is about the future of every river in Florida," says Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon, who is teaming up with the Public Trust Environmental Law Institute of Florida to file the verified petition.  The petition also asks the district to stop giving municipalities assurances that they will receive permits, despite the district's study of the environmental impacts of withdrawals being more than a year away from being complete, says Michael Howle, the Riverkeeper's legal counsel.  The Riverkeeper also filed a petition for an administrative hearing on Seminole County's permit to remove up to 5.5 million gallons per day, causing the permit to be pulled from the district's governing board's March 11 agenda.  Armingeon said the district "reneged" on promises to not permit any significant withdrawals until the two-year study on the potential impact of the water removal was complete.  Business Journal_3/5/08

Massive water release aims to restore Colo. River beaches, habitat

For the next three days more than 300,000 gallons of water per second are being released at the Glen Canyon Dam in an attempt to restore fish habitat and beaches along the Colorado River.  The controlled flooding from Lake Powell, above the dam near the Arizona-Utah border, is four to five times its usual flow. Since 1963, as the dam was being built, sediment has not been distributed naturally, damaging the part of the Grand Canyon's ecosystem.  "This river continues to evolve because of the forces of man and nature," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said before unleashing the torrent. "Today we're here to set the river free once again and learn more about these natural systems."  USA Today_3/5/08

Wyoming Senate rejects coal-bed methane water bill

A bill that would have allowed greater state regulation of water discharged from coal-bed methane wells died in the Wyoming State Senate on Monday after what some senators said was a stiff lobbying effort by the energy industry to kill the bill. The Senate bill would have limited the quality of water discharged from CBM gas wells to the natural capacity of streambeds that carry the natural flow of water in the area. The legislation was the product of a state task force that included landowners, industry representatives and state officials. Gov. Dave Freudenthal, in his state of the state address last month, had urged lawmakers to pass the bill. An attempt to reach Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, for comment on the bill after business hours on Monday was unsuccessful. AP/Yahoo_ 2/26/08

Accidental releases of TCE in Arizona drinking water a first, EPA official says

Two accidental releases of excessive levels of TCE in water treated by the Arizona American Water Co. has never happened before at a federal Superfund site, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official testified this week at a congressional hearing. The pair of incidents, one in October, the other in January, is "a situation that we haven't encountered before," testified Susan Parker Bodine.Bodine is assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Energy Response, the office responsible for the EPA's Superfund projects. Arizona American operates a treatment plant in Scottsdale at McDonald Drive and Miller Road that removes trichloroethylene, or TCE, a suspected cancer-causing chemical. The tainted water comes from a plume in the North Indian Bend Wash aquifer, which was contaminated decades ago by Motorola and other companies with TCE, an industrial solvent. In 1985, the EPA designated the area as a Superfund site to clean up the contamination. The plant remains closed while the EPA and state agencies investigate. Arizona American, a private water firm, is drawing water from uncontaminated wells. Arizona Republic _ 2/8/08

January, 2008

Scientists warn of looming water supply crisis

Climate change has already dramatically altered the water cycle and these changes signal a looming water supply crisis, according to a prominent group of hydrologists and climatologists writing Thursday in Science magazine. They argue that radical water cycle changes will be widespread and that past trends can no longer be relied upon when planning future water management. "Our best current estimates are that water availability will increase substantially in northern Eurasia, Alaska, Canada and some tropical regions, and decrease substantially in southern Europe, the Middle East, southern Africa and southwestern North America," said lead author Christopher Milly, a research hydrologist with the US Geological Survey. More frequent droughts can also be expected in drying areas, he added. The article says that new models must be used to prepare for floods or droughts, determine the size of water reservoirs and decide how to allocate for residential, industrial and agricultural uses. This is a massive undertaking seeing as annual global investment in water infrastructure is more than 500 billion dollars a year and these are made under outdated assumptions that the water cycle will fluctuate within a relatively narrow historical band. Science/AFP_ 1/31/08

Western U.S. faces drought crisis, warming study says

The U.S. West will see devastating droughts as global warming reduces the amount of mountain snow and causes the snow that does fall to melt earlier in the year, a new study says. By storing moisture in the form of snow, mountains act as huge natural reservoirs, releasing water into rivers long into the summer dry season. "We're losing that reservoir," said research leader Tim Barnett, an oceanographer and climate researcher at the University of California, San Diego. "Spring runoff is getting earlier and earlier in the year, so you have to let water go over the dams into the ocean." Summers are also becoming hotter and longer. "That dries things out more and leads to fires," Barnett added. "Our results are not good news for those living in the western United States," the scientists write in their report, which appears in today's online edition of the journal Science. Science/National Geographic_ 1/31/08

UK food and drink giants pledge to reduce water use

Twenty-one of the UK's leading food and drink manufacturers today joined forces in a new initiative to cut down on water usage and improve efficiency across all areas of their businesses. If rolled out across the food and drink sector as a whole, the scheme could save some 140m litres of water a day - equivalent to 56 Olympic-size swimming pools - with a combined financial saving of around £60m per year on water bills. But consumer and environmental groups were expected to question how effective a voluntary agreement would be, amid concerns about whether consumers might be compromised by possible cutbacks on the use of water in health and safety areas. Chocolate giant Cadbury was prosecuted and fined £1m last year after unclean pipes were found to be at the heart of a national salmonella outbreak which gave 42 people food poisoning and put three of them in hospital. The so-called Federation House Commitment has been jointly developed by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) - the trade body representing Britain's leading food and drink companies - and resource efficiency experts Envirowise. The signatories represent the lion's share of the industry with a combined annual turnover of some £15bn a year. They are: Apetito, Birds Eye Iglo, Britvic, Cadbury Schweppes; Coca-Cola Enterprises, GlaxoSmithKline, Kellogg Marketing & Sales Co, Kraft Foods UK, Mars Snackfood, Müller Dairy (UK), Nestlé UK, PepsiCo UK, Premier Foods, Tate & Lyle, UIN Foods, Unilever UK, Uniq, United Biscuits, Warburtons, Weetabix, and Young's Seafood. Guardian Unlimited 1/28/08

Prince Edward Island to offer free testing for nitrates in water
The Prince Edward Island government will once again offer free testing for nitrates in groundwater.  More than 1,000 samples were taken when clinics were first offered in November and December amid public concern over nitrate contamination in Island groundwater.  Beginning Saturday in Kinkora, residents will be able to bring a water sample to seven weekly clinics.  Free follow-up testing will also be available should the testing reveal high concentrations of nitrates.  The clinics began after a recommendation by the Commission on Nitrates in Groundwater, which is developing a strategy to address the issue of nitrate concentrations in water.   The Canadian Press_1/9/08

How Much Water Do You Really Use? More than 1,000 gallons a day? Calculate your water use.

A new website called H2O Conserve ( is coming online to show us that it's time to do something about our 1,000-plus gallon-a-day habit. For example, it takes 24 gallons of water to make a single pound of plastic, and over a hundred gallons to make a pound of cotton. Even the electricity we use is tied to water - with power plants consuming 40 percent of our country's fresh water resources. The website's H2O Calculator takes all this into account, and after you answer a few questions it reveals just how much water your lifestyle requires. Well, the average American guzzles an astonishing 1,189.3 gallons per day according to the calculator's measure. News Release_ 1/8/08


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