|Posted by Pat Connor on July 27, 2011 at 9:06 PM||comments (0)|
Do We All Have Perchlorate In Our Water?
February 11, 2009 8:52 PM
(AP) A toxic chemical used to fuel Cold War-era missiles and the rockets that put man on the moon has left a legacy of contamination across the Southwest, where it pinches the region's already tight supply of drinking water.
The chemical, called perchlorate, pollutes much of the lower Colorado River - the main water source for 20 million people across the Southwest - and has forced the shutdown of hundreds of wells in California.
State and federal officials are still debating how much risk perchlorate poses when ingested and what limits should be set for the chemical, a process slowed partly by lawsuits filed by defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp. that worry they could be on the hook for billions of dollars in cleanup costs.
Thousands of people have sued the companies that once made or handled perchlorate, alleging years of drinking water laced with the chemical have caused cancers and other illnesses.
Adrienne Wise-Tates, 46, has had tumors of the brain and ovaries, multiple cysts in her breasts, cancerous cells found when she had a goiter removed and, most recently, an unknown mass in her left kidney.
The mother of three blames the perchlorate-tainted water she drank while growing up in Redlands. There, 70 miles east of Los Angeles, nearly 1,000 people are suing Lockheed Martin over perchlorate pollution associated with a former rocket engine testing facility that closed in the 1970s.
"I played in the water, drank the water, everything. The normal things a child does," Wise-Tates said. "Since it was so much in this area, in the water, that's what I attribute it to."
Lockheed spokeswoman Gail Rymer said the company is "vigorously" defending itself against the claims.
"We do not feel that anyone was harmed or has been made ill as a result of our operations at the former Lockheed Propulsion Co. site," Rymer said.
The oxygen-rich chemical interferes with the way the body takes iodide into the thyroid and can disrupt how the gland regulates metabolism. It's unclear how much is dangerous.
Initially, it was thought perchlorate pollution would be restricted to places where rocket fuel was made or used. However, it's since been tied to plants around the country that made munitions, fireworks and even the charges that deploy airbags.
"Anything that explodes seems to be associated with perchlorate," said David Spath, chief of the division of drinking water and environmental management for the California Department of Health Services.
Along with explosives, naturally perchlorate-rich fertilizer imported from Chile has contaminated wells on New York's Long Island, forcing some to close.
"We need to be able to say to people that this is a problem, it is a big problem. It is moving rapidly. It is in 22 states and we need to address it," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "We don't need to panic, but we need to do it in a way that's cost-effective and makes sense."
The single largest source of contamination is a former Kerr-McGee Corp. rocket fuel plant outside Las Vegas.
For decades, waste water containing perchlorate was left to seep into the ground, a company official said.
"There were probably 20-plus years when we didn't have the environmental awareness we have today," said Pat Corbett, the former plant manager who is now the company's environmental technology director.
The site still leaches as much as 900 pounds of perchlorate a day into a wash that drains into the Colorado River, the main water source for much of Arizona, southern California and southern Nevada.
Across the nation, millions more eat vegetables grown with Colorado River water. What risk the vegetables could pose, if any, is unknown.
"It's really one of the most massive pollution problems the water industry has ever seen," said Timothy Brick, a member of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Across California, nearly 300 wells are contaminated. Most are in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where dozens of aerospace factories hummed during the Cold War.
California officials have proposed what they consider a safe level of perchlorate of two to six parts per billion and hope to set the nation's first standard by 2004. However, Lockheed Martin and Kerr-McGee forced the state to submit the draft recommendation to further outside review, including by industry-picked experts, delaying the process by months.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's draft proposal is stricter: one part per billion.
Perchlorate in the Colorado River has been measured as high as 9 parts per billion.
It will take years to discover the extent of perchlorate contamination nationwide, and cleanup will take decades more, to the consternation of people like Wise-Tates.
"I would just hope no one else has to go through this, but I am sure they will, until they find some way to clean up the water," she said.
By Andrew Bridges
Perchlorate-tainted water gets federal attention
RIALTO, CA, December 3, 2009 (Water Tech) — The state of California now is examining a possible link between a miles-long stretch of contaminated groundwater and illnesses among residents who have lived in the area, The Press-Enterprise reported December 2.
The rocket-fuel ingredient perchlorate and industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) seeped from a 160-acre industrial site in Rialto, contaminating soil and groundwater that has been used as a potable supply. The groundwater contamination is considered the Inland region’s largest uncontrolled plume of perchlorate in a drinking water supply, the report said.
Investigations, which began in 2001, were stalled by legal challenges by former users of the site. Now the US Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in, and in September placed the site on the Superfund priority list for cleanup.
EPA and state officials said during a November 25 meeting that the investigation now is again under way, and that some contaminated wells have been closed.
Multi-Pure’s MP750 Plus RO has been certified by NSF International, under Standard 58, to reduce Perchlorate.
|Posted by Pat Connor on July 23, 2011 at 12:20 PM||comments (0)|
Toxic chromium 6 levels in Honolulu’s tap linked to urban sprawl, industrial runoff.
Jan 08, 2011 - 03:29 PM
By Beth-Ann Kozlovich
A closer look at a sample of Honolulu's tap water reveals high levels of chromium 6, the carcinogenic known as the “Erin Brockovich chemical” linked to stomach cancer.
The original sample of the water worries said to have come from Wilhemina Rise
HONOLULU—It’s a big question for some, a non issue for others: Do you drink the water? At two-parts-per-billion, Honolulu’s water has the second highest level of a cancer causing chemical in samples tested from 35 cities and towns across America.
The findings of the report released last month by the Environmental Working Group caused concern nationwide. Within days of the report’s release, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson, pledged action to determine the extent of contamination by hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, in the nation’s drinking water.
The EPA is expected to release guidelines for testing within the coming weeks and a full assessment within the year. It is likely the EPA will set a legal standard for chromium 6. Currently there is only a limit for total chromium.
Dr. Olga Naidenko, the Environmental Working Group’s senior scientist, says it’s no accident that they chose certain areas to test.
“We did have some hints where to look coming from our 2009 tap water atlas,” Naidenko says. “The cities that we chose were a mix of larger cities and also smaller cities which have had a problem with higher total chromium.”
Although Naidenko declined to pinpoint the exact locations where samples were taken, including the one—and only one—from Honolulu, Stuart Yamada, Environmental Management Division Chief for the State Department of Health (DOH) and formerly the head of the Safe Drinking Water Branch, only corroborates a rumor.
“We’ve heard second and third hand that the sample came from the Wilhelmina Rise neighborhood,” Yamada says.
According to the Honolulu Board of Water Supply’s Erwin Kawata, the agency “took it [the Environmental Working Group’s report] as concerning and we knew we needed to find out for ourselves.” Kawata is the the program administrator overseeing water quality for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) and says testing around Oahu began last week. “We have taken samples at major pumping stations in metro Honolulu, on the Windward side, and Leeward side and we took samples from central Oahu and the North Shore.”
Life of the Land executive director Henry Curtis approves of the latest action. “We personally have great faith in them [BWS],” Curtis says. “They’re a good agency and competent at what they’re doing, but there also has been the awareness that chromium is out there.”
“Highly toxic, pollutants such as arsenic and chromium, their levels may be elevated because of urban sprawl.”
Naidenko says the focus on combating water source pollution in general is important and the public health concern over the elevated chromium 6 is reason to pay attention now. The Environmental Working Group sees a link between the level of chromium 6 and the incidence of stomach cancer, a conclusion drawn from Chinese and American toxicology studies.
“Chromium has been known to be an inhalation carcinogen, so a danger for people in occupational settings, for a long time,” Naidenko says. “And from animal studies and the human study out of China, we now know that swallowing chromium 6 in water increases the amount of stomach tumors and possibly tumors in other gastrointestinal sites.”
Curtis is more circumspect. “There are so many things that affect cancer in the environment,” he says, “and to isolate one thing, chromium 6, and say that causes an elevation or not—that’s way too difficult.”
Yamada agrees that directly linking the two is difficult, but also says recent findings of a decrease in stomach cancer incidence in Hawaii is an intriguing anecdotal fact. At last week’s meeting of the Hawaii Senate committees on Health and on Energy and Environment, the DOH presented data from its tumor registry showing the rate of stomach cancer in Hawaii has been declining.
So where is Honolulu’s chromium 6 coming from? The Environmental Working Group points to steel, pulp mill, and other industrial runoff. But Naidenko says those are not the only sources.
“In addition to those polluting industries, [there is] leeching of chromium from the natural mineral deposits,” Naidenko says. “The one point of interest to mention is that very often leeching would be increased because of increasing development, erosion, and runoff into water supplies. And sometimes those naturally occurring, but nevertheless highly toxic, pollutants such as arsenic and chromium, their levels may be elevated because of urban sprawl.”
There are, however, two pieces of relatively good news.
Naidenko says it may take decades of exposure for potential cancer to result, so people have time to make their own choices. Secondly, most healthy people have the ability to convert some of the toxic chromium 6 into necessary chromium 3. But that process may be inhibited by a lack of stomach acid, making those with medical conditions that suppress stomach acid production potentially at risk.
“There have been a number of discoveries on military bases, on former pesticide mixing areas, and former agricultural lands that have had very high hits of chromium.”
For immediate protection, Naidenko suggests using a reverse osmosis (RO) water filtration system. It’s the only type known to take out all minerals.
Although, Yamada cautions that no one has tested RO units to the point that it would be a sure protection against levels found in Honolulu’s tap water. “You could be putting down a lot of money for a false sense of security,” Yamada says.
Bottled water is also not a panacea either. Naidenko says, on average, 25 percent of bottled water is tap water. If consumers want to check with local bottlers, they should specifically ask about testing of chromium 6. Still, with an absence of a legal standard for chromium 6, there could be potential confusion over total chromium versus chromium 6 numbers.
Curtis would like Hawaii to get past the confusion and come clean.
“We’ve had a problem with chromium in soil in Hawaii,” Curtis says. “There have been a number of discoveries on military bases, on former pesticide mixing areas, and former agricultural lands that have had very high hits of chromium. But it has always been assumed first by the DOH that any chromium found is automatically chromium 3 unless somebody else proves its chromium 6 and, second, that there has been the assumption that we shouldn’t push this, that everything is okay and that people don’t understand risk.”
Understanding risk depends on getting to an agreed upon standard, according to Yamada.
“Like most states, we depend heavily on the federal government to establish the maximum contaminant levels,” Yamada says. “We’ve seen a lot of anecdotal evidence that implies that there is a very questionable or weak base by which people are making some assumptions. We feel very strongly that the process needs to be carried through. The scientists and the experts really need to review the health effects and bring in their opinions. That’s ongoing at the federal level with the EPA and in the State of California.”
Late last year, California lowered its proposed level from 0.06 to 0.02 ppb.
While Curtis is pushing for more testing and mapping of Oahu soil and water samples, he, Yamada, and Kawata agree that everyone must pay greater attention to becoming a better steward of our collective environment. The Environmental Working Group report and the EPA’s attention to chromium 6 is a wakeup call we all need to heed, they say. But while the EPA creates guildelines and considers regulations, all three of them will still be drinking Honolulu’s water.
|Posted by Pat Connor on July 21, 2011 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
Tigers Love Water
Originally Published by Animal Planet
While most cats despise water, tigers love taking baths to help keep themselves cool during the hottest parts of the day. They’ll submerge themselves in nearby lakes and streams, soaking for up to an hour, but neck deep only. Tigers don’t like getting water in their eyes, to the point that they’ll actually enter the water backwards to prevent this from happening.
Once they return to dry land, the combination of the wetness and the wind has a pleasant cooling effect on the tiger’s body and if it starts to wear off, no problem – they just repeat the process. And thanks to their webbed feet, tigers are also powerful swimmers, and have been known to cover up to 20 miles in a single outing!
|Posted by Pat Connor on July 18, 2011 at 12:39 AM||comments (0)|
New study detects radioactive water in more wells
By EVE BYRON Independent Record | Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 12:00 am
Radioactive elements have been detected in all of the 128 residential wells that were tested in a recent seven-county study in south-central Montana, with 49 wells — 29 percent of those sampled — exceeding drinking water standards.
All the wells tested in Lewis and Clark, Silver Bow, Powell, Madison, Deer Lodge and Broadwater counties were sampled for uranium, with 18 showing results above the maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for municipal drinking water of 30 micrograms per liter (ug/L). The highest concentration was 1,130 ug/l.
Of 127 wells sampled for radon, 34 were above the 50 ug/L MCL, with the highest concentration at 45,000. Other radioactive constituents, including alpha and beta radioactivity, were found at various levels.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a lifetime exposure to elevated levels of radioactive elements in drinking water can increase the risk of cancer and cause kidney damage. Both radon and uranium in water are generally colorless, odorless and tasteless.
“If you drink water with 30 parts per billion of uranium (the MCL) at two liters per day for 70 years, you may have a one in 10,000 chance of developing cancer from that source,” Rod Caldwell, a USGS scientist, said on Tuesday. “But the question is if you’re drinking water with everything in it that’s below the drinking water standards, but they have all of those (radioactive constituents) in it, what does that mean?”
The wells were tested by the U.S. Geological Survey after rumors circulated in 2007 of elevated levels of uranium in a north Jefferson County residential well. When that well’s water showed uranium at 2,000 parts per billion, the USGS and the county decided that the testing should be expanded.
“(The original well users) were drinking 60 times the drinking water standard and didn’t find out for 20 years. They had some health issues,” Caldwell said. “My gut reaction was to wonder how widespread this is and whether there are other wells with this kind of concentration.”
Additional sampling of 40 more wells in Jefferson County that year found that five wells, or 12 percent, had uranium concentrations exceeding U.S. drinking water standards. Sixteen wells showed radon concentrations exceeding drinking water standards.
“Our 2007 study led to more questions, like whether concentrations vary over time; can we determine where we are more likely to find elevated concentrations; and if you have this, what can be done about it?” Caldwell said.
That led them to expand the sampling in 2009 and 2010 in the seven counties. The preliminary results of the study were presented to the Jefferson County Commission Tuesday.
“We want to make sure the public is aware of the numbers,” Caldwell said, adding that a final report, including interpretation of the results, will be available in about a year. Individual homeowners were made aware of their well-water sampling results.
The radioactive elements, also known as radionuclides, are unstable trace elements that naturally occur in rocks, soil and groundwater. In particular, the Boulder Batholith granitic formation is well-known for its uranium, with some mining of the element there in the 1950s.
Caldwell said that as uranium breaks down over billions of years, it emits radioactive constituents including alpha and beta particles, radon, and radium 226 and 228, all of which decay at various rates to a stable form of lead. The constituents are measured in picocuries, with the standards being presented as a picocurie per liter format.
According to the study, 38 out of 58 wells tested in the Boulder Batholith had elevated levels of the radioactive constituents that were greater than drinking water standards. In addition, 11 out of 70 tested in other rock formations also were elevated.
Caldwell said there didn’t seem to be any particular clusters of contaminated water. He added that it could be more widespread, since testing the radio-nuclides is a fairly new procedure.
Megan Bullock with the Jefferson County Environmental Health division said that sampling is available through the state and costs about $225.
She added that the good news is that simple reverse osmosis water filters, which were tested as part of the study, seem to remove the radioactive constituents.
“You can pretty much go to any home improvement store, buy a reverse osmosis system and put it on,” Bullock said. “It was remarkable how well the units performed.
Costs for those systems range in price from $147 to $3,000, and while she didn’t want to endorse any particular brand, she noted that the mid-range models seemed to work best.
Multi-Pure has dropped the price on Our 750PlusRO Unit as of May 1, 2011. Discount Code 424858 will also lower price even more.
|Posted by Pat Connor on July 18, 2011 at 12:17 AM||comments (0)|
Bill in Congress jeopardizes Savannah River
By Tonya Bonitatibus
Guest Columnist, Augusta Chronicle
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Our waterways are the lifeblood of our communities. They provide us with our drinking water, dilute our waste, move our cargo and nourish our souls.
It was almost 40 years ago now that we as a nation decided regulating the discharges into our crucial waterways made sense. The Clean Water Act of 1972 has greatly improved our rivers and streams. Take our beloved Savannah River. She may still have her problems, but she is drastically cleaner than she was just 30 short years ago.
And if some in Congress have their way, we could soon begin heading in the opposite direction.
AN AGGRESSIVE movement is under way to dismantle this federal law that has served to protect our rivers and ourselves from pollution. The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act -- House Resolution 2018, scheduled to be presented to the congressional floor this week -- proposes to gut the Clean Water Act and jeopardize the gains that we have made over four decades.
Proponents of H.R. 2018 will tell you the federal government shouldn't have oversight of the states and their water programs, which vary greatly in standards and enforcement. Individual states would be free to use and abuse our rivers based on their perception of what is right. They could choose to ignore the needs of those downstream and in neighboring states despite the consequences.
No consideration is even given to the conflicts that would arise when rivers are shared between two states. This movement would wreak havoc on our river, not to mention the issues in Atlanta, leaving no one in charge of actually regulating what is being put into our dear Savannah.
So, exactly what does this "rule" do? It will:
- prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from stepping in if a state fails to adequately protect our waterways from pollution;
- discourage informed decision-making on federal permits that impact water quality and public health;
- prevent the EPA from updating outdated and ineffective water quality standards;
- undermine the EPA's ability to protect states from cross-border pollution.
Proponents are claiming this rule would help "save taxpayer money." They claim this will streamline processes and make permitting move through faster. Again, I ask one simple question: What about rivers shared by two or more states? Those rivers will be quickly tied up in legal battles, which are costly to say the least.
THE SNAKE-OIL salesmen behind this bill are trying hard to protect their fiscal interests in coal mining projects -- in fact, they don't even try to hide it. It is clearly stated in their "determination of need" for the bill. Their shortsighted desires to protect their monetary interests will effectively hog-tie all of the progress happening on our river, and lead us down a path of state vs. state legal battles for years to come.
Can you imagine the race to the bottom that would ensue as states agreed to lower their water quality standards to attract new industries? This bill is cronyism at its worst, and we the citizens are the ones who are going to lose. This bill must be stopped!
The strength of the Clean Water Act lies in its balance of shared authority between the federal government and the states, which too often face pressure by special interests to weaken water quality standards in the name of short-term financial gain -- and with long-term damage to our waterways.
By every objective measure, the Clean Water Act works. Let's not deny Americans, and especially our fellow Georgians and South Carolinians, the basic right to clean water.
Please contact your congressional representatives and urge them to oppose H.R. 2018. See www.congress.org.
(The writer is executive director of Savannah Riverkeeper.)
|Posted by Pat Connor on July 12, 2011 at 3:22 PM||comments (0)|
Milford water still plagued by high level of chlorine by-product
By Brian Benson/Daily News staff Milford Daily News
Posted Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:52 AM
For the third straight quarter, Milford water samples have exceeded standards for chemical compounds called trihalomethanes, a chlorination byproduct said to be dangerous only if exposure lasts for several years, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The violation, as well as a recent problem with discolored water in some parts of town, prompted selectmen last night to ask Town Administrator Louis Celozzi to set up a meeting to discuss ongoing issues. One selectmen even raised the issue of the town taking over the utility.
Selectmen will meet with representatives from Milford Water Co., the state Department of Environmental Protection and the town's Board of Health. A date has not been set.
"The Board of Selectmen should take another hard look at some of the things that are happening at the Milford Water Co.," Selectman William Buckley said.
Buckley read a section of the company's 2010 water quality report that said it did not take adequate chlorine residual samples from July to September 2010 and coliform samples in August 2010 and cannot be sure of the water quality during that time.
"I find that unacceptable," Buckley said of the recent issues and the report.
If a meeting does not prove fruitful, Buckley suggested talking with Town Counsel Gerald Moody about having the town take control of the private water company.
Selectman Dino DeBartolomeis said the board should hold the meeting before considering further action.
"I think we all agree we have to monitor it," he said.
Milford Water Co. reported 82 parts per billion of trihalomethanes, above the 80 parts per billion standard, said Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, earlier yesterday.
The water company's yearlong average levels of trihalomethanes were also above the standard, forcing the agency to issue a public notice to customers by Aug. 6, Coletta said.
"Obviously it's a concern for us that the water company has to address," Coletta said. "Drinking water with (trihalomethanes) in it over many years could lead to health issues. This is only three-fourths of a year at this point. Obviously we're working with them ... to start addressing some short-term solutions."
Trihalomethanes are formed as a byproduct when chlorine, which is used to control bacteria in drinking water, reacts with naturally occurring organic matter, Coletta said.
In the past, the problem has been attributed to more than usual amounts of water being drawn from the Charles River in 2010 because the Echo Lake reservoir was low, and a rainy 2009 in which water sitting in the pipes allowed the chlorine to interact with organic matter in the water, creating the trihalomethanes.
Exposure to a higher-than-acceptable amount of trihalomethanes over many years can cause liver, kidney or central nervous system problems and increased risk of cancer, according to a Milford Water Co. warning letter issued after a previous violation.
"The key message is that short-term exposures to elevated levels of (trihalomethanes) are no worry," Milford Health Officer Paul Mazzuchelli said earlier yesterday. "You can drink the water, still brush your teeth. ... I know the Milford Water Co. and DEP are working proactively to resolve this."
People who are pregnant, elderly or have infants may want to seek advice from their doctors. Residents can purchase filters that pull out trihalomethanes, Coletta said.
Mazzuchelli and Coletta said the ultimate solution will be to upgrade the company's water-treatment plant. Coletta said those improvements must be in progress by 2013 to meet a state consent order put in place after an August 2009 incident where residents had to boil water for almost two weeks.
Meanwhile, Mazzuchelli said he did not receive any calls from residents complaining about discolored water yesterday. That discoloration, which is not related to the trihalomethanes problem, was caused by iron and manganese in the water and was not a health threat.
In an email to town officials on Saturday, Marielle Stone, section chief of DEP's drinking water program, said the discoloration was caused by increased demand and changes made in the distribution system to bypass a section of pipe that broke in February.
Stone, responding to questions from Buckley, confirmed that the discoloration was not a health concern.
"What I was looking for was independent confirmation," Buckley said. "It was outside of my skill set. People were asking 'Is the water safe?' and I couldn't answer them."
While the privately owned company has 30 days to issue the notice about the trihalomethanes issue, Buckley said selectmen and the company agreed such notices would be issued within one week.
Milford Water Co. Operations Supervisor Bernie Marshall did not return a call seeking comment.
Brian Benson can be reached at 508-634-7582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2011 The Milford Daily News. Some rights reserved
|Posted by Pat Connor on July 4, 2011 at 12:18 AM||comments (0)|
Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune
The Colorado River waters rice fields like this one near Bay City and is fed by lakes upriver near Austin.
By KATE GALBRAITH
Published: June 18, 2011
On the cliffs surrounding Lake Buchanan in Central Texas, a white ring extends some 13 feet above the shoreline, marking where the water reaches when the lake is full. At nearby Lake Travis, staircases that once led to the water’s edge now end well above it.
Expanded coverage of Texas is produced by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit news organization. To join the conversation about this article, go to texastribune.org.
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Todd Wiseman for The Texas Tribune
Lakes upriver near Austin are dropping in the drought.
These two lakes serve as key water sources for dozens of cities and hundreds of farmers, as well as for several power plants. With Texas gripped by drought, water levels have fallen sharply. Combined, the two lakes now hold 28 percent less water than their long-term average.
“This is scary,” said Janet Caylor, who owns two marinas on Lake Travis, the larger of the two lakes, and has had to move her docks as lake levels drop.
The current drought, drier than any other October-through-May stretch in Texas history, has heightened the stakes in an already contentious long-term planning battle over water from these lakes, which feed the lower Colorado River as it runs southeast to the Gulf of Mexico. It has pitted fast-growing cities like Austin, which depend on the water for drinking and recreation, against rice farmers near the Gulf, who need vast amounts of water for irrigation.
Lakeside residents and business owners like Ms. Caylor, frustrated by dropping water levels, want to keep the lakes as full as possible.
Last week, the Lower Colorado River Authority, a powerful state organization that controls the water in the two lakes and much of the river, postponed a decision on whether to grant a contract to another major user. A coal plant planned near Bay City, downriver near the rice farmers, had sought to pay the L.C.R.A. $55 million up front, plus additional fees, to build a reservoir and ensure a 40-year supply of water to cool the plant.
L.C.R.A. officials say there is sufficient supply for the coal plant, called the White Stallion Energy Center. The facility’s representatives say their water needs will not harm Lake Travis or Lake Buchanan. But lakeside residents are unconvinced, and the prospect of a water-hungry coal plant has angered environmentalists as well as farmers and others in the Colorado River basin.
The L.C.R.A. board also chose a new general manager last week, though how much this will affect the water planning process is unknown. The agency gets most of its revenue from electricity generation (including hydroelectric dams on its lakes) and transmission. But managing water, the main reason the organization was created in the 1930s, causes some of its biggest headaches.
More than 70 years ago, engineers dammed the Colorado River and created Lakes Buchanan and Travis largely to provide water for the growing region. In the decades since, lake levels have fluctuated, with a prolonged trough during the 1950s, which still counts as the worst drought in Texas history.
Meanwhile, the population of Austin and other Central Texas cities has exploded. Austin’s water use nearly tripled between 1970 and 2010.
But the soaring urban consumption still does not match that of farmers, mainly rice growers near the coast, who collectively use more than twice the amount of L.C.R.A. water that Austin does. Rice farmers used the Colorado River water long before the L.C.R.A.’s creation, and thanks partly to this history, they get the water far cheaper: the L.C.R.A.’s city customers pay over 20 times more for their water than do rice farmers, although rice farmers pay hefty additional fees to cover the cost of delivering water to their fields, often via canals.
In exchange for cheaper water, rice farmers agree to allow their supply to be cut off or reduced in times of drought. In the past, however, they have never had their supplies reduced, to the frustration of lake residents and other water users.
This will most likely change. If the current drought does not abate soon — and the L.C.R.A.’s meteorologist is not forecasting substantial rainfall at least until the fall — rice farmers could lose one of their two annual crops next year, said Suzanne Zarling, the L.C.R.A.’s executive manager of water services.
They are expected to lose even more crops in the future under a 10-year water management plan that is in the works and will ultimately need approval by the L.C.R.A. and state environmental regulators.
Farmers are bracing for it.
“I’m not going to say it’s going to devastate us,” said Paul Sliva, a rice farmer in Matagorda County. “But it’s going to put a hurt on us.”
The long-term plan will require sacrifices all around. Austin, for example, would prefer to keep more water in the lakes than the evolving consensus allows, said Greg Meszaros, director of the Austin Water Utility, because if the lakes get too low, cities will be asked to cut their water use, harming local landscapes.
Austin already restricts sprinkler use to twice a week, but the L.C.R.A. could ask Austin and other cities to enact further conservation measures as soon as this fall, if dry conditions reduce the lakes’ combined volume to 900,000 acre-feet, said Ms. Zarling of the L.C.R.A. The lakes, which dipped below that trigger in 2009, are currently at 1.2 million acre-feet.
Another consideration emphasized by environmentalists is keeping enough water flowing down the Colorado to nourish river organisms and ensure sufficient flows into Matagorda Bay, where the river empties into the Gulf. The bay’s oysters are already suffering from higher salinity as the river flows decrease during the drought.
“If we don’t get a break in the drought between now and November, I’m predicting dire consequences for the oysters,” said Sammy Ray, a professor emeritus in the department of marine biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston.
Meanwhile, rice farmers — who are trying to cut their water use through conservation — and environmentalists both argue that waterlogged rice fields provide crucial wintertime habitat for waterfowl.
The L.C.R.A. is hunting for more water supplies. It recently got approval from state environmental regulators to store more water downriver from Lakes Travis and Buchanan and off the main Colorado flow, a key first step in potentially building new reservoirs. Groundwater, some of which is so brackish that it might require desalination, is also being considered by the L.C.R.A.
To many participants in the water planning process, the bottom line is clear: Water habits must adjust to new constraints.
“I think we have taken water for granted,” said Myron Hess, the Texas water programs manager for the National Wildlife Federation. “And I do think attitudes about water have to change.”
Erika Aguilar and Matt Largey of KUT 90.5 FM, Austin’s NPR affiliate, contributed reporting. This is the first of a five-part series on Lower Colorado River Authority water that will run this week in The Texas Tribune and on KUT.
|Posted by Pat Connor on June 19, 2011 at 3:48 PM||comments (0)|
Posted by Nils Bruzelius in Featured Articles, Regulators on July 28, 2010 | no responses
Every few days, a piece of journalism comes along that reminds us of what is possible when a newspaper or other news organization is willing and able to devote a significant amount of time, money and effort to an important public policy issue.
That’s been the case in recent days with The Washington Post’s two-year effort on the growth of Top Secret America, with The New York Times’ investigation of BP’s history of cutting corners, and now with The News Journal’s year-long investigation of chemical contamination, some of it dating back decades, that is insidiously threatening the aquifer that provides drinking water to much of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
The multi-part, two-day series that began Sunday (July 25), accompanied by an array of interactive elements and graphics on-line, reveals dramatically that polluters and government agencies made a serious mistake when they assumed that layers of impermeable clay below ground would prevent spilled and dumped toxins from leaching into these deep aquifers far below.
As the series’ opening piece puts it:
Northern Delaware is home to some of the worst chemical dumping grounds in America, a legacy of broken promises and corporate misdeeds. Regulators working for Delaware and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have long claimed that the deep clay layers above the aquifer protected it from the foul waters discharged by chemical and petroleum manufacturers.
Those assurances have proved false.
The protective layer over the aquifer, scientists now say, is full of holes.
It’s worrisome that in our rapidly shifting media landscape fewer and fewer news outlets have the ability and will to set a reporter to work for a year on a project of this scope, but encouraging that the 116,000-circulation News Journal could and did pull it off.
EWG offers its kudos to reporter Jeff Montgomery and to The News Journal’s editors and publisher.
|Posted by Pat Connor on June 5, 2011 at 5:41 PM||comments (0)|
A golf course at Newport Country Club in Newport, Ark., is covered by floodwater Thursday, May 5.
Floodwaters create new water hazard at Newport Country Club:
Rich Shulman writes
Who says Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor?
|Posted by Pat Connor on June 5, 2011 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
LOMA LINDA, CA — Drinking high levels of water can significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, say researchers at Loma Linda University.
Officials at the college said the results of a study to be published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reveal that drinking high amounts of plain water is as important as exercise, diet, or not smoking in preventing coronary heart disease.
"Basically, not drinking enough water can be as harmful to your heart as smoking," said Dr. Jacqueline Chan, principle investigator and lead author of the article.
The study found that California Seventh-day Adventists who drink five or more glasses of plain water a day have a much lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease compared to those who drink less than two glasses per day.
The study, "Water, Other Fluids, and Fatal Coronary Heart Disease," indicates that things like whole blood viscosity and plasma viscosity, which are considered independent risk factors for coronary heart disease, can be elevated by dehydration.
The water study is part of the original Adventist Health Study, which began in 1973. Both researchers are also coinvestigators for the new Adventist Health Study.
While not as glamorous, the degree of benefit from drinking plain water reportedly surpasses drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, taking aspirin, and other preventive measures, with none of the adverse side effects.
Reprinted from Water Technology. May 2002.