Fracking is draining water from US areas suffering major shortages – report

February 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Weld County, Colorado (Reiuters / Rick Wilking)

Some of the most drought-ravaged areas of the US are also heavily targeted for oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing – a practice that exacerbates water shortages – according to a new report.

Three-quarters of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled in the US since 2011 were located in areas of the country facing water scarcity, according to research by the Ceres investor network. Over half of those new wells were in areas experiencing drought conditions.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in those wells required the use of 97 billion gallons of water, Ceres found.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Lubber warned that the fracking boom across the US puts the industry on a “collision course” with other water users.

Fracking is the highly controversial process of injecting water, sand, and various chemicals into layers of rock, in hopes of releasing oil and gas deep underground. Fracking in a single well can take millions of gallons of freshwater. Much of the drilling has occurred in areas mired in multi-year droughts.

Half of the 97 billion gallons of water used since 2011 for fracking have gone to wells in Texas, a state in the midst of a severe, years-long drought. Meanwhile, oil and gas production through fracking is on track to double in the state over the next five years, the Guardian reported.

The report also found that rural communities in the Lone Star State are being hit hard by the fracking bonanza occurring especially in the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas.

“Shale producers are having significant impacts at the county level, especially in smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure capacity,” the report said. “With water use requirements for shale producers in the Eagle Ford already high and expected to double in the coming 10 years, these rural counties can expect severe water stress challenges in the years ahead.”

Levels of vital aquifers that serve local communities near Eagle Ford have dropped by up to 300 feet in the last few years.

Many small communities in areas of heavy fracking in Texas are in dire need of water, as supplies have run out in some places or will dry up soon in others. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says 29 communities across the state could run out of water in 90 days, and that many reservoirs in west Texas are at around 25 percent capacity.

In December, the San Antonio Express-News found that fracking was using more water than previously thought. The newspaper reported that in 2012, the industry used around 43,770 acre-feet of water in 3,522 Eagle Ford fracking wells – about the same usage of 153,000 San Antonio households.

“The oil and gas boom is requiring more water than we have,” Hugh Fitzsimons, a Dimmit County rancher and a director of the Wintergarden Groundwater Conservation District, told the Express-News. “Period.”

A separate study published this week found that the industry does a very poor job recycling fracking water in Texas. Researchers at
the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology found that 92 percent of water used in 2011 to frack Barnett Shale in north central Texas was “consumed,” and not recycled. Only about five percent of all water used for fracking in that area has been reused or recycled in the “past few years.”

Other states do not fare well in the Ceres report, either. In Colorado, 97 percent of wells were in areas strapped for water, as demand for fracking water in the state is expected to double to six billion gallons – twice the annual use of the city of Boulder – by 2015.

In California, 96 percent of new wells were located in areas where competition for water is high. A drought emergency for the entire state – which has traditionally dealt with water-sharing and access problems – was declared last month.

The report found similar high percentages of wells built in other states – such as New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – where water shortages exist.

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Prof. James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, according to the Guardian. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimize any damage.”

Calif. plastic ocean debris bill dies in committee

May 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats, Water Quality

A California bill that would have required manufacturers to figure out how to keep the most common plastic junk out of state waterways died in the state Assembly without a vote Friday.

Assembly Bill 521 was before the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, and the panel failed to act on it, effectively killing the legislation for the session. It had previously passed the Assembly Natural Resource Committee.

State Assemblyman Mark Stone, a D-Monterey Bay, one of the proposal’s sponsors, was disappointed by the outcome.

“Plastic pollution will continue to harm our oceans and coastline, so Assembly member Stone is committed to working on this problem,” said Arianna Smith, Stone’s legislative and communications director.

Once in the ocean, plastic takes ages to decompose. The manmade junk either collects into floating trash islands called “garbage patches,” or it breaks into smaller pieces that harm and kill sea creatures throughout the food chain.

It’s a complex problem with no easy fix, but some European countries have already implemented “extended producer responsibility” laws with some success.

AB521 would have required manufacturers to figure out how to reduce 95 percent of plastic pollution along the state’s coastline by 2024. It carried financial penalties for companies that did not comply: up to $10,000 per day for the worst violations.

Assemblyman Eric Linder, R-Corona, said during Friday’s Appropriations Committee meeting that he opposed the measure in part because it singled out one industry as the source of ocean pollution.

“I agree that cleaning up our oceans should be something that’s very, very important to us, but this bill places the burden of compliance directly on the producers instead of the violators, the people who are littering,” Linder said.

The regulation was just the latest California legislative attempt to address some of the world’s toughest environmental problems, often at the expense of private business, critics say.

The state’s large economy and population has already influenced automakers to produce cleaner burning cars, forced warning labels for toxic chemicals on a range of consumer products and put a price on heat-trapping carbon emissions from industrial sources.

“With nearly 40 million people in the state, what happens here matters whether it is cap-and-trade and renewable energy portfolio standards, solid waste reduction, water conservation,” said Mark Gold, associate director of the University of California, Los Angeles Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

“What happens in California matters both nationally and globally,” he added.

Gold said legislation won’t solve the plastic pollution problem, but could have a wide-ranging effect. The failed proposal could have been the first significant legislation in the U.S. to try to reduce the amount of plastic junk in the ocean that makes up trash formations such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, known as the world’s largest landfill.

The plastic industry, California Chamber of Commerce and other business interests opposed the bill, saying they already fund recycling and other programs to reduce marine plastic pollution. Plus, they say, the bill asks manufacturers to develop new products or other ways to reduce trash, but it doesn’t say how.

Extended producer responsibility laws have already taken root in more than two dozen European countries.

In France, nearly 90 percent of consumer products are part of the “Green Dot” program, requiring manufacturers to pay into a program that recovers and recycles packaging materials. It has successfully influenced manufacturers there to cut down on packaging or use alternative materials.

Stone’s office said the assemblyman is unsure if he will reintroduce the bill next year. He is “weighing his options for how to continue to work to address this problem in the future,” Smith said.

Laura Olson contributed to this story from Sacramento.

Could fracking ruin Germany’s beer?

May 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Water Quality

The country’s brewers want Berlin to hefe-weizen up and reconsider a proposed fracking law

Water, malt, hops. For centuries, German law prohibited any other substances from going into the nation’s beers (this was before they knew about yeast).

Yet now, the country’s brewers fret that their brews could wind up containing a host of unknown chemicals should the government move ahead with a proposed fracking law.

The Brauer-Bund beer association has asked the government to forestall proposed fracking legislation until it can ensure the practice won’t contaminate groundwater used for brewing. The group is concerned that hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting water and a slurry of undisclosed chemicals into the ground to obtain natural gas from shale deposits, could pollute the private wells used by many of the nation’s brewers.

“You cannot be sure that the water won’t be polluted by chemicals so we have urged the government to carry out more research before it goes ahead with a fracking law,” a spokesperson for the group told the Telegraph.

With fracking becoming a more popular method of energy extraction worldwide, German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s government has been working on legislation to expand the practice. The country currently allows test drilling in some places, just not near reservoirs of drinking water and other sensitive areas.

However, the brewers worry that the legislation won’t go far enough in protecting their water, which, if sullied, could inadvertently result in the violation of a centuries-old beer purity law, called the Reinheitsgebot.

That law, passed way back in the 15th century, is technically no longer on the books; a European court struck it down in the 1980s. Yet many brewers still consider it a source of pride to adhere to those ancient guidelines, hence the association’s fear that fracking would endanger their “absolutely pure beer.”

Germany, home to some 1,250 breweries and 5,000 different brands of beer, isn’t alone. American breweries have also expressed concern that fracking could taint their ales and lagers.

That’s because, purity laws aside, brewers are water fanatics. Homebrewers will go to incredible lengths to reproduce the mineral content of water supplies from certain brewing regions in attempts to clone world-famous beers. Should mysterious chemicals seep into the mix, it could completely throw off the chemical processes involved in brewing, and thus dramatically alter a beer’s taste and appearance.

And if you thought it was just beer snobs who are up in arms about this, think again. Brauer-Bund represents AB InBev, makers of Budweiser and other drinks of dubious quality. If Budweiser is concerned about how fracking might make its beer taste, imagine how craft brewers must feel?

Fracking could pollute coastal water sources

May 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Toxic Spills, Water Quality

Sophomore Jasmine Ruddy is from Morehead City, one of many coastal communities that could be directly affected by a bill to fast-track hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in North Carolina.

“That makes me really nervous for the health of my family who is still living there and drinks the tap water every day,” said Ruddy, an environmental health sciences major and a member of UNC’s environmental affairs committee of student government.

Fracking retrieves natural gas by pumping a mixture of water and chemicals into shale rock formations.

Proponents of the process say it taps into an otherwise inaccessible energy source that could reduce oil dependency.

But critics of the bill claim fracking uses too much water and could pollute drinking sources, especially in coastal areas suitable for waste deposits.

The bill, which passed the N.C. Senate and is currently in a House committee, would lift a ban on depositing industrial waste in deep wells and permit fracking starting in March 2015.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said the state should establish more regulations before fracking begins.

“That’s not to say that I am totally opposed to fracking,” he said. “It’s just to say we should take a go-slow approach.”

McGrady said there are still unanswered questions about how to safely dispose of the chemical waste.

An April 2012 report by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources found that fracking can be done safely with more research and the proper regulations.

Richard Whisnant, UNC School of Government professor and former environmental lawyer, said many legislators and residents do not understand the complications of regulating a new industry.

“We can’t cut and paste regulations from other states,” he said. “The state ought to take whatever measures it can take to put a good regulatory structure in place.”

He said the process should not be rushed.

“I don’t see that the resource itself is going anywhere,” he said.

But Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, a member of the House environment committee, said fracking should not be attempted in the state.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence that we’re going to be able to establish a safe structure for fracking,” she said.

She said if the deep well ban is lifted, the chemical waste from fracking could imperil drinking sources.

“It can be a real problem for public health issues,” she said. “We ended that practice 40 years ago because we knew once you put poison in the aquifers you’re never getting that back.”

Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said fracking would create only short-term positions for N.C. residents.

Most long-term jobs would remain with out-of-state companies, she said.

She said depositing waste on the coast could slow tourism.

“There’s a danger of people thinking they’re coming to a place that’s polluted,” she said.

Contact the desk editor at

New Tools for Tracing Fracking Impacts

May 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Comments Off on New Tools for Tracing Fracking Impacts

Sherlock Holmes used a magnifying glass to trace a fingerprint to its source. Andrew Barron favors miniscule rust particles, millions of gallons of water and a magnet.

Researchers in the Rice University chemistry professor’s laboratory have developed nanoparticles that will flow with the fluid used to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells, slip through rocks and travel wherever the water ends up — in a holding pond at the surface, a tanker on the highway or, in a worst-case scenario, a nearby drinking water well.
The particles, which can bear unique magnetic signatures tailored to each fracking company that uses them, have the potential to clarify the troubled debate over whether and how oil and gas extraction damages water supplies.

“Whether you are Matt Damon or the president of Halliburton, for different reasons you should be interested in this,” Barron said in a lounge off his laboratory on the Houston, Texas campus early this year. “If you’re worried about the environment, then for once you might be able to find out if they’ve really done it and who did it. If you’re Halliburton, maybe this is a way of saying, ‘You’re right, someone contaminated your water. But it wasn’t us. It was that guy.’”

Finding conclusive evidence of contaminated groundwater from oil and gas drilling broadly, and fracking-influenced fluids in particular, is a complicated task. Many of the signals of drilling-related pollution like methane, salts and metals can occur and vary naturally; most regions lack robust studies of baseline water quality that can account for fluctuations over space and time.

Scientists and some industry and environmental organizations are seeking more certain and sensitive ways to pinpoint problems or rule them out. Their efforts include testing manufactured tracers, like Barron’s, that can flag pollution if it occurs, identifying natural indicators that reveal proof of a substance’s origin near the surface or deep underground, and developing practices to better monitor for changes before and after drilling.

Some oil and gas companies are willing to look closer for signs of contamination because a clean record under tight scrutiny will give the public much more confidence that drilling is done safely, said Andrew Place, the interim executive director of the new Center for Sustainable Shale Development and corporate director of energy and environmental policy at EQT Corp.

The standards developed by the center, a partnership between industry, charitable foundations and environmental groups, will require companies seeking certification to monitor surface and groundwater around their well sites regularly to demonstrate that their drilling and fracking operations have not caused an impact, instead of responding only if a homeowner raises a complaint.

“All of us want assurance, and the data to back it up, that these operations can be done without groundwater impacts,” he said. “No one’s served by not knowing the answer to that question.”

Scientists looking for natural tracers find them at the intersection of several key questions: What are hallmark signs of the water that flows back from a gas-bearing rock formation like the Marcellus Shale after it is fractured, or “fracked,” with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals? What is the range of natural variability for elements that occur in a region’s groundwater? And what does it look like when the first type of fluid, called “flowback” or “formation water,” comes in contact with the second?

“It’s hard to tease out the contamination signal from the natural variability,” Syracuse University hydrologist Laura Lautz said. “It’s even harder to do that when you don’t have the baseline water quality data.”

Lautz is part of a team of Syracuse scientists working on Project SWIFT (for “shale-water interaction forensic tools”), an effort to study New York groundwater before Marcellus Shale development begins in the state. They are trying to determine the most potent combination of elements that can distinguish potential contamination from briny shale development waters from pollution caused by shallow saline aquifers, legacy pollution or salted roads. The team has found that studying the quantity and relative concentrations of chloride, bromide and iodide together can be a “very, very powerful” indicator of Marcellus formation water compared to other salt waters, she said.

The problem is that too few people test for them.

Neither bromide nor iodide is included in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s recommended list of basic pre-drill water test parameters and they are not among the constituents analyzed during DEP’s standard test for post-drilling water contamination investigations. They are also rarely included in historical data sets for regional groundwater.

While Project SWIFT is promoting bromide and iodide as useful forensic tools, the researchers are also investigating if combinations of other, more commonly tested parameters like chloride, calcium and strontium can be revealing, Lautz said. “If you include the combination of those variables, can they be as powerful as knowing one really key variable like iodide?” Lautz asked. “I think there is some potential there.”

Other scientists have isolated more esoteric natural fingerprints to add precision to their analysis.

Researchers at Duke University study isotopes in water, dissolved salt and gasses for tell-tale signs of formation water or the provenance of methane bubbling at the surface. They have also found promising signals in ratios of elements to help track the sources of fluid or gas.

The strongest indicators come from using tools in combination, said Avner Vengosh, a professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke.

“The basic chemistry of the water can tell you a lot,” he said, especially distinctive ratios of chloride, sodium, bromide, barium and sulfate. “We are trying to develop more novel tools that give more perspective.”

Unlike regulators, who generally gauge impacts based on whether substances in drinking water rise above advisory limits set for safety or taste, researchers are looking for subtler indicators.

It is “absolutely” possible to have detectable contamination without any chemical parameters in the water rising above safe drinking water limits, Vengosh said.

“Good monitoring systems actually identify it at that point,” then track any changes, he said. “The way to do monitoring is to be able to identify it in the early stages before it becomes dangerous.”

While some researchers are finding that signs in the water reveal its contamination, others hope to tag the contaminant then engineer a way to trace it.

The process developed by Barron and his colleagues requires running water through a membrane system to concentrate enough of the rust particles to identify them. The collected particles are then sorted in a magnetic separator and analyzed to find the distinctive signature that distinguishes one company’s tracer particle from another.

The process will be tested by an oil and gas company working with the researchers to determine how long after the particles are first injected underground they can still be detected in the water that returns to the surface.

The “limiting factor is time,” he said of both his and other proposed benign tracer technologies. “The longer you are away from the time of injection, the longer it’s going to take you to sample enough water to get the small amount of material that would tell you whether it’s there or not.”

It is not a simple process, he said, but it holds the promise of providing more certain answers among murky clues. It also offers a new way to diagnose problems and fix them.

“The important thing shouldn’t be the blame game,” he said. “It should be finding out the source and making sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Original Article here:

19-Year-Old Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans Read more: 19-Year-Old Student Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans

May 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats, Water Quality

Comments Off on 19-Year-Old Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans Read more: 19-Year-Old Student Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans

19-year-old Boyan Slat has unveiled plans to create an Ocean Cleanup Array that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The device consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Instead of moving through the ocean, the array would span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from plankton, filtered and stored for recycling.

At school, Boyan Slat launched a project that analyzed the size and amount of plastic particles in the ocean’s garbage patches. His final paper went on to win several prizes, including Best Technical Design 2012 at the Delft University of Technology. Boyan continued to develop his concept during the summer of 2012, and he revealed it several months later at TEDxDelft 2012.

Slat went on to found The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-profit organization which is responsible for the development of his proposed technologies. His ingenious solution could potentially save hundreds of thousands of aquatic animals annually, and reduce pollutants (including PCB and DDT) from building up in the food chain. It could also save millions per year, both in clean-up costs, lost tourism and damage to marine vessels.

It is estimated that the clean-up process would take about five years, and it could greatly increase awareness about the world’s plastic garbage patches. On his site Slat says, “One of the problems with preventive work is that there isn’t any imagery of these ‘garbage patches’, because the debris is dispersed over millions of square kilometres. By placing our arrays however, it will accumulate along the booms, making it suddenly possible to actually visualize the oceanic garbage patches. We need to stress the importance of recycling, and reducing our consumption of plastic packaging.” To find out more about the project and to contribute, click here.

Read more: 19-Year-Old Student Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

For ocean critters, plastic packs double whammy

January 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Products made from the particular plastic used to make water bottles (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) might have fewer detrimental chemical impacts than products made from other types of plastic, according to the study, published online in Environmental Science Technology.

The research, conducted for 12 months at five locations in San Diego Bay, was the first controlled, long-term field experiment measuring the absorption of contaminants by the five most common plastics:

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET): Recycling symbol #1, like water bottles.
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE): Recycling symbol #2, like detergent bottles.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): Recycling symbol #3, like clear food packaging.
  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE): Recycling symbol #4, like plastic shopping bags.
  • Polypropylene (PP): Recycling symbol #5, like yogurt containers, bottle caps.

The researchers deployed pellets of each plastic type in mesh bags tied to a dock at each study site. They retrieved them periodically to measure the plastics’ absorption of persistent organic pollutants.

“Consistently in our study, we found polyethylene [HDPE and LDPE] and polypropylene [PP] absorbed much greater concentrations of contaminants than PET or PVC, and those are the most commonly mass produced and consumed plastics,” says Chelsea Rochman, a doctoral student in ecology at University of California, Davis and San Diego State University. ”They are also the most commonly recovered as marine debris.”

In 2007, HDPE, LDPE, and PP accounted for 62 percent of all plastics produced globally, while PVC and PET represented only 19 percent and 7 percent, the study says.

The data imply that products made from HDPE, LDPE, and PP may pose a greater chemical risk to marine animals that ingest plastics than products made from PET and PVC. The study notes that, although PVC did not absorb as many contaminants as did other plastics, vinyl chloride is classified as carcinogenic and toxic.

Rochman expected the pellets would absorb an increasing amount of pollutants for the first several months of the study before reaching equilibrium—the point at which they could not absorb further toxic substances.

However, Rochman found that HDPE and LDPE continued to absorb contaminants throughout the 12 months. The study estimates that, at the Shelter Island study site, it would take 44 months for HDPE and 19 months for LDPE to stop absorbing toxic substances.

“It surprised us that even after a year, some plastics would continue to take up contaminants,” Rochman says. “As the plastic continues to degrade, it’s potentially getting more and more hazardous to organisms as they absorb more and more contaminants.”

The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program funded the study, as did the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the San Diego State University Research Foundation, and the Padi Foundation.

Source: UC Davis

NRDC: Defending Communities

January 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Oil and Gas Jonah field, Wyoming © EcoFlight

QA with Kate Sinding, NRDC senior attorney and deputy director of the New York urban program.

How can people in places like New Wilmington (see “Fracking the Amish“) defend themselves if they don’t want oil and gas companies to undertake massive fracking operations in their communities?

If a city or town decides it doesn’t want fracking, that community’s voice should be heard and respected. But it can be very difficult for elected officials and community leaders to challenge large corporations and get up to date quickly about the many legal and environmental issues involved with oil and gas drilling. Plus, the rules and regulations are different in each state where fracking wells are being drilled — and in a lot of states, communities have little or no power to “just say no” to the industry. That’s why NRDC launched the Community Fracking Defense Project last year. We’re offering our legal and policy assistance to local governments in five states — New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina — that want added control over the siting of drilling in their communities, or ways to ensure their residents are protected against the harms of fracking.

What are you helping those communities do?

The practical and legal realities in each of these states are different, so it varies. We have been working with our local partners to evaluate the lay of the land and identify the opportunities that are most promising, effective, and potentially precedential in each of these states. In some places, our legal and policy staff can help local officials draft local laws and land-use plans that control the extent of fracking within their borders — even banning it outright. In others, we’re working with communities to expand their rights to protect themselves under state law. And we can help defend relevant zoning provisions and other local laws that are challenged by gas companies in court. In September, just as we launched this project, NRDC filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of a number of municipalities in which we supported a lower court decision that strikes down portions of a Pennsylvania law that would severely limit the ability of local governments to use their zoning powers to control where fracking occurs. Recently, we filed another friend-of-the-court brief in New York seeking to affirm that local governments have broad powers to protect their citizens.

Why is it important to address fracking issues at the local level, in addition to the state and federal levels?

NRDC is working hard to ensure states and the federal government put sufficient rules in place to better protect against fracking’s risks. But, so far, they have fallen short. And communities need to be able to stand up for themselves. Over three quarters of a century ago, our Supreme Court held that communities have the right to enact local laws to protect “public health, safety, morals, and general welfare.” It is hard to imagine a situation where this right would be more critical than with fracking — a heavy industrial activity that dramatically alters the character of every community where wells are being drilled in substantial numbers.

Is NRDC against fracking?

NRDC opposes expanded fracking until effective safeguards are in place. Over the last decade, the oil and gas industry has drilled thousands of new wells, and they are seeking to expand across the nation as new technology makes it easier to extract gas from previously inaccessible sites. Along the way, fracking has been a suspect in polluted drinking water and a host of other environmental and public health problems in every state where it has popped up. To date, federal and state rules have proven woefully inadequate to protect against the risks. And the industry has used its political power to escape accountability for its actions at every turn. That’s why NRDC is working to protect communities across the nation from the impacts of dangerous fracking practices and help them stand up to oil and gas companies when they’ve been wronged.

Residents or elected officials interested in more information about the Community Fracking Defense Project can contact NRDC here.


New Zealand, China and Cook Islands Join to Improve Water Quality

September 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Water Quality

On the 31st of August 2012 a new partnership was set between New Zealand, China and the Cook Islands in order to deliver an improved water mains system in Rarotonga.

With over 14,000 inhabitants Rarotonga is the most populous of the Cook Islands. It is a famous tourist destination within the region, with sandy beaches, lagoons and reefs. The interior of the island, however, remains largely unpopulated due to lack of infrastructure.

Mr Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and a leader of the centre-right National Party, emphasizes that this major infrastructure project will improve water quality and address health and sanitation issues in Rarotonga. It will also ensure access to clean drinking water for communities and businesses. It will mean a much improved quality of life for local people and it will hugely improve the visitor experience. It is expected that this programme will make a major contribution to economic growth.

This project is part of an on-going commitment by the Cook Islands’ Government to develop its water and sanitation infrastructure. New Zealand and the Cook Islands have already been working together on improving the water quality of the Muri Lagoon, a paradise for swimmers, snorkelers and boaters on the south eastern coast of Rarotonga.

However this is the first time that New Zealand and China have worked together on a major development initiative in the Pacific.

The network of water mains across Rarotonga will be increased. The total cost of the project is approximately NZ$60 million (€38.3 million). New Zealand is providing NZ$15 million (€9.6 million) to assist the Cook Islands Government. China will provide approximately NZ$32 million (€20.5 million) by way of a loan.

New Zealand will provide on-going support for both water and sanitation and has held in reserve a further NZ$10 million (€6.4 million) for related initiatives in the Cook Islands.

Recent heavy rain takes toll on water quality

August 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Heavy late-summer rains and storm water runoff are being blamed for high bacteria levels at local waterfront parks.

The Okaloosa County Health Department reported Thursday that water quality is poor at 10 of the 13 sites it regularly monitors for enterococci, bacteria found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals.

“You’re going to see spikes in the summer,” said John Hofstad, [the Okaloosa county] public works director. “When you get significant rainfall after extended dry periods, you get that sheet flow of storm water across roads and across lawns … picking up animal waste and various pollutants.”

That polluted water flows into local bays and the Gulf of Mexico, he added.

Signs warn visitors of high bacteria levels and state that swimming is not recommended.

The Health Department uses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard to measure local enterococci levels.

Water quality is rated good, moderate or poor, based on the number of enterococci per 100 milliliters of water. Typically, when levels are high — 105 or more per 100 milliliters — people who get in the water may experience symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal illnesses and mild diarrhea to rashes and skin infections.

“You always swim at your own risk in a natural body of water,” Health Department Director Dr. Karen Chapman said. “The greatest risk is for very young children, the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems.”

Healthy people who swim in the polluted water likely will see minimal or no symptoms. But open cuts or sores could result in minor inflammation and infection, she added.

Hofstad, who has studied local water pollution issues since the early 1990s, said improving storm water protections help but will not solve the problem.

“Every time you install a storm water separator, you’re making some attempt to reduce pollutants, and it will have an impact … but you’re still going to have those points on our coastline where storm water will flow into the bay.”

Editor’s note: While this article is region-specific, I’ve included it because of the sheer number of similar articles I have sifted through across not only the country, but the world. E.coli levels at beaches due to runoff and in many instances sewage being pumped directly into the sea is at epidemic proportions and deserves to be brought to awareness and looked at closely by the general public.

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