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

September 2, 2012 by admin  
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.

Article source: http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/53697

Recent heavy rain takes toll on water quality

August 23, 2012 by admin  
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.

Article source: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/articles/beach-51906-quality-water.html

Fund water-quality tests at NJ shore, lawmakers urge Congress

August 23, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

Two of New Jersey’s federal lawmakers are urging Congress to approve funding for water-quality programs along the shore.

President Barack Obama’s budget proposal does not include any money for a 12-year-old program that gives grants to states to test water quality.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg wants $10 million to be authorized so beach-goers can know if the ocean water is safe.

“A day at the beach should never turn in to a visit to the doctor afterward,” he said. “We’ve got to do what we can to protect every mile of our beautiful coastline, to protect it from waste and pollution.”

Congressman Frank Pallone joined Lautenberg on the Asbury Park boardwalk Thursday to push for faster testing.

Pallone said there is new technology that makes it possible to get results in six hours instead of the current 24-hour wait to determine if beaches should be closed to swimmers.

The two Democrats are urging that federal grants be approved for towns to detect sources of pollution so they can be cleaned up.

With the surf crashing in the background, Lautenberg and Pallone also hammered away at Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s proposal for a new national energy strategy.

The cornerstone of Romney’s plan is opening up more areas for offshore oil drilling, including in the mid-Atlantic, where it is currently banned.

Lautenberg opposes the idea as much too risky to the environment.

“We don’t want our beaches filled with oil. We don’t want our waters filled with oil,” he said. “We don’t want the result that you could easily get from drilling off our coast.’

Romney says ramping up offshore drilling could create 3 million jobs and more than $1 trillion in revenue. He also wants to give states more control over energy production on federal land.

Editor’s note: Just the fact that a trip to the beach could be “followed by a trip to the doctor,” is enough to raise a red flag in anyone’s sensibilities, right? Think about this - if you cannot safely enjoy your local beach without researching the toxicity levels first or if you are at risk for illness at anytime, there is a problem, and not one that will be solved on its own. Speak up for to your politicians and advocate for funding for water safety. Also, urge lawmakers to vote against any legislation that endangers our waters, because cleaning that up is not simple, never quick, and causes years of in many cases irreparable damage. Do you really want to never enjoy your beaches and waterways again?

Article source: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/43323

Plastic in Birds’ Stomachs Reveals Ocean’s Garbage Problem

July 4, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

A pair of Northern fulmars in early May at their nest site at Cape Vera, Devon Island, Nunavut. The gull-like birds tend to breed in high-Arctic Canada and on islands in the Bering Sea. CREDIT: Mark Mallory.

Plastic found in the stomachs of dead seabirds suggests the Pacific Ocean off the northwest coast of North America is more polluted than was realized.

The birds, called northern fulmars, feed exclusively at sea. Plastic remains in their stomachs for long periods. Researchers have for several decades examined stomach contents of fulmars, and in new study they tallied the plastic products in dead fulmars that had washed up on the coasts of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, Canada.

The research revealed a “substantial increase in plastic pollution over the past four decades,” the researchers said in a statement.

“Like the canary in the coal mine, northern fulmars are sentinels of plastic pollution in our oceans,” said Stephanie Avery-Gomm, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in University of British Columbia’s Department of Zoology. “Their stomach content provides a ’snapshot’ sample of plastic pollution from a large area of the northern Pacific Ocean.”

Plastic products deteriorate slowly and several studies in recent years have shown vast amounts plastic and other trash in the Pacific Ocean. The garbage can be harmful to the entire ecosystem, scientists say.

The new study found that more than 90 percent of 67 fulmars had ingested plastics such as twine, Styrofoam and candy wrappers. An average of 36.8 pieces of plastic were found per bird. On average, the fraction of a gram in each bird would equate to a human packing 10 quarters in his stomach, the scientists figure. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, globally, up to 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from eating plastic. [Video of plastic-entangled sea lions]

“Despite the close proximity of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ an area of concentrated plastic pollution in the middle of the North Pacific gyre, plastic pollution has not been considered an issue of concern off our coast,” Avery-Gomm said in a statement. “But we’ve found similar amounts and incident rates of plastic in beached northern fulmars here as those in the North Sea. This indicates it is an issue which warrants further study.”

The findings, announced this week, are detailed online in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

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Article source: http://www.livescience.com/21391-ocean-plastic-pollution.html

Online beach alert system wins award

April 8, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

An innovative online project which provides real-time alerts on the cleanliness of Westcountry beaches has won a national award.

Beach Live was launched by South West Water last summer to provide live bathing water information about 21 popular or Blue Flag beaches across Devon and Cornwall.

It was developed by South West Water in partnership with Surfers Against Sewage, the Environment Agency, local authorities, tourism leaders and beach managers.

The website, which was named community project of the year at the annual Water Industry Achievement Awards, is set to be expanded to 40 beaches this summer.

South West Water chief executive Chris Loughlin said: “This is fantastic news and we are very proud that this key project has been acknowledged in this way.

“Sustainability, the environment and working in partnership and with our local communities is at the heart of what we do here so it is great to be recognised for our work in these areas. These awards are a testament to the hard work of our staff and all our partners.”

Cornwall Council portfolio holder for community safety and public protection Lance Kennedy said greater communication helped to “maintain confidence in the quality of Cornwall’s seas and beaches for residents and visitors alike”.

He said: “We already know we have some of the consistently best bathing water quality in Europe but we can’t just take that for granted. We have to show others that fact and demonstrate what is going on to keep it that way.”

Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, added: “Beach Live is an exciting service which gives our visitors information they can use. It’s live information that adds to our world class beach management and our competitiveness.”

Article source: http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Online-beach-alert-wins-award/story-15762284-detail/story.html

Pollution Playing A Major Role In Sea Temperatures

April 4, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Featured, Global Warming

The Atlantic Ocean, especially the North Atlantic, is peculiar: Every few decades, the average temperature of surface water there changes dramatically.

Scientists want to know why that is, especially because these temperature shifts affect the weather. New research suggests that human activity is part of the cause.

Scientists originally thought that maybe some mysterious pattern in deep-ocean currents, such as an invisible hand stirring a giant bathtub, created this temperature see-saw.

And that may be part of it. But there’s a new idea: The cause isn’t in the water; it’s above it — a kind of air pollution called aerosols.

NASA Earth Observations

This NASA map shows the size of aerosol particles in the atmosphere. Green areas indicate larger, more naturally occurring particles like dust. Red areas indicate smaller aerosol particles, which can come from fossil fuels and fires. Yellow areas indicate a mix of large and small particles.

Click to see a high-resolution version of this image

Ben Booth, a climate scientist at Britain’s Met Office Hadley Center, says that aerosols create clouds.

“The more aerosols you have, the more places there are for water vapor to condense,” he says. “And so what aerosols do is they cool.”

They cool the ocean because clouds reflect sunlight back into space before it can hit the ocean.

Aerosols are fine particles like soot or sulfur compounds, mostly from burning fuel. They seed a kind of cloud that’s especially good at reflecting solar radiation back into space. Even on their own, without clouds, these aerosols act like sunblock.

Volcanoes create aerosols, too, but air pollution appears to produce more, and then the aerosols sweep across the Atlantic sky.

Booth has calculated their effect on sea surface temperature swings.

“If you combine the role of volcanic activity and the human emissions of aerosols, we account for 76 percent of the total variation in sea surface temperature in our study,” Booth says. That’s a huge amount.

Booth and his colleagues aren’t the first to propose that aerosols influence sea surface temperatures. But climate scientist Amato Evan at the University of Virginia says they’ve done the most thorough job to date of tracking and confirming those changes.

“If they’re right, human activity has a huge influence on just so many climate processes around the Atlantic Ocean,” he says.

Surface temperatures around the Atlantic influence the amount and timing of rainfall in West Africa and the Amazon in South America, and whether there’s drought there. They affect the number and strength of Atlantic hurricanes and even where hurricanes go.

That’s if, as Evan says, Booth and his team are right.

Booth used computer models to analyze a very complicated process — the interaction of ocean and atmosphere over many decades. The models’ predictions didn’t match all the changes people have actually observed in the Atlantic.

Evan says scientists need more hard evidence to nail down exactly how aerosols affect oceans, but he’s observed a similar process going on in the Indian Ocean.

“The same type of release of pollution aerosols coming from the Indian subcontinent is actually changing the monsoon,” he says, referring to the pattern of rainy and dry weather in the Indian Ocean.

The new research appears in the journal Nature. If it’s confirmed, it could foretell a warmer Atlantic, because the aerosol pollution has apparently cooled the Atlantic some. But new pollution controls are reducing the amount of those aerosols — that’s good for public health, but it also means the ocean loses its sunblock.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/04/150005074/pollution-playing-a-major-role-in-sea-temperatures

USDA announces major water quality effort in Florida

August 11, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats, Water Quality

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $100 million in financial assistance to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners in four counties and assist with wetland restoration on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed.

The wetland restoration will reduce the amount of surface water leaving the land, slowing water runoff and the concentration of nutrients entering the public water management system and ultimately Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

This is the largest amount of funding Florida has ever received for projects in the same watershed through the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) in a single year.

“Protecting and restoring the Northern Everglades is critical not just to Floridians, but to all Americans,” said Vilsack.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the Obama Administration’s strong commitment to conserve our national treasures, enhance the quality and quantity of our water, and secure the economic opportunities afforded by a healthy Everglades ecosystem.

“This announcement would not be possible without our local conservation partners and our relationship with private landowners who play a critical role in restoring wetlands and protecting wildlife in this unique habitat.”

Vilsack also participated in a signing ceremony with A.J. Suarez of Hendry County Nursery Farms — a landowner who will benefit from the funding.

Suarez signed an agreement with USDA to start the process to acquire the easement rights to 3,782 acres.

After the signing ceremony, Vilsack toured the 550-acre Winding Waters Natural Area, a site restored with $1.5 million from WRP in 2007. The nature area, owned by Palm Beach County, is home to bird species such as little blue heron, snowy egret and great egret, white ibis and Florida sandhill crane.

It also contains large areas of pine flatwoods, Cyprus forests, freshwater marshes and wet prairies.

Under WRP, landowners sell development rights to land and place it in a conservation easement that permanently maintains that land as agriculture and open space.

Article source: http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/usda-announces-major-water-quality-effort-florida

South Florida Farmers Achieve Record Year in Water Quality Success

August 11, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats, Water Quality

/PRNewswire/ — Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), south of Lake Okeechobee, achieved a record-setting 79 percent phosphorus reduction in the water leaving the farming region — more than three times less phosphorus than the state requirement.

The South Florida Water Management District, the agency tasked with Everglades restoration, announced today that the EAA’s on-farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), developed by university scientists in collaboration with farmers, are a resounding success. The District praised EAA farmers for being proactive and often implementing more BMPs than what is required.

“We’re proud of farmers’ accomplishments cleaning water, with an average phosphorus reduction of 55 percent over the last 16 years,” said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. “When the BMP program was first envisioned in 1991, no one imagined it would be this effective over the long term. It’s an example of the kind of success that can be achieved in partnership with scientists and farmers, who roll up their sleeves to get the job done.”

In addition to improving water quality using high-tech sustainable practices, more than $200 million has been paid by farmers for the construction of Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) to further clean water. Built on 60,000 acres of former farmland, the STAs have reduced phosphorus to the Everglades Protection Area by an additional 1,470 metric tons. That’s in addition to the 2,400 metric tons of phosphorus removed by farmers.

“Along with being stable economic drivers and job providers for our state and county, farmers have a long track record of supporting and implementing Everglades restoration,” said Gaston Cantens, vice president of Florida Crystals Corporation. “Today’s record-breaking results are another example of the proven success of our sustainable practices and demonstrate the significant role our farms continue to play in protecting and preserving the Everglades ecosystem, as the design was intended.”

Florida Agriculture Fast Facts:

  • Supports 766,000 jobs
  • Generates $100 billion annual economic impact in Florida
  • Responsible for $3 billion in tax revenue for local and state government
  • Florida Sugar Industry provides 7,000 direct jobs 23,500 indirect jobs
  • Florida Sugar Industry generates $2 billion economic impact

About Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Crystals Corporation

Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Crystals Corporation are two Palm Beach County-based sugar producers and owners of the world’s largest sugar company, American Sugar Refining, whose global production capacity is 7 million tons of refined sugar annually. Its products are marketed through its brand portfolio: Domino®, CH®, Redpath® and Tate Lyle®. Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, based in Belle Glade, is made up of 46 small and medium size farms in Palm Beach County. The grower members produce approximately 300,000 tons of sugar from 65,000 acres of land. The primary functions of the Cooperative are the harvesting, transporting and processing of sugarcane and the marketing of raw sugar to one of its American Sugar Refining facilities. Florida Crystals Corporation farms 190,000 acres in South Florida, where it also mills, refines and packages sugar and rice products. The company is the only producer of certified organic sugar grown and harvested in the USA, sold through the Florida Crystals® brand. Florida Crystals also produces clean, renewable energy from sugar cane fiber and recycled wood waste in its Palm Beach County biomass power plant.

SOURCE Florida Crystals

Article source: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/08/11/3831541/south-florida-farmers-achieve.html

Groups sue Millennium over alleged Clean Water Act violations

August 9, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

Vancouver and Longview citizens groups announced Tuesday they will sue the owner of a proposed coal dock in West Longview, contending that Millennium Bulk Terminals is violating the federal Clean Water Act by handling coal without a permit.

An attorney representing the two groups said he will file a federal suit within 60 days to force Millennium to obtain permits for cleanup work at the former Reynolds metals aluminum plant on Industrial Way. The two groups are Longview-based Land Owners and Citizens for a Safe Community and Vancouver-based Rosemere Neighborhood Association.

“Millennium is not a cleanup company. They are a newly formed company that’s in the export business,” said Gayle Kiser, president of the Longview group, an nonprofit with about 80 members in Cowlitz County.

The conservation groups’ Portland attorney, Scott Jerger, alleges in the suit that Millennium has failed to obtain the proper permits for stormwater and wastewater disposal for the past 209 days while handling coal, petcoke and other materials on the site. Millennium has been working on a cleanup of the Columbia River site since the beginning of the year.

Millennium inherited a giant pile of petcoke — a waste byproduct of the oil refining process from the site’s former tenant, Chinook Ventures, and Millennium officials say they are trying do determine how to remove it. Millennium also is handling about 9,000 tons of coal per month, which it delivers to Weyerhaeuser Co. The conservation groups allege that stormwater running through these materials is causing water pollution.

The total fines for alleged violations would be about $7.8 million, Jerger argued.

The suit was a surprise for Millennium, said Kristin Gaines, the company’s environmental and health manager. She said Tuesday she needed to review the filing before commenting on specific allegations.

“At first glance, I honestly don’t think there’s a lot of merit to their accusations,” she said.

Millennium owns the buildings and equipment on the 416-acre site where it plans to build a export terminal, bringing in coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming and offloading it to ships bound for Asia, mostly China.

Millennium is jointly owned by Australian coal company Ambre Energy and St. Louis-based Arch Coal. The company bought the property for $10.9 million in January from Chinook Ventures.

The mile-long coal trains would likely come through Vancouver rail yards, which is why the Rosemere Neighborhood Association became involved in the suit, said Djiva Bertish, the group’s director of environment and conservation.

The land is owned by Alcoa, which is on the hook with state federal regulators to clean up the site from years of contamination from aluminum smelting by Reynolds. Alcoa plans to submit a cleanup timeline to the state Department of Ecology early next year.

Article source: http://tdn.com/news/local/article_ce213a80-c2e2-11e0-98b8-001cc4c002e0.html

4 companies fined $1 million for ship pollution

August 9, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Dumping

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A whistleblower’s complaint about a cargo ship dumping waste in the ocean led Thursday to a $1 million fine levied against four companies that own and operate a fleet of vessels that regularly call on New Orleans.

The conglomerate also was banned by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier from operating in the United States for up to five years.

In April, Stanships Inc. of the Marshall Islands, Stanships Inc. of New York, Standard Shipping Inc. and Calmore Maritime Ltd., pleaded guilty to 32 felony counts of violating ship safety and pollution standards, along with obstruction of justice.

A whistleblower aboard the M/V Americana — part of the conglomerate’s fleet — told the Coast Guard last November that the ship was dumping sludge and oily waste through the use of a pipe to bypass required pollution equipment. Prosecutors said the whistleblower provided cell phone pictures of the device being used at sea.

The ship’s owners also were accused of falsifying a record book to hide the illegal discharges.

An ensuing investigation also resulted in the owners being accused of violating safety standards for trying to conceal the failure of the ship’s generators. According to prosecutors, the ship arrived at the Southwest Pass — a major entry point to the Mississippi River — after losing power for several days at sea. A manager ordered the ship’s captain to falsely tell the Coast Guard that the ship had two operating generators. The master eventually ordered tugboats to guide the ship into port.

According to court records, Stanships Inc. of the Marshall Islands, was a repeat offender, committing new violations after it was fined $700,000 for illegal discharges and falsifying records with another ship on Sept. 29.

On April 27, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan revoked the company’s probation and banned the company’s ships from further trade in the United States.

Barbier ordered $250,000 of the latest fine to go to projects benefiting fish resources.

Article source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/4-companies-fined-1-million-apf-1974536903.html?x=0&.v=1

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