Archive | Wastewater & Runoff

Floods Endanger Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Floods in Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland have swamped an area the size of France and Germany combined, displacing thousands and leaving dozens missing. But the devastating deluge may have another victim: the Great Barrier Reef.

The expansive swath of coral reaching over 1,430 miles along Queensland’s coast is in trouble, experts say. As the driving rains drum on, the Burdekin River is dumping massive amounts of sediment – which contains top soil and harmful pesticides and fertilizers – into the southern end of the reef.

There’s another troubling factor to consider: the area has been pummeled with an unhealthy amount of fresh water, and the potential result is dead coral.

“These are extraordinary events. The whole of the inner-shore reef lagoon filled with river water,” says Jon Brodie, Principle Researcher for the James Cook University’s Australian Center for Tropical Freshwater Research, according to CNN.

Brodie and his colleagues say the coral reefs closest to the river mouth have been impacted the most. But the inundating fresh water could affect the reefs stretching from Frazer Island, 124 miles north of Brisbane, as far as Cairns, 930 miles away.

High levels of nutrients and sediments have been known to cripple coral diversity and increase seaweed cover on inshore reefs, Katarina Fabricius, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, told

Couple the sediment runoff with reduced salinity from all the freshwater, and you have a devastated ecosystem, Brodie says.

Experts expect the immediate death of corals and sea grass, with consequences that will reverberate from grass-eating dugongs up the food chain.

And while larger fish can swim out of the plumes of fresh water, smaller coral reef dwellers won’t be so lucky, says Brodie.

When coral organisms die, they lose their vibrant colors and leave only their white skeletons behind – hence the term “coral bleaching.”

While the event would be potentially devastating for marine life, some species would profit from the flooding.

“Some fish species thrive in the current flood plume conditions which can enhance productivity for some popular inshore species,” Andrew Skeat, General Manager of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said in a press statement, according to CNN.

Previous large floods have created algae blooms and starfish outbreaks that overtake the reefs, Fabricius said.

Michelle Devlin, a researcher at James Cook University in northern Queensland, told AFP that the fresh water, soil nutrients and pesticides will act as a harmful “cocktail” for the fragile reefs.

“This is a really massive event,” Devlin said. “It has the potential to shift the food web, it has the potential to shift how the reef operates.”

Posted in Aquatic Life, Oceans & Coastlines, Wastewater & Runoff0 Comments

Los Angeles Rain Causes Mudslides, Flooding, Evacuations

Heavy rain hammered Southern California relentlessly this week, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger to declare a state of emergency for six counties in the Los Angeles area.

The torrential downpour caused major flooding in the Orange County coastal community of Laguna Beach, forcing officials to close the downtown area, which was several feet underwater.

Police evacuated several thousand residents in areas near Los Angeles in danger of mudslides, UPI reported.

A rain-swollen hillside collapsed onto a busy highway road east of Los Angeles, AP said.

In San Diego and southern Orange County, about 13,000 lost power, San Diego Gas & Electric said.

Wednesday’s storm followed nearly a week’s worth of heavy rain in the region.

According to UPI, the severe flooding caused sewage and petroleum leaks in San Diego, Fresno, and La Mesa.

Posted in Atmospheric Science, Wastewater & Runoff, Water Pollution, Water, Ecosystems & Agriculture0 Comments

Winter Crops Reduce Phosphorus Runoff

BURLINGTON, Vt., Feb. 5 (UPI) — The use of winter cover crops to reduce phosphorus runoff into Lake Champlain could be applied to other U.S. watersheds, Vermont scientists said.

Phosphorus acts as a fertilizer in soil and water, boosting weed growth and algae blooms.

Scientists at the University of Vermont, Burlington, found that 80 percent of the phosphorus reaching Lake Champlain’s Rock River watershed came from just 24 percent of the land around the watershed.

Changing land management practices in those high-risk fields could slash phosphorus runoff by as much as 48 percent, university researcher Mary Watzin told The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press in a story published Friday.

The changes include planting winter cover crops on cornfields in critical areas, creating grass buffer strips along selected streams and reducing the amount of phosphorus fed to cows, whose waste is used to fertilize fields.

Lessons from the university’s study could be applied to urban and suburban watersheds in other states dealing with lake pollution, said Julie Moore, director of a Lake Champlain cleanup program.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Wastewater & Runoff0 Comments

Los Angeles Eyeing Rainwater Ordinance

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 1 (UPI) — A proposal by the Los Angeles Department of Public Works would make builders of developments and new homes capture and reuse rainwater runoff, official said.

The ordinance, written in July by Board of Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels, is designed to prevent approximately 104 million gallons of polluted runoff ending up in the Pacific Ocean, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Under the ordinance, builders would provide permeable pavement, rainwater storage tanks, horticultural areas and curb bump-outs. The ordinance mandates builders manage 100 percent of a project’s runoff or face a $13-a-gallon runoff fee.

Holly Schroeder of the Los Angeles-Ventura chapter of the Building Industry Association says she’s happy with the concept:

“But when we now start talking about using LIDs (low impact development) as a regulatory tool, we need to make sure we devise a regulation that can be implemented successfully,” she said.

The ordinance has to clear both the Planning and Land Use Management and the Energy and the Environment committees of the City Council and come up for a full council vote before crossing the mayor’s desk, the Times said.

If it clears all those hurdles, the law could go into effect by 2011.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Wastewater & Runoff, Water Efficiency0 Comments

Storms Dump 170 Million Gallons of Sewage into San Francisco Bay

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 31 (UPI) — The recent series of California storms dumped about 170 million gallons of partially processed sewage into the San Francisco Bay, an environmental group says.

The San Francisco Baykeeper group says this was in addition to 630,000 gallons of raw sewage the storms dumped into the bay in 47 locations, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.

The “under-treated” 170 million gallons of sewage was discharged from three East Bay Municipal Utility District overflow plants on the bay’s east side, the newspaper reported.

Those “wet weather” plants process overflow during storms, but the facilities can get overwhelmed during big storms like the recent ones, and what goes into the bay can be raw sewage from toilets, kitchen sinks, creeks, cracked sewer lines or overflowing manhole covers.

Although mixed with rainwater, the partially treated sewage from the “wet weather” plants still contains pesticides and metals such as mercury, which can sicken people, fish and birds, the Chronicle said.

Baykeeper points to outdated infrastructure, in which pipes and processing plants leak, break or simply can’t handle the load. The group wants the city to assess its processing systems and figure out how to fix them.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Birds, Fish, Waste Disposal, Waste Management, Wastewater & Runoff, Water Pollution0 Comments

Metro Detroit Sewage Polluting Waterways

DETROIT, Jan. 19 (UPI) — Sewage from Metro Detroit’s aging waste-treatment systems are causing record levels of bacteria in waterways used for drinking and recreation, records show.

Treatment plants in more than three dozen communities dumped a total of 80 billion gallons of raw and partially treated human sewage in waterways in and around Detroit during the last two years, the Detroit Free Press reported after analyzing state records.

Bacteria from the waste forced bans on fishing, swimming and kayaking on Lake St. Clair and the Clinton and Rouge rivers.

“We still treat the Great Lakes and their tributaries as open sewers,” Hugh McDiarmid Jr., of the Michigan Environmental Council, told the Free Press in a story published Tuesday.

Communities lack the hundreds of millions of dollars it would take overall to update their sewage systems, said Chuck Hersey, spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

“It is very hard to take out a loan when you are struggling to pay for police and firefighters,” Hersey said of the cash-strapped communities.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Wastewater & Runoff, Water Pollution0 Comments

Rain Harvesting Saves Tucson Water Supply

TUCSON, Dec. 28 (UPI) — Tucson’s push to use rainwater to meet landscaping needs could serve as a model for dry regions throughout the nation, Arizona environmentalists said.

Beginning next year, new businesses in Tucson must use rainwater for at least half of their landscaping needs.

If all of Tucson’s rainwater could be collected, it would amount to about 75 percent of the water delivered to homes and businesses each year, said Jim Riley, a University of Arizona hydrologist who teaches about rainwater harvesting.

“You can’t catch it all, but this is an important water source we should be thinking about in our planning,” Riley said.

Tucson officials are working with homeowners to install cisterns and cut gaps in curbs to let storm water fill basins around trees, rather have it flow into the city’s sewage system, The Arizona Republic reported Monday.

Such a system reduces outdoor water use, the largest drain on Tucson’s water supply, said Brad Lancaster, author of the book “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Landscaping, Wastewater & Runoff, Water Efficiency1 Comment

Utah Bill Would Allow Rain Water Collection & Use

SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 24 (UPI) — A bill before the Utah state legislature would allow property owners to collect up to 2,500 gallons of rainwater for their own use.

State Sen. Scott Jenkins, a Republican from northern Utah, hopes to change 70-year-old state law, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Since the 1930s, all water flowing in Utah above, below or on the ground has been legally the property of the entire state, and anyone wanting to use it has to apply to the state engineer.

“If you have a piece of property, you should have a right to put a bucket out under your rain gutter,” Jenkins said Wednesday. “There’s still one problem: water law.”

State Rep. Ben Ferry, also a Republican, cast the only negative vote when the state Water Development Commission held a hearing on the bill.

“Water seems so simple,” Ferry said.

But he said it clearly isn’t, at least in the arid west. Ferry says if tanks and rain barrels are allowed the state should have a water registry so water managers know where they are when drought hits.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Drought, Wastewater & Runoff0 Comments

Alabama Foundry Guilty on Pollution Counts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Dec. 19 (UPI) — An Alabama cast iron manufacturer has pleaded guilty to nine felony counts of knowingly violating the Clean Water Act, U.S. officials say.

McWane Inc., one of the largest foundries in the country, pleaded guilty Friday in federal district court in Birmingham, Ala., for environmental crimes that occurred at its Birmingham, Ala., facility, McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company, Justice Department officials said.

James Delk, the former general manager and vice president of the Birmingham plant, pleaded guilty to eight counts of negligently violating the Clean Water Act. Additionally, former plant manager Michael Devine pleaded guilty to five counts of negligently violating the Clean Water Act.

Under the plea agreement, McWane was sentenced to pay a $4 million criminal fine and serve a five-year term of probation.

“This is the fifth time that the McWane corporation, a McWane facility, or a company manager has been sentenced for committing environmental crimes,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement. “McWane’s multiple violations of the nation’s environmental laws is inexcusable, and McWane needs to take immediate steps to ensure that it fully complies with the law.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Office, On-Site Wastewater Treatment, Wastewater & Runoff, Water Pollution0 Comments

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