December 2006, Vol. 18, No.12

Briefs

Briefs Guidance To Help Wastewater Facilites Evaluate Treatment Changes

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft guidance to help public water systems as they make operational changes to comply with drinking water regulations designed to control microbial contaminants and disinfection byproducts. To provide safe drinking water, operators of public water systems must evaluate the effects that changes in the treatment process could have on their ability to meet multiple drinking water standards, according to an EPA news release.

“This is an important step in completing our lead reduction action plan and helping utilities meet existing and new requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for Water.

According to EPA, the failure to consider these effects can result in problems that affect public health. For example, treatment changes to reduce disinfection byproducts could increase the corrosivity of drinking water, which, in the absence of adequate corrosion control, could result in an increase in lead in drinking water.

The draft guidance would revise a manual developed for the Stage 1 Disinfection Byproduct Rule, EPA says, incorporating new research and case studies in a more user-friendly manner. Release of the draft guidance supports the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproduct Rule and is an action item in the agency’s 2005 Drinking Water Lead Reduction Plan.

For more information, see www.epa.gov/safewater/disinfection/stage2/compliance.html.

Well Water Contaminants Often Exceed Standards, USGS Finds

In August, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released its findings on a range of inorganic and organic contaminants in domestic wells from every U.S. state and Puerto Rico. The agency found that the inorganic compounds arsenic and nitrate most often exceeded the drinking water standards in well water set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (exceeding standards in 11% and 8% of cases, respectively), while uranium, mercury, and fluoride also exceeded standards, but in smaller percentages.
Since the water quality of domestic wells is not federally regulated or nationally monitored, the study provides a previously nonexistent perspective on the quality of the self-supplied drinking water resources used by 45 million Americans in the United States, according to a USGS news release.

The study found that organic compounds rarely exceeded drinking water standards; however, atrazine, metolochlor, simazine, methyl tertiary butyl ether (commonly known as MTBE), and chloroform were all detected in more than 5% of the wells sampled.

The national study is based on a compilation of data from a large number of wells sampled as part of multiple USGS programs. USGS is continuing this research to include a broader list of contaminants from a selected set of wells to further investigate geographic patterns and the co-occurrence of multiple contaminants. Release of this information is anticipated in 2007, according to USGS.

The study’s results are featured in the August issue of the science journal Ground Water Monitoring & Remediation, a publication of the National Ground Water Association (Westerville, Ohio), at health.usgs.gov.  

Sha River Wins International Thiess Riverprize

When the city of Chengdu, People’s Republic of China, experienced rapid growth in its population and in industry, the Sha River — which plays a major role in the city’s flood management — became polluted by city waste, untreated wastewater, deforestation, coal silt, and rural garbage. By 1999, the river was virtually dead and had become a severe health hazard, predisposing the surrounding community to disease and illness, according to a news release issued by the Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Riverfestival, an annual event promoting environmental sustainability.

Now, the Sha River is being recognized for its turnaround. In 2001, a large-scale restoration project commenced with more than a dozen government organizations and investment agencies, including KEC (Kawasaki City, Japan), Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.) and the Bank of China (Beijing). China’s Sha River Restoration Project has won the 2006 International Thiess Riverprize for excellence in river management.

The recipient of the $225,000 (Australian) prize was announced at the annual International Riversymposium’s gala award ceremony in Brisbane in September, attended by delegates from more than 40 countries.

The Sha River Restoration Project is a US$411 million integrated project that has improved water quality, controlled flood flows, cleaned up pollution, landscaped parks, improved drainage systems, and enhanced public use and understanding of the catchment.

Locally known as the River of Life, the Sha River begins in the mountains of Chengdu and runs through Chengdu city, which has a population of nearly 11 million. The 22-km-long (13.7-mi-long) Sha River is a primary water catchment system for the western reaches of the Yangtze River, which eventually discharges into the East China Sea at Shanghai.

For more information on the Riverprize, see www.riversymposium.com.  

Report Validates Benefits of USGS Streamgage Data

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), two of the more obvious reasons for collecting USGS streamgage data are to produce flood warnings to protect lives and reduce property damage, and to map floodplains to provide crucial scientific impact to vulnerable locations. But a new report, Benefits of USGS Streamgaging Program: Users and Uses of USGS Streamflow Data, states that taxpayers and the nation receive additional benefits from the streamgage network.

The report, produced by the National Hydrologic Warning Council, is the first of two reports by the council on the USGS streamgaging program. The first report, available at nhwc.udfcd.org/PDF/nhwc_nsip_phaseA.pdf, describes the different types of benefits that come from USGS streamgages, highlighting who uses the data, how they benefit from the data, and the consequences of the absence of data. The second report, the news release states, is a quantitative benefits analysis. It explores several major categories of benefits and compares the benefits to the costs of the program.  

WHO Releases Guidelines for Uses of Wastewater, Graywater

The World Health Organization (WHO) has extensively updated its guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta, and graywater to account for new scientific evidence and contemporary approaches to risk management, according to a WHO news release. The revised guidelines reflect a strong focus on disease prevention and public health principles.

The new edition, presented in four volumes, is designed for environmental and public health scientists, researchers, engineers, policy-makers, and those responsible for developing standards and regulations.
The guidelines can be ordered through the WHO Web site at www.who.int/bookorders.  

Healthy Farms Act To Double Conservation Spending

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D–Wis.) introduced The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act of 2006 in October. The proposed bipartisan legislation would double conservation spending to provide cleaner air, water, and wildlife habitat and help stabilize global warming throughout the life of the next farm bill, sponsors say.

The Healthy Farms bill would increase annual funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to $2 billion — including $75 million for conservation innovation grants, $100 million for water conservation, and $100 million for stewardship on private forest land — and would reform EQIP to give priority to innovative and cost-effective projects, according to a bill summary provided by the House Resources Committee. EQIP, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, is a conservation program farmers and ranchers may take part in voluntarily to promote agricultural production and environmental quality.

Additionally, the bill would double incentives to $2 billion a year for farmers and ranchers to protect drinking water supplies and make other environmental improvements, provide funding to restore nearly 1.2 million ha (3 million ac) of wetlands, and provide funding to protect 2.4 million ha (6 million ac) of farm and ranch land from sprawl.

The bill, which is intended to outline desired reforms and build support for changes before consideration of the next Farm Bill, includes an energy title and a healthy food choice title in addition to a focus on conservation.

For a summary of the bill, see www.house.gov/kind/issues_pdf/Section%20by%20Section.pdf.  

U.S. EPA Releases Strategic Plan for 2006–2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently forwarded to the U.S. Congress and released to the public its Strategic Plan for 2006–2011 as required under the Government Performance and Results Act.

The revised plan maintains the five goals described in the 2003–2008 Strategic Plan but includes an increased focus on achieving more measurable environmental results, EPA stated in a press release. Each goal includes a Goal Team comprising representatives from EPA programs that help in achieving the goal. Goal Teams are co-led by national program and lead region managers. The five goals are clean air and global climate change; clean and safe water; land preservation and restoration; healthy communities and ecosystems; and compliance and environmental stewardship.

Goal 2 of the new Strategic Plan addresses goals and strategies for clean and safe water. Some aspects of the National Water Program, such as wetlands protection and the agency’s Great Waterbody Programs, are addressed by the healthy communities and ecosystems goal. According to the press release, the EPA Office of Water and regional offices will be working closely with states, tribes, and others to implement the new plan.

EPA said the Strategic Plan serves as a road map of sorts, guiding the agency in establishing the annual goals it needs to meet along the way and providing a basis from which EPA’s managers can focus on the highest-priority environmental issues.

The Strategic Plan is available at www.epa.gov/ocfo/plan/plan.htm.  

U.S. EPA Releases Draft Guidance on Using Underground Injection Control Wells To Sequester Carbon Dioxide

Geologic sequestration is a promising technology that could help reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Injecting carbon dioxide underground for the purposes of sequestration is covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program, and EPA is working closely with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to address technical and policy questions to enable safe and effective deployment of this technology.

EPA has released draft guidance to help state agencies permit the DOE Regional Partnership pilot projects, which will be injecting small volumes of carbon dioxide primarily for research purposes as UIC Class V experimental technology wells. To provide permitting flexibility, the guidance discusses technical considerations that should be taken into account when issuing a project permit and strongly encourages that permits be designed to maximize relevant data-gathering while still protecting underground sources of drinking water and human health.

EPA also is trying to evaluate whether there is a need to develop new regulations for future commercial-scale carbon dioxide injection projects.

The guidance is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/wells_sequestration.html.