April 2011, Vol. 23, No.4


President signs ‘get the lead out’ bill

Faucets, pipes, and pipe fittings will need to meet stricter standards for lead content starting Jan. 4, 2014.

Early this year President Barack Obama signed the national “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act” (S. 3874) into law. This law lowers the national standard for lead content in pipes from 8% to 0.25%, according to a Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI; Meadows, Ill.) news release.

The 0.25% lead standard was being met by many manufacturers, including those in California, Maryland, and Vermont, and has the support of many in the industry such as members of PMI, which comprises 95% of small, medium, and large plumbing manufacturers, the news release says.

System sends early notice of harmful algae outbreaks

Texas officials and coastal managers are using the latest in electronic tools to receive early notice of toxic algae outbreaks.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecast System generates weekly bulletins of toxic algae outbreaks based on observations from state partners combined with models, imagery, and data from NOAA’s tide, current, and weather systems, according to a NOAA news release.

The system began as a demonstration project, testing for algal blooms off the Florida coast in 2004. Recognizing the need to provide algal bloom information more consistently, NOAA decided to expand the operational system, providing information to coastal managers and officials in Texas. Forecasts also are in various stages of testing for other parts of the United States, the news release says.

The forecasting system will help protect human health and help the economy and environment recover from the effects of toxic algae outbreaks, the news release says. To access the system, see www.co-ops.nos.noaa.gov/hab.

Floods inundate Australia

Widespread floods swept across southeastern Australia this winter. As flooding spread south from New South Wales, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology issued flood warnings for the country’s southernmost state, Victoria, on Jan. 19.

The National Air and Space Administration (NASA) Terra satellite captured images of the region’s landscape on Jan. 19 with its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). Compared to a MODIS image captured about a year before on Jan. 20, 2010, the region showed some definite differences with more vegetation and multiple rivers spilling over their banks, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory Web site.

The Bureau warned of moderate flooding along the Murray River, which marks the boundary between Victoria and New South Wales, and major floodings for the Avoca and Loddon rivers. In addition to widespread flooding in Victoria, the image shows floods in New South Wales. The Murrumbidge River, which passes through a marshy area, transformed into a sprawling waterway resembling a lake in 2011, the site says.

Lakes also are showing differences. Lake Tyrrell is darker in color, and other lakes that were invisible in the 2010 image are showing up as dark blue in 2011, likely resulting from higher water levels, the site says. 

Electrifying microbes to clean wastewater

Microbes are getting an electrical boost to clean wastewater. University of Utah (Salt Lake City) researchers developed a patented electrobiochemical reactor (EBR) that applies a low electrical voltage to microbes to help them quickly and efficiently remove pollutants from mining, industrial, and agricultural wastewater, according to a University of Utah news release.

The EBR process uses a small amount of electricity instead of chemicals to feed microbes. According to the news release, one volt supplies about 1 trillion electrons, which normally would be supplied by excess nutrients and chemicals. A small amount of electricity replaces tons of chemicals to provide cost savings and improve efficiency. The electrons accelerate the speed at which microbes remove pollutants, such as arsenic, selenium, mercury, and other materials, reducing the cost of wastewater cleanup, the news release says.

INOTEC, a university startup company, received an exclusive license to the EBR technology from the university’s Technology Commercialization Office. Jack Adams, metallurgical engineer in the university’s College of Mines and Earth Sciences, pioneered the process. He and Michael Peoples, university graduate student, co-founded INOTEC, the release says.

The technology is being tested for removing metals from mining water and could be used for other industrial and agricultural wastes.


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