Saturday, December 27, 2008

Associated Press reports that the EPA wants Missouri parts of Mississippi River made safe for swimming

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

EPA Urges Missouri To Make The Mississippi Swimmable

By The Associated Press
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Life on Missouri’s eastern border is defined by the Mississippi River, and people fish in it, boat on it, sometimes wade in it with scant concern about pollution. But would they swim in it?

The Environmental Protection Agency thinks it’s time the state started moving to make long stretches of the Mississippi sufficiently free of bacteria so that swimming would be safe.

In a recent letter to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Clean Water Program, told the department to take another look at its recreation-use designation for the Mississippi River from the Meramec River to the Ohio River.

Grumbles noted that the federal Clean Water Act presumes that rivers, streams and lakes should be clean enough for swimming. If the water is not safe, the law allows the state agency to show why it is not possible to make the water clean.

According to the Southeast Missourian newspaper, the Department of Natural Resources staff will recommend Jan. 7 that the state Clean Water Commission change the Mississippi’s designation from “secondary contact recreation” — a standard that covers boating, fishing and wading — to whole body contact.

The result could mean new requirements for expensive upgrades at sewage treatment plants along the river, including the Cape Girardeau plant.

The Missouri Department of Conservation already monitors the Mississippi for several qualities, including indicators of fertilizer pollution, the acidity of the water and levels of dirt and sand.

But the key measure for human contact with the water is the level of E. coli, a bacteria present in human and animal waste that reaches the river in the discharge from sewage treatment plants and in the runoff from open land where livestock and wildlife graze.

“When you are swimming, you are probably never going to swallow enough water” to have health problems caused by fertilizer or chemical pollutants, said John Ford, an environmental specialist with the state’s Water Pollution Program. “The only risk you have from swallowing a small amount of water is bacteria and protozoans.”

EPA officials want the Mississippi designated for “whole body contact” on a 1.3-mile stretch just north of St. Louis and a 164.7-mile one from where it meets the Meramec River to where it meets the Ohio River.

The remaining approximately 30 miles of river, mainly along the St. Louis riverfront, will retain a designation that swimming is not recommended.

“The Clean Water Act sets out that recreation shall be available in and on the waters of the United States,” said John DeLashmit of the EPA’s Region 7 office in Kansas City.

“The rebuttable presumption is that unless we are shown otherwise that United States waters are safe for swimming and other aquatic recreation,” he said. “The DNR did not submit anything showing that is not attainable on the Mississippi River.”

Data collected at Thebes, Ill., by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency shows that the E. coli levels in the river fluctuate widely, sometimes spiking after heavy rains.

Designating the river for “whole body contact” means sewage treatment plants along the river will have to make improvements. Because the river is not designated for full contact now, said John Hoke, an environmental specialist and use attainability coordinator for the DNR, no plant discharging into the river is required to disinfect its effluent.

“What it means practically in terms of wastewater treatment plants is that they would be required to disinfect,” Hoke said. The disinfection requirement would be put in place when a plant’s permit is renewed.

Dennis Hale, manager of Cape Girardeau’s wastewater treatment plant, said the plant discharges an average of 5.5 million gallons of treated sewage daily into the Mississippi. The city does not disinfect the wastewater.

The two common disinfecting methods are chlorination and ultraviolet light, Hale said. Installing disinfecting equipment would be the first major upgrade to the plant since it was constructed in the 1970s, Hale said.

“As far as what it would cost, I would hate to guess,” Hale said. “Either one would be pretty expensive.”

The whole body contact designation would be an invitation to the public to take a new look at the river. Many people have a mistaken impression that the river is far too polluted for swimming, several sources said.

“There is a big plus to getting people back on the Mississippi River,” Ford said. “The resource is there to be used, and there are some really interesting places on the river.”

January 25, 2009, annual meeting of FNHA features water-quality presentations

"Troubled Water: Preserving and Restoring Arkansas' Most Valuable Resource"

will be the program theme for FNHA’s annual meeting at 2:00 pm on January 25, 2009,

in the Walker meeting room of the Fayetteville Public Library.

Two leading experts on water issues in Arkansas, Martin Maner and Marty Matlock, will discuss Arkansas’ persistent water concerns and will talk with us about what they are doing and what we, as citizens, can do to protect the quality of our water and to help restore water quality where it has deteriorated.

Martin Maner is Director of Watershed Management with Central Arkansas Water, a metropolitan system which traces its history to the springs and wells of the early 1800s and which currently provides water to nearly 400,000 users. Central Arkansas Water, which is publicly owned, emphasizes a regional approach to water needs and has won numerous EPA awards for its commitment to water quality. Before becoming Director of Watershed Management for the utility, Maner was chief of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Division.

Marty Matlock is Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Arkansas and has conducted research on a variety of ecological issues. One groundbreaking project which has drawn national attention combines urban stream ecological services restoration with outdoor classrooms, greenway trails and park development. Matlock's ecological engineering group collaborates closely with the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, in the School of Architecture, as well as with city and state officials to demonstrate more natural designs for stormwater systems. Among other activities, he will be working with the Springdale water utility in 2009 on the Clear Creek stream restoration project.

Please plan to join us the afternoon of January 25, and encourage your friends and neighbors to come along. Refreshments will be served. The annual business meeting will be brief, and there will be opportunities to learn more about an essential resource on which we and all living things depend.

Barbara Elaine Boland
Green Infrastructure Planning, Project Coordinator
Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association
148 E Spring Street
Fayetteville, AR 72701
(479) 521-2801 home
(479) 387-6724 cell

"Green Infrastructure is our nation's life support system - an interconnected network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural areas; greenways, parks and other conservation lands; working farms, ranches and forests; and wilderness and other open spaces that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, sustain air and water resources and contribute to the health and quality of life for America's communities and people." USDA Forest Service, Green Infrastructure Working Group's definition of Green Infrastructure.

Monday, December 22, 2008

British view of Obama's Green Choices

Obama Cranks Up Green Revolution
Sunday 21 December 2008
by: Geoffrey Lean, The Independent UK

The next US president is reversing Republican policy on global warming by putting leading scientists in key posts. Geoffrey Lean reports.

Barack Obama yesterday promised to end George Bush's "twisting" of science to suit "politics or ideology" in an extraordinarily outspoken address to the nation, and announced that he was putting top climate scientists in key positions in his administration.

The move, which signals perhaps his sharpest break with the outgoing administration, makes it clear that he was going to put climate change and the environment among the most urgent priorities of his presidency.

And as if to emphasise the difference, President Bush is using his last weeks of power to push through a record number of last-minute rule changes to increase mining and oil drilling on public lands, and even to allow people to carry concealed, loaded guns into national parks.

During its years in office the Bush administration attempted to muzzle senior government scientists who disagreed with it, and even altered scientific reports - causing more than 60 top academics to sign a petition accusing the White House of manipulating findings for political reasons.

But in his weekly radio address, Mr Obama pointedly promised to end this. "Promoting science is about free and open inquiry," he said. "It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient - especially when it's inconvenient. That will be my goal as president of the United States."

The president-elect used the address to announce his top scientific appointments, which included two of the world's most respected climate scientists, John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco, in a move warmly welcomed even by the country's top Republican environmentalist. They will have enormous influence over his government's green policies.

The appointments follow the naming earlier this month of Steven Chu - a Nobel prize-winning physicist, and another prominent advocate of urgent measures to tackle climate change - to the key position of energy secretary, and a decision to create a special office on energy and climate within the White House headed by Carole Browner, Bill Clinton's former environment chief.

Both Professors Holdren and Lubchenco are past presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Professor Holdren, a professor at Harvard University and director of the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Center, will be science adviser to Mr Obama, who has elevated the position to an official assistant to the president.

He recently called for immediate action on climate change, saying that it was already causing "widespread harm". But he is also sceptical about nuclear power, reflecting a feeling in the Obama team that it cannot be made economical.

Professor Lubchenco, of Oregon State University, a similarly outspoken expert on oceans and global warming, is to be the first female administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which measures the pace of global warming, tracks hurricanes and monitors the health of the world's seas.

The chief scientist at Defra, Professor Bob Watson, who worked in the Clinton White House, said yesterday that Obama was putting together "a phenomenal team of world- class scientists", as a sign that he was "totally committed to the environment".

William K Reilly - President George Bush's environment chief and the country's leading Republican environmentalist - told The Independent on Sunday that he was "very pleased" by the appointments of "long-standing advocates of addressing climate change".

In another clear indication that the incoming team has taken on board the arguments of those advocating a "green new deal" that expanding environmental industries and jobs is the best way out of the recession, Mr Obama on Friday signed up a vocal advocate of green jobs, Hilda Solis, to be his labour secretary. The Californian congresswoman will be a key figure in implementing a plan to create millions of green jobs.

US environmentalists, however, are split over yet another appointment - of Colorado senator Ken Salazar - as secretary of the interior. It was welcomed by the top environmental pressure groups, but smaller and more radical ones said he had had a mixed record in congressional votes. "He's far from the most anti-environmental guy out there," says Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity, "but he's no environmental hero."

Meanwhile, Mr Bush has been pushing through a record number of so-called "midnight regulations". He has enabled coal-mining firms to dump waste in valleys, relaxed pollution rules from factory farms, and allowed companies that produce toxic wastes to burn them as fuel.

Barack's Green Team

Professor Steven Chu The Nobel Prize-winning physicist becomes Energy Secretary. He is a forceful advocate of America's urgent move towards carbon-free energy.

Professor John Holdren A physicist at Harvard University who directs the prestigious Woods Hole Research Centre, he will have the ear of the President as Obama's top scientific advisor.

Professor Jane Lubchenco A leading expert on the effects of global warming on oceans, she becomes the first woman administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Congresswoman Hilda Solis The new Labour Secretary advocates providing employment through a clean energy economy. She was key sponsor of a Green Jobs Act last year.

Carole Browner Head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Clinton, she is on the radical side of the party and will head a White House energy and climate unit.

Senator Ken Salazar Ten-gallon-hatted Colorado Senator Ken Salazar is more controversial as Interior Secretary. The top environment groups are pleased but radicals have doubts.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Audubon Society to meet at 6 p.m. today at Fayetteville, Arkansas, public library

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society (NWAAS) will have an important
meeting Dec 17, 6-7:45, in the Williard & Pat Walker meeting room of
the Fayetteville Public Library. Because of the short time available,
please come a little early. The only business of this meeting will be
whether or not NWAAS will continue to function. I urge anyone with an
interest in the outcome -- whether or not you are currently an Audubon
member -- to come. If you think NWAAS should dissolve, your voice will
be welcome. If you wish to see NWAAS continue into the future, your
voice will also be welcome.
Joe Neal

Saturday, the Highlands chapter of the Ozark Society will bushwhack into Dismal Hollow in Newton County, visiting an abundance of waterfalls, bluffs and deep gorges. Although the distance is less than 5 miles, the route is rated difficult because of steep slopes.
Participants are to meet at 8 a.m. at FirstCare Medical in Fayetteville or at 9:30 a.m. at the country store in Deer.
For details, call Bob Cross at (479) 587-8757.
On Sunday, the group will explore the trails at Pea Ridge National Military Park. The trail is nine miles long and is rated easy. Participants are asked to meet at 9 a.m. at Root Elementary School in Fayetteville or at 10 a.m. at the park's visitors center in Pea Ridge. E-mail martykerns@juno. com for details.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coal plant appeal set for trial March 9, 2009

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Trial date set for coal plant appeal

LITTLE ROCK -- A challenge to Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s air permit for a planned coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County will go to trial March 9, an administrative law judge said Monday.

At a scheduling hearing, Judge Michael O'Malley set aside March 9-20 for a trial to decide whether the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's decision to grant an air permit for the $1.6 billion, 600-megawatt plant should be overturned.

Environmental groups, hunters and landowners have appealed the permit, claiming it was granted without complete analysis of the plant's potential impact on public health. SWEPCO claims there is nothing more to analyze.

Construction of the plant is already under way. The state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission ruled Dec. 5 that SWEPCO can continue with construction while the appeal is pending.

SWEPCO announced last week it would seek a rate hike to cover increased costs, including but not limited to the cost of building the Hempstead County plant.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday December 17, 2008

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society (NWAAS) will have an important
meeting Dec 17, 6-7:45, in the Williard & Pat Walker meeting room of
the Fayetteville Public Library. Because of the short time available,
please come a little early. The only business of this meeting will be
whether or not NWAAS will continue to function. I urge anyone with an
interest in the outcome -- whether or not you are currently an Audubon
member -- to come. If you think NWAAS should dissolve, your voice will
be welcome. If you wish to see NWAAS continue into the future, your
voice will also be welcome.
Joe Neal