The Pure Water Occasional for September 30, 2013

 With  articles about the sexual consequences of fracking,  dead zones on the Mississippi in the olden days, and the causes and the consequences of the growing number of "boil water" alerts.  Numbers Wizard Bea Sharper shares some facts about water.  There is also lots of world water news, and, as always, much more.


Fracking Found to Cause Gonorrhea

Editor's Note: Fracking has been identified as the cause of much water waste, water contamination, general environmental degradation, air pollution, and more. Now you can add the spread of sexually transmitted diseases to the list of evils. -- Hardly Waite.

If fracking is taking place near you, beware.

Just in case news of the potential environmental damage didn't scare you, anti-fracking advocates say you should be concerned about your social habits if you live in an area where fracking is practiced.

In 1850, near the beginning of the California Gold Rush, the female population was perilously low in Northern California. In mining counties, they made up less than 2% of overall inhabitants. According to Sierra Foothills Magazine, one man wrote at the time: "Got nearer to a woman this evening than I have been in six months. Came near fainting."

It wasn't long before women from all over the world began flocking to California in hopes of making some quick cash as sex workers. This was a situation ripe for STDs--men without long-term partners present having sex with all the same women. But this situation wasn't unique to the Gold Rush.

We're learning now that the average annual number of cases of sexually transmitted infections is greater in heavily fracked rural counties.

Natural resource booms are generally accompanied by a wave of male workers who turn to prostitutes in the absence of other female partners.  And guess what: Today's natural gas boom isn't any different. If you live in a county where fracking is happening, there are probably a whole lot more STD-infected people wandering around than in non-fracked areas, according to a new study. Keep those antibiotics handy.

In the "Social Costs of Fracking: A Pennsylvania Case Study," the environmental group Food and Water Watch examines the social impact of fracking--an efficient but dirty process used to extract natural gas from the ground--in rural Pennsylvania counties, which are the epicenter of the growing fracking industry. Between 2005 and 2011, 5,000 shale gas wells were drilled in the state. As a not-so-obvious consequence, gonorrhea and chlamydia are now running rampant.

Food and Water Watch found that the average yearly number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases rose by 32.4% in heavily fracked Pennsylvania counties between 2005 and 2010, while unfracked counties saw an uptick of just 20.1%. Once fracking began during these years, the number of cases rose an average of 8% per year in heavily fracked counties--and just 3.8% in unfracked counties.

While there's no proof that fracking is actually causing the rise in STD rates, the study documents the correlation: "The increase in the average annual number of cases of sexually transmitted infections was greater in heavily fracked rural counties than in unfracked rural counties," it says.

There are plenty of other social costs to fracking, such as increased disorderly conduct arrests and heavy truck crashes, but few things inspire fear in the heart of sexually active Americans like the threat of rampant STDs. So here's a suggestion: Instead of warning people away from fracking with threats of environmental destruction (boring, right?), tell them instead that hydraulic fracturing will bring chlamydia to their doorstep.

Source: Fast Company.

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Mississippi River’s 1926 dead zone holds lessons for Gulf of Mexico today

by Matt Sepic and Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio

Gazette Introductory Note: We always believe that environmental problems were never worse.  The fact is, they usually were worse at one time.  Skeptics and naysayers notwithstanding, modern sewage treatment and laws like the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act have made our environment much better and healthier than in was in the “good old days.” — Hardly Waite.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Here in the land of 10,000 lakes, zebra mussels and Asian carp have generally topped the list of recent marine environmental concerns. But in the 1920s, before wastewater treatment plants were built, there were far bigger problems.

A 1926 survey of the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and Hastings turned up three fish.

“Not three species of fish,” said Rebecca Flood, an assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “Three fish.”

Back then there was so much sewage in the Mississippi River that algae took over and just about everything else died off. The river in the Twin Cities is much cleaner today, and the fish are back. But there’s a similar, even larger problem festering now just past the river’s southern end, in the Gulf of Mexico.

This time, the pollution that feeds the algae for the most part is fertilizer from Midwestern farms — including Minnesota’s. Just as in 1926, oxygen levels have plummeted. The fish population, the ecosystem in general, and the industries that depend on it are all in peril.

Scientists call that part of the Gulf a hypoxic zone. It’s also known as the dead zone. And its the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island put together.

Flood says Minnesota can do a better job of reducing runoff into waterways that drain into the Mississippi and contribute to the dead zone. The MPCA is developing guidelines with the goal of cutting phosphorous runoff into the Mississippi River watershed 35 percent by 2025, and nitrogen runoff by 20 percent. Part of the strategy will be to work with farmers to help them reduce the amount of fertilizer they use — and money they spend.

“My experience with individual farmers is that they’re pretty cautious and stingy about wasting money, and this is a waste of money to have our fertilizers going down to the Gulf of Mexico,” she said.

Details of Minnesota’s nutrient reduction plan will be available for public comment in early October. The proposal is just one of many being drawn up by the 12 states that are part of a task force that’s trying to shrink the dead zone. But reducing nutrient runoff from farms isn’t as easy as reducing fertilizer, says Bill Northey, co-chair of the task force that met in Minneapolis Tuesday. He’s an Iowa farmer, and his state’s agriculture commissioner.

“When we’re talking about nitrogen, we’re talking about soil organic matter. It’s in the crop residue that’s there from last year. As our water goes through those soils it’ll pick up nitrogen — sometimes from the fertilizer, sometimes from the residue, sometimes from the organic matter,” he said. “We have to manage all of that to try to reduce the amount of nitrogen that’s leaving those farms.”

In 2008 the task force set a goal of reducing the dead zone to 5,000 square kilometers — an ambitious goal that so far has proved elusive. The zone measured roughly 15,000 square kilometers, or roughly 5,875 square miles, this year.

Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for water, admits the agency can’t claim success.

“It’s a very difficult goal, and even if we put in all the practices by 2015 that are necessary to reduce the dead zone, there’s a lag time,” she said. “That’s one of the challenges we have: to continue to make progress, to continue to motivate people.”

And motivating people is about all the EPA says it can do. The task force recommendations do not carry the force of law. The EPA has said setting nutrient rules would be too complex, and it can better fight water pollution by working with states.

But Ann Alexander, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the dead zone will continue to be a problem until the EPA steps up to the plate.

“I imagine there is a lot of nervousness on their part given the intensity of the opposition that they’re getting from many different quarters,” she said. “They’re getting opposition from agriculture, from manufacturing industries, from sewage treatment authorities.

The NRDC has sued the EPA in an effort to force the agency to act. Last week, a federal judge gave the EPA six months to decide whether to set nitrogen and phosphorous pollution standards — or explain why they’re not needed.

Source: MPRNews.

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 This Week's Water News

There's news about fracking in Texas, aluminum and mercury leaks, toxic algae and more toxic algae, Fukushima, PCBs, the EPA,  illegal dumping, Superfund sites, foul odors in Mexico City, the Ford plant on the Rouge River, and a lot more about the Colorado floods.

Frackers guzzle water as Texas goes thirsty. In the Texas Oil Patch, the earth is cracked and the grass is brittle, but water is still gushing to hundreds of hydraulic fracturing operations. It’s water in, energy and dollars out at a gold-rush pace that some say cannot continue.

Drinking water 'not at risk' from Mynydd Llandygai leak. Drinking water was never at risk when aluminium leaked from a waste tank at a treatment plant in Gwynedd, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water has said.

After the Colorado flood. Water was everywhere. It choked creeks and rivers, created new ones, sent cascades of mud and rocks downhill, blasted through asphalt roads, knocked homes off foundations and flooded basements.Eight people lost their lives. One remains missing and presumed dead.

Opinion: Kill the EPA and let our rivers burn. It’s fall, and if you’re like me, you and your family are getting out on the water, and plunging from a high rope swing as often as possible, before cold weather arrives. But imagine what America might look like today, without 43 years of Environmental Protection Agency rules. 

The back story: How dangerous mercury ended up at Colerain Township landfill.During clean-up work one Saturday in June, two Metropolitan Sewer District workers tossed nine old pieces of equipment into the back of a pick-up truck, accidentally unleashing a trail of one of the most dangerous elements commonly in use – mercury.

Working poor hit hard by Colorado flooding. Perhaps nowhere is the impact of the Colorado flooding on the poor and working class more vivid than in the Valeras' low-lying mobile home park in Evans, where a six-foot wall of water rushed in when the South Platte jumped its banks.

Colorado flooding exposes risk to state's oil and gas drilling. Thousands of gallons of oil have spilled as a result of mass flooding across the state of Colorado. The state has recently experienced a boom in oil and gas drilling and production due to the development of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies.

Report: Polluted farm runoff linked to toxic green algae slime in US waters. They call it the green slime, a toxic ooze of algae that covered lakes and other water bodies across the United States this summer, closing beaches in Wisconsin and Kentucky, and killing scores of dolphins, manatees, birds and fish in Florida, a report says.

Columbia, SC, warns of illegal dumping at eatery sites. Amid concerns that someone is illegally dumping toxics in public sewers, the South Carolina city of Columbia issued an advisory Thursday asking restaurant owners to protect their wastewater systems from becoming disposal sites for unscrupulous people. 

Potential groundwater threat seen from composting. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation recently reported that facilities that process "vegetative waste," such as commercial composting operations, appear to be causing elevated levels of manganese in groundwater. 

Fukushima operator seeks reactor restart. Fukushima operator TEPCO on Friday asked Japan's nuclear watchdog for permission to restart a separate atomic power station, as it resumed cleaning polluted water at the crippled plant. 

'High levels' of PCB found in Columbia-area sewers as probe spreads. Cancer-causing chemicals have been found in the sewers at a Columbia-area restaurant as a state investigation of illegal dumping expands from the Upstate to the Midlands, where utility officials scrambled this week to learn more about the threat to central South Carolina.

Lake Erie ahead of curve with algae. Lake Erie is ahead of other lakes across the nation in dealing with toxic algae blooms that foul water and hurt tourism, according to a new report, “Toxic Algae: Coming Soon to a Lake Near You?”

Mercury spill cleanup cost: $850K and climbing. A mercury spill in a Metropolitan Sewer District plant in June still isn’t completely cleaned up, has already cost Hamilton County sewer district customers more than $850,000 and has prompted the Ohio EPA to warn the sewer district and a local landfill they’re breaking the law. 

After the floods in Colorado, a deluge of worry about leaking oil. When floodwaters surged into Colorado’s drilling center, they swamped wells, broke pipes and swept huge oil tanks off their foundations. The state has counted a dozen “notable” spills stemming from the catastrophic floods this month.

P-U! Mexico City tries to freshen its odor problem. Odor problems in Mexico City are a result of poorly managed wastewater and trash in a sprawling metropolis whose population – 20 million by official count – outgrew its infrastructure decades ago. Authorities have sought for years to find a solution. 

Michigan city worries about aging sewer system. Beneath the ground Ann Arborites walk on and drive their cars on exists a network of hundreds of miles of sewer pipes, some dating back to the early 1900s. But a recent string of sewage overflows is raising questions about the city's aging sewer system. 

Mississippi River's 1926 dead zone holds lessons for Gulf of Mexico today. Here in the land of 10,000 lakes, zebra mussels and Asian carp have generally topped the list of recent marine environmental concerns. But in the 1920s, before wastewater treatment plants were built, there were far bigger problems.

254 Superfund sites threaten Long Island's drinking water. Long Island's sole source of drinking water lies beneath many of the most contaminated places in New York state.

The Rouge is a river with old enemies and new allies. When it started production in 1928, the titanic Ford Rouge Complex along the Rouge River had everything needed to turn raw materials into automobiles, and it produced a lot of pollution, but today’s Ford Motor Co. is trying to turn around its dirty legacy. 

New on the Pure Water Gazette website:

Will Drinking Reverse Osmosis Water Turn Your Bones to Putty?  by Gene Franks.

Should You Eat Vegetables from Your Garden After a Flood?  by Carol O'Meary.

Boil Water Orders Are Increasing

What This Means to Residential Water Users

 by Gene Franks

“Boil water” alerts are issued by water suppliers when the safety of the water they deliver is in question. The standard instruction is that water should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute (longer at higher altitudes) to kill waterborne pathogens.

Formerly, government agencies tracked boil water alerts in the US as public information, but as the number of alerts has increased dramatically in recent times record keeping is no longer done. In the absence of such information, Dr. Kelly Reynolds of the University of Arizona recently used a Google News search to identify boil water alerts across the US for a two-week period in August 2013. Dr. Reynolds found 29 alerts during the period.

Alerts are issued for a variety of reasons–bad weather, especially flooding, a break in a water main, low system pressure, finding of fecal coliform by testing, system leaks, system maintenance, detection of E. coli or cryptosporidium by routing testing, and general elevated bacteria counts are the most common.

Adding a “point of entry” ultraviolet system to the home’s incoming water does away with the need to “boil water.” 

As pipes and pumps age, and as power outages and incidents of challenging weather become more frequent, it is certain that boil water alerts will become more common.

The boil water strategy for assuring micro-biologically safe water is at best a risky one. We have been conditioned to rely on the safety of our water systems to provide potable water, but this perception of safety is changing. Each time a pipe ruptures or pressure in the pipe goes down, microbes are drawn into the delivery system. A blanket “boil water” warning, even if given on time and received by all concerned, is a haphazard way to assure safety. Studies have shown that both reception of the alert and compliance with its recommendations are far below 100%.

It is certain that we have gone past the time of complete trust in the water delivery system to provide pathogen-free water. Just as more and more people are now relying on home treatment devices to provide chemical-free and more aesthetically pleasing water for drinking, cooking, and bathing, it is logical that “final barrier” devices to assure that water is free of bacteria, viruses and protozoa are becoming more common for city residents.

Fortunately, modern water treatment has developed many alternatives–from very tight filters for drinking water to whole house treatments like ultraviolet. These are certain to become prominent fixtures in US homes. As Dr. Reynolds says, “The inherent, unpredictable nature of the distribution system and the maintenance quality of the distributed water add credence to the need for routine POU [point of use] treatment.”

Reference: Water Conditioning and Purification,  Print version for Sept., 2013.

B. Sharper's Water Facts Page  

Gazette Numerical Wizard Bee Sharper Indexes the Numbers that Harper's Misses

Pure Water Gazette Numbers Wizard Bea Sharper Reveals Water’s Secrets

Percentage of the world’s water that is salty or otherwise undrinkable: 97%.

Percentage of the world’s water that is locked in glaciers and icecaps: 2%.

Percentage of the world’s water that is available for all of humanity’s needs: 1%.

Percentage of the human brain that is water: 75%.

Percentage of human blood that is water: 83%.

Percentage of  human bones that are water: 25%.

Tons of water that are evaporated each day by the sun: 1,000,000, 000,000 (one trillion).

In a one hundred year period, the amount of time spent in the ocean by the average water molecule: 98 years.

In a one hundred year period, the amount of time spent as ice by the average water molecule: 20 months.

In a one hundred year period, the amount of time spent in lakes and rivers by the average water molecule: 2 weeks.

In a one hundred year period, the amount of time spent in the atmosphere by the average water molecule: 1 week.

Amount of time that groundwater, once polluted, can remain polluted: several thousand years.

Number of the Earth’s people that must walk at least three hours to obtain drinking water: 1,000,000,000 (one billion).

Percentage of U. S. homes that have no running water: 2%.

Percentage of the Mexican population that has to haul or carry water: 15%.

Average times per day that water faucets are turned on in U.S. households: 70.

Estimated percentage of water used by U.S. families that could be saved by simple conservation methods: 50%.

Gallons of water produced by one inch of rain falling on one acre of land: 27,154.

U. S. population 200 years ago: 4,000,000.

U.S. population today: 250,000,000 +.

Amount of increase in available water during that time period: 0.

If present water consumption patterns continue,  fraction of the Earth’s population that will be living in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025: two persons in three.

During the 2002 Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the amount of water available daily to Israeli settlers in the West Bank: 92.5 gallons per person.

Amount of water available daily to their Palestinian neighbors: 18.5 gallons per person.

Gallons of water used in refining one gallon of crude oil: 1,851.

Gallons of water given off each day by evaporation by a single birch tree: 70.

Gallons of water given off each day by evaporation by a married birch tree: 70.


Source:  The above is reprinted from the Pure Water Gazette, with a couple of modifications.


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Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime

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