In the news: A “stirring” solution to algae problems?

February 6th, 2014 by
Jordan Lake in North Carolina suffers from a condition similar to Lake Erie – algal blooms that threaten wildlife and water quality. Due to nutrient runoff, the blooms continue to grow and pose a significant problem for the community that relies on it for water. 
While the EPA rules regarding processes and procedures to reduce runoff and mitigate the problem await implementation, there is a proposal for a potentially less expensive and more immediate way to reduce the algal blooms in the lake. 
“The N.C. General Assembly authorized a $1.44 million plan to put 36 floating water circulators into the lake. It’s a hefty price tag, but is actually one of the drivers for the experiment. If it works, the savings could be huge as costs for implementing the EPA rules are estimated at $1 to $2 billion.
Representatives from Medora Corporation, the company that will supply the mixers, say that the mixing process may confuse the algae, making them think they’re at different depths in the water. It could make them more vulnerable to viruses. The reps also say the mixers will work, claiming a 90 to 95 percent success rate in other lakes.”
Read more about the proposal at the link above.

In the news: Federal judge’s ruling moves Chicago closer to clean water compliance

January 30th, 2014 by
The Municipal Water Reclamation District of Chicago is able (and required) to move towards full compliance with the Clean Water Act and other related guidelines as a result of a federal judge approving the consent decree. 
More info on what that means from
“Some good and long-awaited stormwater news quietly dropped the other day—a federal judge approved the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s (MWRD) Consent Decree, which is a binding agreement detailing very specific steps MWRD will take to move toward full compliance with the Clean Water Act and other federal guidelines on an equally specific timeline. There has been and will continue to be debate about whether the Consent Decree is strong enough, fast enough or green enough. But the reality is that it is now in place, and I’m excited that we can finally get to work on something, rather than sitting around waiting. I don’t read too many court rulings, but I found this one quite scannable.  
MWRD, of course, is responsible for wastewater and stormwater management throughout Cook County; on a daily basis it discharges treated effluent to area waterways, and that water must meet Clean Water Act standards. The same requirements hold true in storms, and that’s where most of the impetus for the Consent Decree lies: If there is more rain more quickly than MWRD’s infrastructure system can handle, the result is overflows of untreated wastewater and stormwater into those same waterways…resulting it MWRD being out of compliance with aspects of its Clean Water Act (and associated regulation) requirements. To be fair, many other metropolitan areas have the same problems, and as a result have their own Consent Decree in place. Several years ago MWRD, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ill. Environmental Protection Agency began working out the requirements—finish the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) by X, improve collection of ‘floatables’ in our waterways by Y, etc. When the draft Consent Decree was released for public comment, two separate coalitions of environmental organizations opined that the whole thing should be faster and greener. A federal judge was asked to determine if the requirements were reasonable, that went on for a bit, he decided they were, and now it’s what we have to work with, so let’s get to work.”
Read the complete post at the link above, which contains information on specific targets and goals related to moving toward Clean Water Act compliance.

Research mission beginning today looks into microplastic pollution of the Great Lakes

August 8th, 2013 by
IISG’s Laura Kammin and Anjanette Riley set sail today on a mission to find plastics in Lake Michigan. The trip is a part of a larger effort to determine if the plastics and microplastics that have been found in the world’s oceans are an issue in the Great Lakes too. Sampling kicked off last year with research trips on Lakes Huron, Superior, and Erie, and the findings came as a bit of a surprise – millions of tiny plastic particles floating in the water in even higher concentrations than in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The first round of sampling revealed that the Lakes are home to between 1,500 and 1.7 million plastic particles per square mile, with Lake Erie housing the largest concentrations. Dr. Sherri “Sam” Mason of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia, Dr. Lorena Rios-Mendoza of University of Wisconsin, and Dr. Marcus Erikson of 5 Gyres Institute have determined that much of the plastic they found was actually microbeads, found in many brands of toothpaste and facial and body scrubs. These tiny pieces of plastic are less than a millimeter in diameter, much too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment facilities before that water is released into nearby lakes and rivers.

Anjanette and Laura, along with researchers from SUNY at Fredonia and 5 Gyres Institute, are on Lake Michigan this week to see how the plastic load there compares to the other Great lakes. The crew will collect approximately 20 samples between now and August 10 as they zigzag their way across southern Lake Michigan. Dr. Mason will process the samples in the coming months. The research team also plans to extend the project to Lake Ontario and get a second round of samples from Lake Erie later this summer.
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