Archive for the 'Water Issues' Category

MPCA and Freshwater Future collaborate to spread the word about reducing PAH contamination from coal tar sealcoat

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 by

This post was co-authored by Al Innes of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Cheryl Kallio of Freshwater Future. If you’d like your sustainability project featured on the GLRPPR Blog, contact Laura Barnes.

Freshwater Future, a non-profit based in west Michigan, has been “spreading” the word about reducing PAH contamination from coal tar sealcoat across the Great Lakes.  The hundreds of citizens and community-based organizations in Freshwater Future’s network learned about coal tar PAH issues over the summer, and now universities, contractors, and local governments are making commitments to move from coal tar to safer alternatives.

PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are chemicals which can cause cancer in humans and be toxic to aquatic life, and new studies are connecting them to developmental disabilities in children.  Vehicle emissions and wood smoke are other sources of PAH pollution, but coal tar sealcoat, which is around 5% PAHs by weight, is a readily-reduced source.  Applied properly, the asphalt-based sealcoats available today are equivalent in performance and cost to coal tar, at 1/1000th the amount of PAHs.  Zero-PAH alternatives are available, as well.

In response to Freshwater Future’s outreach to date, 14 Michigan cities and townships have passed resolutions not to use coal tar on city property or to encourage residents to do the same. Their location along the Great Lakes and in the watershed is important, since studies conducted in Toronto and elsewhere show coal tar PAHs being carried to lakeshore sediments by runoff from paved surfaces.

Many of the contractors committing not to apply coal tar are located near the western Michigan cities taking action, so Freshwater Future and partners can help connect property owners in those areas to the committed contractors to help grow the market for safer alternatives.

In addition, two universities in Ontario, two in Michigan, and two in Illinois have pledged not to use coal tar on their paved surfaces.  The University of Michigan had previously ended its use.

Since the project began, over 8,000 individuals and organizations have been educated, 52 property owners and providers have voluntarily taken action, and pledged contractors interviewed have eliminated 93,500 gallons of coal tar sealcoat over 2 application seasons.  The midpoint estimate of the resulting PAH reductions is 39 tons.  Partners will gather voluntary reduction data for 2014 in November and December and submit final reports to the project’s funder, EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The wave of local bans and supplier/contractor commitments in Minnesota led to a statewide ban which took effect in 2014.

The Great Lakes protection and pollution prevention networks can continue coal tar PAH reduction by educating their contacts and clientele: businesses, shopping centers, schools, universities, places of worship, local governments, homeowner associations, citizens – really, anyone owning or maintaining asphalt pavement.  Information and tools for this outreach are available through the Freshwater Future web site, at http://freshwaterfuture.org/ourissues/coal-tar-sealants/.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will continue to accept reduction commitments from contractors, suppliers, universities, and other property owners in Great Lakes states (except in Minnesota where the statewide ban is in place) and Ontario.  MPCA staff will post these commitments and government actions in the Basin at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/uu4yx6y.  MPCA and partners encourage prevention and protection professionals to actively promote sign-ups by providers, and their hiring by pavement owners.

A compilation of project deliverables to date and links to information about the health and environmental issues associated with PAH pollution are available at https://storify.com/lbarnes/pah-pollution-from-coal-tar-sealants.

October is Rise Above Plastics Month

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 by

RAP logo

Rise Above Plastics Month

Rise Above Plastics Month is a month-long initiative encouraging the public to reduce their plastic footprint and raise awareness about the harmful effects caused by single-use plastics in our marine and coastal environments, including the Great Lakes region.

Throughout October, the Surfrider Foundation will ‘Rise Above Plastics’ by providing tips on how you can reduce your plastic footprint and simple ways to implement change in your daily routine. Take the Rise Above Plastics pledge to commit to using less plastics every day.

You can also join your local Surfrider Chapter’s annual plastic trash cleanup and enter Surfrider’s Plastic Art Contest. Show your creativity and help to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution. Enter to have a chance to win an epic prize pack including a Firewire Tibertek surfboard or Bureo skateboard, Spy + Surfrider Helm Sunglasses, ChicoBag and Surfrider gear.

The Rise Above Plastics program (RAP) is the Surfrider Foundation’s response to the problem of plastic litter in our ocean and marine environments. The goal of the program is to educate the public on the impacts single-use plastics have on marine environments, and how individuals can make changes in their daily lives and within their communities that will stem the flow of plastics into the environment. RAP also calls upon people to reduce their plastic footprint by reducing or eliminating the use of products such as single-use plastic water bottles and plastic bags.

Some facts about plastics compiled by RAP include:

  • The amount of plastic produced from 2000 – 2010 exceeds the amount produced during the entire last century.[1]
  • Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide.[2]
  • An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and up to 1 million sea birds die every year after ingesting or being tangled in plastic marine litter.[3]
  • Up to 80% of the plastic in our oceans comes from land-based sources.[4]
  • Plastics comprise up to 90% of floating marine debris.[5]
  • In 2009 about 3.8 million tons of waste plastic “bags, sacks and wraps” were generated in the United States, but only 9.4% of this total was recycled.[6]
  • Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins, and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life.[7]
  • Plastic bags are problematic in the litter stream because they float easily in the air and water, traveling long distances and never fully breaking down in water.
  • Cleanup of plastic bags is costly. California spends $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastic bags, and public agencies spend more than $300 million annually in litter cleanup.[8]
  • It is estimated that Americans go through about 100 billion plastic bags a year, or 360 bags per year for every man, woman and child in the country.[9]

Learn More

Plastics Pollution in the Great Lakes and the Marine Debris Problem
State University of New York researchers collaborated with the Los Angeles-based 5 Gyres Institute to study plastic pollutants in the Great Lakes Region. Read about their project and learn more about the problem of plastics pollution in the world’s water bodies. Newly updated to include recent research and news about microplastics pollution in the Great Lakes.

Brewers For Clean Water

Monday, July 7th, 2014 by

With water being the main ingredient in beer, having clean water is crucial to the brewing process. Not only can the slightest of impurities throw off the flavor of the batch tremendously, but it can also become a health concern. Dozens of craft brewers, many of which rely on water from the Great Lakes, launched a campaign last year with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), advocating for the strengthening of water quality policies. Attempts to lower the regulations on water in recent years has not only put the beer industry in jeopardy, but also threatens public health for many other industries. Watch this video to hear from the participating breweries about the campaign.

The campaign also has created a Facebook page to keep supporters informed of all updates regarding the campaign. From hosting sustainability talks with the breweries to creating petitions to be sent to the EPA, those who wish to support the campaign will find everything they need to become a part of the cause.

For more information and a complete list of local breweries involved in the campaign, visit the NRDC website.

To learn more about sustainability in other food processing industries, please visit the GLRPPR Sector Resource for Food Processing.

Improving Water Management in the Great Lakes Basin

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 by

A team led by the Great Lakes Commission is working with communities in the United States and Canada to identify and test the ecological and financial rationales for pursuing water conservation and green infrastructure practices, and pilot how this information can drive better water management throughout the Great Lakes region.

In order to be effective in the Great Lakes Region, the project team believes that water conservation must include strategies that impact municipal supply, stormwater, and wastewater, which involve engaging a different set of stakeholders than traditional water conservation programs.

The team will pilot this approach in six communities (three in the U.S., and three in Ontario). Participating communities include:

  • The Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario;
  • The City of Waterloo, Ontario;
  • The City of Guelph, Ontario;
  • The Township of Lyons, Michigan;
  • The Township of Commerce, Michigan; and
  • Southwest Oakland County, Michigan.

These communities extract water from a variety of ground and surface water sources and face challenges that are common throughout the basin. These  include the overuse of groundwater supplies, stream impacts from water withdrawal and discharge, and impacts related to stormwater runoff

A detailed impact and infrastructure assessment will be conducted in each of the six pilot communities. This will include:

  • Developing a set of management actions for each community that will reduce environmental impacts and decrease costs;
  • Tracking the rate at which the pilot communities implement the recommended actions and calculating the environmental and financial impacts; and
  • Creating and testing a series of knowledge transfer strategies that will help communities teach other communities.

The team will transfer the tools created in the pilots to communities throughout the basin. New communities of practice will be created around the most promising techniques that have ecological importance and basinwide applicability.

The project team has already facilitated a webinar entitled “Extreme Makeover: How Six Model Municipalities Are Greening Their Water Management Program and Their Bottom Line.” The archived webinar and presentation slides are available at http://glc.org/projects/water-resources/water-mgmt/water-mgmt-webinars/.

Contacts

For more information on this project, please contact John Jackson, Project Manager, jjackson@web.ca, 519-744-7503; or  Christine Manninen, GLC Project Manager, manninen@glc.org, 734-971-9135.

Minnesota Freshwater Society Offers Opportunities for Residents Interested in Pollution Prevention

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by

This post was authored by Lauren Murphy, who joined the GLRPPR staff in March. Lauren is a junior in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois.

Minnesota has always been a welcoming place for organizations advocating for pollution prevention. The Freshwater Society, a nonprofit organization established in 1968, is dedicated to promoting conservation, protection, and restoration of all freshwater resources, which plays a large role in pollution prevention of Minnesota waters.

Recently the Freshwater Society launched two projects aimed at taking action to restore Minnesota’s freshwater resources.

Master Water Stewards Program

The Freshwater Society and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District recently launched the Master Water Stewards program to certify and support community leaders to implement pollution prevention programs within the District. The program’s goals are to further educate the community, reduce pollutants from urban runoff, and allow more water to soak into the ground before running into storm sewer systems.

The MWS Program provides a 50-hour long program of courses and projects for residents of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District who would like to become volunteer community leaders for future pollution prevention projects.

Learn more about the program by watching this video.

If you are a resident of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and are interested in the program, visit the program’s web site for more information, a calendar of events, and for the application to join the 2014 class.

2014 State of Water Conference

The 2014 State of Water Conference will be held at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd, MN from May 1, 2014-May 2, 2014. It provides opportunities for individuals who are committed to improving and protecting water resources to network and connect with professionals from around the state, gain technical insights, and identify opportunities to become involved in water resource protection.

The conference will feature 70+ presenters, including Darby Nelson, author of the book For Love of Lakes, and Dr. Peter Sorenson, the head researcher at the new Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota, as well as a variety of breakout sessions offered throughout the two days. These workshops and breakout sessions will give attendees the latest information about water issues related to runoff pollution, local impacts, watersheds, aquatic habitat restoration, and aquatic invasive species. The full conference schedule can be found here:
http://freshwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/State-of-Water-brochure.pdf.

For more information and to register to attend the conference, visit http://www.conservationminnesota.org/state-of-water-conference/.

Great Lakes Commission launches database of restoration projects

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 by

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is improving habitat for fish, wildlife and people in communities across the eight-state Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Restoration Database (GLRD) showcases projects implemented under the Initiative’s Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration Focus Area in Fiscal Years 2010-2012 to increase awareness and improve communication on accomplishments in this important component of the restoration program.

The GLRD is a searchable database that enables users to search for projects using a variety of queries, including a key word search. A fact sheet can be generated for each project to provide more detailed information on its goals, objectives, location, recipient organization and contact. For more information on the GLRI visit www.glri.us.

Key features include:

  • Detailed project descriptions, objectives, habitat restoration metrics, and contact information for recipient organizations formatted as printable fact sheets;
  • An interactive map to assist with project location;
  • Ability to search by keyword, state, funding agency, and one or more habitat metrics.

Fate and Transport of Steroid Hormones and Veterinary Antibiotics Derived from Cattle Farms

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 by

ISTC Senior Chemist Wei Zheng received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the fate and transport of hormones and antibiotics from cattle farms. He recently submitted the following update to the USDA and agreed to share it with The GLRPPR Blog as well. The questions below were posed by the funder. For more information about this project, please contact Wei Zheng.

What is the water problem being addressed by your project? What are the main goals of your project?

Large volumes of manure-contaminated wastewater, wash water, and storm water runoff can be generated at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The reuse of CAFO wastewater on agricultural lands can decrease the amount of wastewater discharge into sensitive water bodies and beneficially utilize the nutrients in the discharge as fertilizers for irrigation applications. However, the wastewater from large confined-animal farms usually retains many contaminants, such as salts, pathogens, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, and excess amounts of nutrients, which could pose environmental and public health risks if widely applied for agricultural irrigation. This project focuses on how wastewater reuse from dairy and beef farms contributes to the problem of animal hormones and veterinary antibioticsin the environment.  The primary goal of this project is to investigate the environmental fate and transport of several commonly-occurring steroid hormones, veterinary antibiotics, and their metabolites derived from the agricultural use of CAFO manure and wastewater; minimize their contamination in soil and water; and thereby develop effective management strategies to protect valuable water supplies.

Who are your stakeholders and what has been the impact of your work on your stakeholders? Describe any new technologies that were developed from your work. Are your stakeholders implementing this new technology and if so, how many have implemented the technology? What new knowledge was gained?

This project adds to the body of knowledge concerning the environmental fate and transport of steroid hormones and veterinary antibiotics derived from CAFOs. Successful completion of this project will help the federal and state agencies to formulate effective regulatory programs, help animal farm operators to improve their land application design and operation processes, and help extension staff to develop effective management strategies to minimize the negative environmental effects of hormone and antibiotic contaminants on the surrounding water supplies. Our initial research investigated the transformation kinetics and mechanisms of three steroid hormones (17α-estradiol, 17β-estridiol and estrone) and two antibiotics (ceftiofur and florfenicol) in dairy lagoon and beef recycled wastewater. Our initial results suggest that increasing the residence time of wastewater in lagoon or aerobic settling tanks may be an economical, feasible, and efficient practice to degrade hormone and antibiotic contaminants and thus reduce their loads to the environment. These results will be useful for development of integrated management strategies to mitigate potential adverse impacts associated with the reuse of CAFO wastewater.

Environmental Stewardship Program Members Achieve Significant Environmental Reductions During 2008

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 by

When businesses engage in activities that result in improvement of their bottom line and a reduction in their carbon footprint, everybody wins.

Members of the Indiana Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) implemented environmental improvement projects during 2008 and in the process, achieved monumental results.  There are 45 ESP business members across the state, each committed to implementing or maintaining measurable environmental improvements, such as reducing water or energy use, decreasing solid or hazardous waste, or reducing air emissions. 

ESP members recently reported their 2008 accomplishments to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). During 2008, ESP members implemented pollution prevention initiatives that resulted in the reduction of:

  • Water use by 69,413,000 gallons, an amount comparable to 105 Olympic-sized swimming pools;
  • Electricity use by 10,939,149 kilowatt hours, a number comparable to the amount of electricity needed to run 4,101 residential air conditioners for one year; 
  • Miles driven by 243,789 miles, a distance comparable to driving from Terre Haute to Richmond and back 877 times; 
  • Natural gas consumption by 8,999 therms, which is like eliminating CO2 emissions from 1,875 propane cylinders used for home barbeques;
  • Carbon dioxide emissions by 13,099,680 pounds, which is the amount of carbon sequestered annually by 1,350 acres of pine forests;
  • Copper discharges to water by 3 pounds;
  • Solid waste sent to the landfill by 18,135,195 pounds, which is equivalent to the weight of about 47 Blue Whales;
  • Volatile organic compound emissions by 820,800 pounds, an amount comparable to emissions from painting the interiors of 34,200 homes;
  • Energy use by 2,325 million British Thermal Units, an amount comparable to the energy needed to operate 7 clothes washers for one year; 
  • Material use by 2,463,680 pounds, an amount comparable to the weight of 3,079 Monster truck tires; and,
  • Hazardous waste by 12,790 pounds, an amount comparable to the weight of one Asian elephant. 

“ESP members go beyond environmental requirements that protect Hoosiers and our environment,” said IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly. “Indiana wins when companies use sound business practices to demonstrate their core value of environmental protection.”

To become an ESP member, businesses must maintain an exemplary compliance record, certify that they have adopted and implemented an approved environmental management system, and commit to specific measures for continued improvement in their environmental performance. 

ESP members qualify for expedited permit review, flexibility in permitting, reduced reporting frequencies, and coordination of compliance inspections. To maintain ESP membership, companies must report on their environmental initiatives every year and reapply for ESP membership every three years.

Hoosier businesses can submit applications to IDEM for the Environmental Stewardship Program from September 1 through October 31 and April 1 through May 31.  For more details, visit IDEM’s Web site at www.idem.IN.gov/prevention/esp or contact IDEM at (800) 988-7901.

Overview of P2 GHG & Cost Savings Calculators

Friday, June 5th, 2009 by

It’s the final day of the GLRPPR/Region 7 Conference in Indianapolis, IN. On the agenda for this afternoon is a webinar presented by Natalie Hummel of the U.S. EPA providing an overview of two new measurement tools developed by U.S. EPA Headquarters. The GHG Calculator is designed to assist P2 managers, staff and grantees in calculating greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from established conversion factors in the following categories:

  • Electricity Conservation (GHG reductions from electricity conversation or reduced use of energy)
  • Green Energy (GHG reductions from switching to greener or renewable energy sources)
  • Fuel Substitution (GHG reductions from reduced fuel use, substitution to greener fuels)
  • Greening Chemistry (GHG reductions from reduced use of GWP chemicals)
  • Water Conservation (GHG reductions from reduced water use)
  • Materials Management (GHG reductions from green manufacturing processes and waste management scenarios)
  • Cross Reference to other applicable tools (A reference table that provides end users an overview of applicable GHG tools and models)

The P2 Results Database, a web-based tool, designed to collect and quantify P2 progress related to air, water, waste and energy reductions from non-profits, local, state, and federal entities plays a significant role in demonstrating P2 benefits on a regional and national level. A critical part of the P2 Results Database is documenting cost savings that result from government, businesses and facilities implementing P2 activities. This database uses a P2 cost calculator to quantify cost savings based on established methodologies and sound research. Over the last several months, the Pollution Prevention Program worked to update and redesign the tool to enhance functionality and better document cost benefits over time. Today’s webinar will also provide an overview of the cost calculator tool.

If you were unable to attend this week’s conference and/or the webinar provided today, or if you would like to recommend the webinar to your colleagues, the Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN) will be providing a similar webinar on June 18, 2009. See the GLRPPR calendar entry for the WSPPN webinar for details and a link to the event registration page.

For more useful calculators and links to your regional module of the P2 Results Data System, see the GLRPPR P2 Measurement & Calculators Sector Resource.

IDEM Honors Valparaiso as CLEAN Community

Friday, May 1st, 2009 by

Valparaiso residents have another reason to be proud of their community as their city government has achieved “CLEAN” status and is embarking on a new, positive environmental initiative through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM’s) CLEAN Community Challenge.

The CLEAN (Comprehensive Local Environmental Action Network) Community Challenge is a voluntary recognition program for units of local Indiana government that make significant commitments to environmental management. IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly presented a plaque and commemorative road sign to Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas during a CLEAN designation ceremony held at City Hall on April 13th.

“Valparaiso is a shining example for other communities through its commitment to increase recycling, improve educational outreach efforts and implement water conservation measures,” said Commissioner Easterly. “I applaud the entire Valparaiso community for its good work in protecting Hoosiers and our environment.”

CLEAN helps communities take steps to plan, develop, and implement a Quality of Life Plan, which focuses on reducing the potential environmental impacts associated with municipal operations. As part of the CLEAN challenge, Valparaiso has committed to achieving several environmental goals over the next three years. These include:  working to increase municipal solid waste diversion to 70 percent while increasing residential and business recycling participation to 75 percent; recycling 100 percent of municipally-generated fluorescent and mercury containing light bulbs; holding workshops to educate residents on rain barrels and rain gardens; constructing a rain garden on city property; and implementing five water conservation measures.

“I am very excited about the opportunity presented to Valparaiso through its participation in the CLEAN Community Challenge,” said Mayor Costas. “By meeting the CLEAN Community Challenge, Valparaiso is positioning itself to further improve our quality of life with an increased public awareness of environmental issues. Through a partnership between the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the City of Valparaiso, our residents will enjoy a healthier and cleaner community.”

The Indiana CLEAN Community Challenge is administered by IDEM in partnership with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Finance Authority. Partner agencies provide financial incentives to Indiana CLEAN Community members, such as better terms and improved opportunities for state grant and loan dollars.

Learn more about the Indiana CLEAN Community Challenge at www.cleancommunities.IN.gov.