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Welcome to the GET WET! Blog

This is the post excerpt.

All are invited to participate!

Welcome to the blog that is going to keep you informed about water issues!  Political, social, economic, human health, land use… you name it!  It has been my personal goal to educate the public to the need to understand that our water health is dependent on our actions and inaction.

Your community CAN protect your water! Logo Jpeg

Exploring real world environmental concerns must also include social, economic, political, human health, and natural resource implications. This allows for a comprehensive understanding of complicated environmental matters that do not stop at man-made state lines, or international lines of delineation. Water, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), waste, industrial farming, disaster relief, air quality, carbon sequestration, energy production, and fishing industries, to name a few, all encompass multiple disciplines in both its onset and its potential solutions. Educating the public to environmental sciences as a single discipline, taught from a text, within a classroom, whose antithesis is business, does not convey the entire picture.

The GET WET! Project addresses residential water needs by collaborating with local universities, government representatives, businesses, conservation commissions, ENGOs, parents, and community volunteers to assure all interested parties are heard. Focusing on local environmental issues through school-centered, community-based curriculum increases participation and opens a dialogue regarding local resources, jobs, human health, politics, and economics. Allowing the community to decide which of the concerns they feel deserves the most attention provides an autonomy that may be more palatable.

HOW BAD WILL THE “Dirty Water Rule” BE FOR OUR COUNTRY?

What’s the Clean Water Act, why is it important, and has it been a success?

In the late 1960s, many U.S. waters were little more than liquid waste dumps. The Cuyahoga River famously caught on fire, as did others. We lacked appreciation for the important functions of wetlands, like filtering pollution and curbing flooding, and allowed rampant destruction of them. And we failed to control the discharge of raw or barely-treated sewage all over the country.

These conditions were widely viewed to be unacceptable, so Congress responded and adopted the Clean Water Act. It was so groundbreaking that a prominent Senator described it as “perhaps the most comprehensive legislation that the Congress of the United States has ever developed in this particular field of the environment.”

The Act has helped us make enormous improvements, but we remain far short of achieving its aims. By virtually any measure, our water bodies are better off today than in 1972. Pollution from industrial operations and sewage treatment plants has been curbed significantly. Industry-specific discharge standards prevent more than 700 billion pounds of toxic pollutants every year. EPA has found that thousands of waterways now meet standards after once being too polluted to be used as states wished. And many of our nation’s most treasured waters, like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, have substantially improved.

But the U.S. still has a long way to go before Congress’s vision of fishable and swimmable waters everywhere is achieved. Today, more than half of assessed waters still do not meet all goals that states have established for them. And the country continues to lose wetlands, despite their widely-acknowledged ecological benefits.

I.      How does the Clean Water Act work?

The power of the Clean Water Act comes from the “comprehensive” scope it was designed to have. It includes pollution control programs for almost any kind of discharge you can imagine, and virtually every one of the Act’s critical safeguards applies wherever there is a water body that is considered a “water of the United States.” Those protections include:

  • The national goal that pollutant discharges “be eliminated by 1985”;
  • The absolute prohibition on discharging “any radiological, chemical, or biological warfare agent, any high-level radioactive waste, or any medical waste”;
  • The core requirement that if an entity is going to discharge pollutants into waters from a pipe or similar conveyance, it must first apply for and obtain a permit that limits the pollutants allowed to be discharged;
  • The obligation that states develop water quality standards protecting uses—like swimming or fishing—that the waterway should support and that EPA reviews to ensure they are adequately protective;
  • EPA’s review of cleanup targets to restore impaired waters;
  • The requirement to develop water body-specific control strategies to address toxic pollution problems;
  • The obligation that states prepare biennial reports on water quality conditions;
  • Protections against the discharge of oil or hazardous substances;
  • The bar on a vessel that “is not equipped with an operable marine sanitation device” from operating in protected waters;
  • The directive for states to develop management programs for pollution like agricultural runoff, and the related directive that EPA provide grants to assist with the implementation of such programs;
  • The directive that applicants for federal permits (like pipelines) first obtain the state’s okay that the discharge will comply with various requirements; and
  • Restrictions on the disposal of sewage sludge.

The federal law also empowers people affected by water pollution to go to court to enforce its critical safeguards.

Because these protections are triggered by the presence of “waters of the United States,” industrial polluters have long fought to shrink what qualifies for that designation to just the largest rivers and lakes in the country. Thanks to the Trump administration, they might soon get a lot of what they’ve wished for.

II.        What does the Dirty Water Rule proposal say?

The proposal would end decades of protection for several different kinds of water bodies, namely rain-dependent streams, wetlands without specified surface water connections to other waterways, certain ponds, and interstate waters. Although some of these features might be protected under other parts of the rule (for instance, the rule protects waters you can float a boat on), there’s no question that this would be the biggest backtrack on Clean Water Act coverage in the 46 years we’ve had the law.

The justification for this retreat? The administration claims it is making the rules clearer so that it’s easy to figure out what is in and out, but that’s hogwash – the proposal fails to define critical terms (like how often a stream needs to flow to qualify for coverage) and acknowledges that essential facts (like whether a stream is fed by groundwater or what the “typical” flow of a water body is) are either difficult or potentially costly to ascertain.

What’s really going on here, then, is that the proposal is just a giveaway to polluting industry. Fewer water bodies are protected, which means fewer restrictions on polluting and destroying such waters, which means industrial polluters need to devote less resources to complying with pollution limits.

III.       How bad will the Dirty Water Rule be for the country?

Here’s the most bananas part of the whole scheme—the administration claims not to know how many water bodies will be affected and says it’s unable for a variety of reasons to quantify the public health and environmental consequences of the proposal. If that’s true, it’s irrational and reckless.

The Clean Water Act is supposed to protect people from swimming in dangerously contaminated waters, catching fish that are unhealthy to eat, or drinking water supplies fouled by industrial pollution or sewage discharges. It also is a key restriction on wetlands destruction, which helps preserve their flood-protection functions. But the Trump administration wants you to just accept that it doesn’t know how prevalent those public health and safety threats might be if it persists with its plan.

The administration doesn’t even deny that its proposal could hurt people. In fact, they produced the figure below that traces some (but not nearly all) of the scary outcomes that could flow from restricting the coverage of just three Clean Water Act programs.

However, the administration—over and over again—says that it can’t reliably estimate the degree to which the nation’s waters will be affected by the proposal, much less the adverse impacts that will result from their scheme. I suspect that’s not because it can’t be done; my guess is that they’re hiding the ball to try to avoid the public outrage that would come from an honest assessment of the harm the proposal could lead to.

I think that’s also why EPA has assailed estimates of the potential impacts of the proposal and even disavowed prior work that the agency itself did, which indicates that at least 18% of streams and roughly half of the wetlands in the country would lose protection under the law.

Wow, that’s terrible. It couldn’t get worse, right?

The proposal is scary enough on its face, but what’s truly terrifying is that EPA has hidden a bunch of Easter eggs (rotten ones, that is) in the document, which would allow them to adopt a far worse final rule later. For instance, the proposal invites input on whether EPA should also exclude seasonal streams from federal protection, in addition to rain-dependent ones.

And the anti-clean water forces aren’t dumb—you can bet they’ll reinforce this message in their public posturing about the proposal and in their comments on it. In fact, in an opinion piece reacting to the Dirty Water Rule proposal, a senior attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation—which commonly litigates cases challenging the implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act—argues that the proposal isn’t nearly aggressive enough in slashing protections. He claims that the “lackluster proposal” would still give too much authority to “overzealous enforcement bureaucrats” at EPA.

Is all hope lost?

This is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. The Trump administration must take public comment on the proposal, respond substantively to those comments, and will undoubtedly face a tidal wave of litigation if it persists.

And there’s a historical precedent for stopping these kinds of attacks. Early in President George W. Bush’s administration, EPA considered weakening these same protections, though far less drastically than the Trump administration’s proposal now. In response to overwhelming opposition from states, hunters and anglers, and other concerned citizens, that initiative was scuttled.

So, please tell the administration what you think—again, NRDC’s comment pagecouldn’t be simpler—and let them know that you don’t want them dumping all over your right to clean water.

 

FOR MORE INFO: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jon-devine/lowdown-trumps-lowdown-dirty-water-rule

 

TWO STUDENTS TAKE THE TOP HONORS

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Congratulations to our students who presented at the 28th annual Southwest Florida Water Resource Conference in Ft. Myers yesterday. Joseph Rubsamen ’19 placed first, and Blake Weger ’19 placed second. Congrats to all our students who presented their research at the conference. Once again, Oxbridge Academy was the only high school presenting research at the conference.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmedia%2Fset%2F%3Fset%3Da.2120575527999180%26type%3D3&width=500“>More info HERE

STUDENT WINS AT NATIONAL COLLEGE COMPETITION

Lara Carter ’19 was named one of two winners at the American Water Resources Association national conference last month. Lara presented her research on “The determination of the pharmaceutical NSAID flunixin in surface water sources as a result of large animal waste runoff in rural communities of South Florida.” Lara competed against college students, and Oxbridge was the only high school present at the conference. Congrats, Lara!

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FOR MORE INFO: https://www.facebook.com/OxbridgeAcademy/photos/a.170261403030612/2059861107403956/?type=3&theateremy/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scientists theorize new origin story for Earth’s water

This view of Earth’s horizon was taken by an Expedition 7 crew member onboard the International Space Station, using a wide-angle lens while the Station was over the Pacific Ocean.
Credit: NASA

Earth’s water may have originated from both asteroidal material and gas left over from the formation of the Sun, according to new research. The new finding could give scientists important insights about the development of other planets and their potential to support life.

In a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, researchers propose a new theory to address the long-standing mystery of where Earth’s water came from and how it got here.

The new study challenges widely-accepted ideas about hydrogen in Earth’s water by suggesting the element partially came from clouds of dust and gas remaining after the Sun’s formation, called the solar nebula.

To identify sources of water on Earth, scientists have searched for sources of hydrogen rather than oxygen, because the latter component of water is much more abundant in the solar system.

Many scientists have historically supported a theory that all of Earth’s water came from asteroids because of similarities between ocean water and water found on asteroids. The ratio of deuterium, a heavier hydrogen isotope, to normal hydrogen serves as a unique chemical signature of water sources. In the case of Earth’s oceans, the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio is close to what is found in asteroids.

But the ocean may not be telling the entire story of Earth’s hydrogen, according to the study’s authors.

“It’s a bit of a blind spot in the community,” said Steven Desch, a professor of astrophysics in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona and co-author of the new study, led by Peter Buseck, Regents’ Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and School of Molecular Sciences at Arizona State University. “When people measure the [deuterium-to-hydrogen] ratio in ocean water and they see that it is pretty close to what we see in asteroids, it was always easy to believe it all came from asteroids.”

More recent research suggests hydrogen in Earth’s oceans does not represent hydrogen throughout the entire planet, the study’s authors said. Samples of hydrogen from deep inside the Earth, close to the boundary between the core and mantle, have notably less deuterium, indicating this hydrogen may not have come from asteroids. Noble gases helium and neon, with isotopic signatures inherited from the solar nebula, have also been found in the Earth’s mantle.

In the new study, researchers developed a new theoretical model of Earth’s formation to explain these differences between hydrogen in Earth’s oceans and at the core-mantle boundary as well as the presence of noble gases deep inside the planet.

Modeling Earth’s beginning

According to their new model, several billion years ago, large waterlogged asteroids began developing into planets while the solar nebula still swirled around the Sun. These asteroids, known as planetary embryos, collided and grew rapidly. Eventually, a collision introduced enough energy to melt the surface of the largest embryo into an ocean of magma. This largest embryo would eventually become Earth.

Gases from the solar nebula, including hydrogen and noble gases, were drawn in by the large, magma-covered embryo to form an early atmosphere. Nebular hydrogen, which contains less deuterium and is lighter than asteroidal hydrogen, dissolved into the molten iron of the magma ocean.

Through a process called isotopic fractionation, hydrogen was pulled towards the young Earth’s center. Hydrogen, which is attracted to iron, was delivered to the core by the metal, while much of the heavier isotope, deuterium, remained in the magma which eventually cooled and became the mantle, according to the study’s authors. Impacts from smaller embryos and other objects then continued to add water and overall mass until Earth reached its final size.

This new model would leave Earth with noble gases deep inside its mantle and a lower deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio in its core than in its mantle and oceans.

The authors used the model to estimate how much hydrogen came from each source. They concluded most was asteroidal in origin, but some of Earth’s water did come from the solar nebula.

“For every 100 molecules of Earth’s water, there are one or two coming from solar nebula,” said Jun Wu, assistant research professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and lead author of the study.

An insightful model

The study also offers scientists new perspectives about the development of other planets and their potential to support life, the authors said. Earth-like planets in other solar systems may not all have access to asteroids loaded with water. The new study suggests these exoplanets could have obtained water through their system’s own solar nebula.

“This model suggests that the inevitable formation of water would likely occur on any sufficiently large rocky exoplanets in extrasolar systems,” Wu said. “I think this is very exciting.”

Anat Shahar, a geochemist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, who was not involved with the study, noted the hydrogen fractionation factor, which describes how the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio changes when the element dissolves in iron, is currently unknown and difficult to measure. For the new study, this property of hydrogen had to be estimated.

The new model, which fits in well with current research, could be tested once experiments reveal the hydrogen fractionation factor, Shahar said.

“This paper is a very creative alternative to what is an old problem,” Shahar said. “The authors have done a good job of estimating what these different fractionation factors would be without having the experiments.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Geophysical UnionNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jun Wu, Steven J. Desch, Laura Schaefer, Linda T. Elkins-Tanton, Kaveh Pahlevan, Peter R. Buseck. Origin of Earth’s Water: Chondritic Inheritance Plus Nebular Ingassing and Storage of Hydrogen in the CoreJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 2018; DOI: 10.1029/2018JE005698

FOR MORE INFORMATION:  American Geophysical Union. “Scientists theorize new origin story for Earth’s water.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181107130306.htm>.

Plastic microfibers found for first time in wild animals’ stool, from S. A. fur seals

South American Fur Seal

For the first time, plastic microfibers have been discovered in wild animals’ stool, from South American fur seals. The findings were made by a team of Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers at the University of Georgia, who suggest examining scat from pinnipeds can be an efficient way to monitor environmental levels of microfibers and microplastics in the environment. Their study was published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.

“It’s no secret that plastic pollution is one of the major threats to marine ecosystems, but we’re learning now just how widespread that problem is,” said Dr. Mauricio Seguel, a research fellow at the University of Georgia. “These samples are invisible to the naked eye. We want to understand factors that are driving their distribution and what this means for animals in the Southern Hemisphere.”

The team examined the scat of 51 female South American fur seals on the remote Guafo Island, in southwestern Chile, from December 2015 to March 2016. Each sample’s inorganic material was dissolved in a solution in a lab, leaving only the microscopic, plastic particles to be analyzed. Researchers then found 67 percent of the samples showed a remarkable abundance of microfibers, which until now had only been reported in animals fed in captivity.

Microplastics are plastic fragments smaller than 5 millimeters. Microfibers are the least studied form of microplastic. They are small hairs of plastic, less than 1 millimeter in size, from materials such as polyester or nylon and can end up in the ocean through waste water after cleaning, no matter how thorough the treatment. They also can absorb a wide array of pollutants.

The researchers believe the microfibers arrived at Guafo Island through changing ocean currents, before being consumed by plankton and continuing up the food chain through fish and, finally, to the seals. There isn’t enough evidence to determine if microfibers have any adverse effects on mammals, but some studies have indicated morphological changes in fish.

Scat analysis, the team noted, could be a good tool to monitor the exposure of marine mammals to plastics as it’s effective and non-invasive, poses no danger to either the researcher or the animal, and it’s easy to identify both fur seals and their feces. Dr. Seguel says his colleagues are conducting similar, follow-up tests in other parts of South America.

“It’s not too late to act to heal our oceans, but one of the first steps is determining how much we have damaged the ecosystem through our activities, like producing and disposing of plastic,” said Dr. Kelly Diehl, Morris Animal Foundation Interim Vice President of Scientific Programs. “Studies like these will help us learn those answers so we can begin to make better decisions for the health of marine life.”

Morris Animal Foundation has funded other fur seal studies at Guafo Island with Dr. Seguel’s team. One found that factors that contributed to a die-off of South American fur seal pups included mites, pneumonia and changing sea surface temperature. In another, researchers discovered hookworms feed at a constant rate on their seal pup hosts before they produce eggs and die, a strategy which also often kills the pups as well.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Morris Animal FoundationNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

 

Journal Reference:

  1. Angela Toepp, Mandy Larson, Geneva Wilson, Tara Grinnage-Pulley, Carolyne Bennett, Adam Leal-Lima, Bryan Anderson, Molly Parrish, Michael Anderson, Hailie Fowler, Jessica Hinman, Eric Kontowicz, Jane Jefferies, Marvin Beeman, Jesse Buch, Jill Saucier, Phyllis Tyrrell, Radhika Gharpure, Caitlin Cotter, Christine Petersen. Randomized, controlled, double-blinded field trial to assess Leishmania vaccine effectiveness as immunotherapy for canine leishmaniosisVaccine, 2018; 36 (43): 6433 DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.08.087

FOR MORE INFORMATION:Morris Animal Foundation. “Plastic microfibers found for first time in wild animals’ stool, from S. A. fur seals.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181109185723.htm>.

Nestle has been bottling and selling water it has no right to in drought-stricken California, state says

Demonstrators protest against Nestle bottling water during the California drought, outside a Nestle Arrowhead water bottling plant in Los Angeles

Nestlé has been bottling and selling water that it does not have the legal right to use, officials in California have concluded.

Fights over water are a constant in California, exacerbated when drought years make the supply especially scarce. Since 2015, officials with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) had received numerous complaints that Nestlé was claiming water from the San Bernardino National Forest to which it had no right and then selling it under its Arrowhead brand.

Because California allocates water rights in part based on who got there first, getting to the bottom of those allegations required a deep dive into history. Nestlé cited a 150-year-old claim by a man named David Noble Smith whose property later became the site of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel, for instance.

The company’s materials tout its history in California and its commitment to “sourcing water exclusively from carefully selected mountain springs,” which “ensures that every drop is as crystal clear as the water revered by Native Americans for its healing powers”.

“Westerners have savoured the natural goodness of Arrowhead water since bottling began in the 1890s,” the company’s website proclaims.

After combing through decades worth of permitting information, the water board declared last week that the company had no basis for much of the water it was draining from the Strawberry Canyon watershed. It said the company’s invocation of David Noble Smith was “not valid for Nestlé’s current appropriative diversion and use of water from the San Bernardino National Forest”.

“A significant portion of the water currently diverted by Nestlé appears to be diverted without a valid basis of right,” the report said.

Ultimately, the board found Nestlé had the right to about 26 acre-feet a year, or about 8.5m gallons, but had averaged some 192 acre-feet a year, or about 62m gallons.

The board’s report isn’t the same as an enforceable order. It issued a series of recommendations for Nestlé in a letter to the company, including suggesting the company “cease any unauthorised diversions”, submit a compliance plan and secure a permit for diverting water beyond its allowance.

In a statement, Nestlé said it was pleased the water board had vindicated its claim to “a significant amount of the water in Strawberry Canyon”.

“We look forward to cooperating with the SWRCB during the review process and to providing the necessary documents to supplement the SWRCB’s report, including producing information requested from over a century ago, to the extent that it is available,” the statement said.

While California law does not prohibit private companies like Nestlé from bottling the state’s water, the company is a regular target for environmentalists, Native Americans and other activists.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/nestle-water-selling-diverting-bottled-arrowhead-san-bernardino-forest-california-a8130686.html

STUDY LOOKS AT NEW WAYS TO REMOVE MULTI-RESISTANT BACTERIA FROM SEWAGE

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An ultrafiltration system consists of extremely fine membrane sections, in which antibiotics-resistant bacteria are removed from the sewage. Credit: HyReKA

GERMANY, NOV 8, 2018 — Multi-resistant bacteria have learned to survive treatments with antibiotics by developing defense mechanisms. Not all of them are dangerous for human beings. Still, these bacteria are able to transmit their resistance genes to disease-causing pathogens. In this way, the number of resistant germs increases in the environment.

“When the bacteria spread, people have contact with them more often. If we do not take action against the spread, the number of effective antibiotics will decrease and, in the end, there will be few substances only or no substances with which we can fight a disease,” says Professor Thomas Schwartz of KIT’s Institute of Functional Interfaces (IFG).

The microbiologist and his team study water bodies for the abundance and spread of clinically relevant antibiotics resistances and bacteria that may be dangerous to humans with aweakened immune system, small children, and elderly people. “With the sewage from hospitals, nursing homes, domestic areas, slaughterhouses, and agriculture, resistant bacteria enter sewage treatment plants. Here, we detected bacteria not only at the inlets, but also at the outlets,” Schwartz says. Hence, current sewage treatment methods remove part of the bacteria only, while the remainder is discharged into rivers and creeks together with the processed water.

For this reason, the scientists test and assess various methods for the removal of these critical pathogens in sewage treatment plants: an ultrafiltration plant, an ozone and UV treatment, a combination of both, and activated charcoal treatment. “In the case of ultrafiltration, water flows through extremely fine membrane sections and the amount of antibiotics-resistant bacteria can be reduced to such an extent that they can hardly be detected anymore. Ozone treatment, also in combination with UV radiation, enables a smaller, but still promising reduction of germs. For activated charcoal, we found no efficient change, i.e. no reduction,” says the microbiologist.

Within HyReKA, the scientists plan to develop the ultrafiltration system to maturity and to optimize ozone and UV treatment to enhance reduction efficiency. In addition, the scientists of KIT set up an assessment concept for the individual methods, such that study parameters can also be applied to other sewage treatment methods. “In this way, we might provide hospitals, nursing homes or agricultural facilities, where the risk of resistant bacteria can also be suspected to be high, with these technologies to reduce the load acting on municipal sewage treatment plants,” Schwartz says.

HyReKA
HyReKA is the German acronym of “Biologically and Hygenico-medical Relevance and Control of Antiobiotics-resistant Pathogens in Clinical, Agricultural, and Municipal Sewage and their Importance in Raw Waters.”

 

SOURCE: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology