GET WET! & OAPB Work to Help St. Lucie River

Oxbridge Academy senior Robbie Linck, of Palm Beach, interns at BioTools and helps unlock mystery to cause of toxic algae bloom in St. Lucie Estuary. 
Oxbridge Academy senior Robbie Linck, of Palm Beach, interns at BioTools and helps unlock mystery to cause of toxic algae bloom in St. Lucie Estuary.


Oxbridge student helps unlock mystery of toxic algae bloom

When people ask Robbie Linck, a senior at Oxbridge Academy, how he spent his summer vacation, they won’t get the usual answer of a family trip or a part-time job. The aspiring young scientist spent his summer as a research intern at BioTools, a Jupiter firm, conducting scientific research to help unlock the mystery to the cause of the recent toxic algae bloom in the St. Lucie River and estuary. He will present a paper on his finding in October at the American Water Resources Association’s annual Water Resources Conference in Portland, Ore.

Mr. Linck is one of four Oxbridge Academy students who interned at the biotech firm. The others are senior Gabrielle Gray-Case, junior Sarah Garelick and sophomore Alexa Perry.

“My internship functions as a way of assisting my research into the St. Lucie River Watershed,” said Mr. Linck, 17, who lives in Palm Beach. “The data I extract through the water evaluation I’m doing at BioTools will be used as part of my presentation at the annual Water Resources Conference in October as well as for the paper I’ll be publishing this winter.” Mr. Linck uses BioTools’ “Bio-Raman” microscope to determine the presence or absence of sugars within water samples collected from the St. Lucie watershed.

Mr. Linck’s research involves analyzing water samples taken from the watershed contributing flows into the St. Lucie estuary to determine the presence of sucralose, an indicator compound for the presence of human feces. His findings could help determine if improperly functioning septic systems are a major contributing factor to the algae growth in the area waterways.

He’s “an amazing student,” says Oxbridge science teacher Teresa Thornton. “Working with the Get Wet Organization, Robbie and other Oxbridge students assisted middle school students with collecting water samples in a number of private wells around the St. Lucie Estuary. His research involves analysis of those water samples and then analyzing the results and modeling the watershed dynamics to determine potential impacts. It’s the beginning of long-term research,” she said. “Once we have more samples, it could assist the government in decision-making regarding practices that have an impact on the water quality in that area.”

In addition to the practical applications of his research to add to the body of knowledge being used to pinpoint the source of algae growth in the St. Lucie River, Mr. Linck is developing proficiency within a professional bio lab. “I’m gaining valuable experience using specific instruments in my research, the likes of which can almost exclusively be found within pharmaceutical companies and collegiate laboratories,” he said.

BioTool research scientist Juanita Sanchez is supervising the aspiring scientist’s work. “I like the way that Robbie approaches the issue,” she said. “He has so many questions about our methods and techniques. He has done a lot of independent research himself and that takes him to another level. He’s one of the students I will always remember.” ¦





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Poland Spring Water is committing ‘colossal fraud,’ lawsuit says



  • The class-action lawsuit claims that parent company Nestle Waters North America is bottling common groundwater that doesn’t meet the federal definition of spring water.


  • A Nestle Waters representative says the water meets all relevant federal and state regulations for spring water.



A lawsuit claims that Poland Spring Water is deceiving consumers with evergreen labels that say their bottle contains “100 percent natural spring water” that hails from Maine.

The class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Connecticut claims that parent company Nestle Waters North America is bottling common groundwater that doesn’t meet the federal definition of spring water.

A Nestle Waters representative says the water meets all relevant federal and state regulations for spring water.

Nestle Waters settled a 2003 Connecticut lawsuit claiming Poland Spring’s water was not sourced deep in the Maine woods.

The lawsuit comes as the Stamford, Connecticut-based company embarks on an expansion in Maine amid rising demand for bottled water.

Nestle is seeking state approval to source water from a public water district well in Lincoln.



Army Corps gives input in Florida-Georiga water war

TALLAHASSEE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a key player in Florida’s decades-old legal fight with Georgia over water flow in the Apalachicola River, has weighed into the pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The federal agency’s comments, which were filed in a brief Monday, are important because a special master has recommended that Florida’s claim for relief be denied because the Corps, which controls water flow through the region in a series of dams and reservoirs, was not directly involved in the lawsuit.

“Because the Corps is not a party, no decree entered by this court can mandate any change in the Corps’ operations in the basin,” Ralph Lancaster wrote in his special master’s report in February. “Without the ability to bind the Corps, I am not persuaded that the court can assure Florida the relief it seeks.”

In its brief, the federal agency said it was possible that the U.S. Supreme Court could impose a water-use cap on Georgia without requiring the Corps to change its policies for handling the dams and reservoirs in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system.

“It thus may remain possible to design a consumption cap that would provide Florida with additional water at some points without any alteration of the Corps’ operations, as Florida contends,” the Corps’ brief said.

But the federal agency also said a court ruling requiring more extensive changes in the water-flow policies in the region would have to be viewed as “part of the constellation of laws to be considered by the Corps when deciding how best to operate the federal projects in the ACF (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint) basin for their congressionally authorized purposes.”

“It is impossible to define the limits of the Corps’ ability to make those releases consistent without knowing the precise contours of the decree and implications for other project purposes and storage regimens,” the brief said.

The brief also warned there is the “significant and difficult question” as to whether any additional water releases would be permitted under the already approved “master manual,” an operating guide for the water-control system in the region.

The Corps agreed this year to provide 621 million gallons per day to Georgia cities from the Lake Lanier reservoir near Atlanta. Florida opposed that decision, and environmental groups and the state of Alabama are challenging the decision in separate lawsuits.

The Corps’ brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case is the latest step in the costly, protracted dispute between Florida and Georgia that resulted in a 2013 lawsuit alleging Georgia diverts too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system and that the diversions have damaged Apalachicola Bay and Franklin County’s seafood industry, including its signature oysters.

Georgia, which wants the Supreme Court to adopt the special master’s recommendation, has countered that any limits on its water use will undermine its economy, including the growth of the Atlanta area and the state’s agriculture industry in southeastern Georgia.

In a brief filed this summer, Florida asked the Supreme Court to reject the special master’s report and return the case for more deliberation.

Late last month, Florida’s entire congressional delegation, including the two U.S. senators, wrote a letter to President Donald Trump asking that the administration and the Corps remain “neutral” in the dispute.

“Rather than intervening in Florida v. Georgia, it is our hope that the (Corps) will instead take all steps possible within its existing authorities to manage vital basins, including the ACF, in ways that protect downstream ecosystems and the communities that rely on them,” the delegation wrote.

In Tallahassee on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he had not seen the Corps’ brief but added, “I haven’t been enamored by the way the Corps of Engineers has handled this issue.”

Nelson said the Corps’ historic control of the water flow in the river basin has “starved” the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay of the natural mix of freshwater and saltwater, which is critical to the oyster population.

Asked if he was confident that Florida would win a favorable decision from the Supreme Court, Nelson said: “I’m confident that at the end of the day the right thing is what should be done. The right thing is, all right, Georgia, you’ve got to start sharing your water like Mother Nature intended, instead of holding it all up for you.”


June 9, 2017    Published in General



Students from eight classrooms in six schools across the Ossipee Watershed participated in Ground Water Education through Water Evaluation and Testing (known by its acronym GET WET), facilitated by Green Mountain Conservation Group’s  Education Coordinator, Dr. Karen Deighan.

Sandwich Central School, Freedom Elementary School, Cornerstone Christian Academy, Ossipee Central School, K.A. Brett School and Molly Ockett Middle School all took part in this hands-on science based program that teaches local youth about groundwater and stratified drift aquifers.

GET WET provides students an opportunity to use the science they are learning in the classroom and apply it to their lives by testing their own well water.

Dr. Theresa Thornton founded GET WET specifically for rural areas that depend largely on private wells for drinking water. Students in the Ossipee Watershed learned how to collect samples of their well water following a protocol and then bringing it into the classroom to test their water for six parameters: pH, iron, conductivity, hardness, chloride and nitrates.

The program also helps students learn how to create a long-term database of groundwater quality data. When the testing was complete, students analyzed their data and found the latitude and longitude coordinates of their wells using Google Earth which allowed them to see their collective results in the form of graphs and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps.

Classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, Green Mountain Conservation Group staff and volunteers, including Noreen Downs and Maud Anderson helped guide students through these scientific procedures.

To learn more about GET WET or any of Green Mountain Conservation Group’s other educational programs, contact Karen Deighan at Green Mountain Conservation Group at 539-1859 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..”> GET WET is partially funded through the Quimby Foundation and NHDES, Local Source Water Protection Grant funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.


Read more at the Conway Daily Sun:

Trump administration to propose repealing rule giving EPA broad authority over water pollution

Tidal saltmarsh in coastal Washington.  (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)


President Trump’s administration will revoke a rule that gives the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority over regulating the pollution of wetlands and tributaries that run into the nation’s largest rivers, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday.

Testifying before Congress, Pruitt — who earlier said he would recuse himself from working on active litigation related to the rule — said that the agency would “provide clarity” by “withdrawing” the rule and reverting standards to those adopted in 2008.

Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, had sued EPA over the regulation, saying it “usurps” state authority, “unlawfully broadens” the definition of waters of the United States and imposes “numerous and costly obligations” on landowners.

A withdrawal was expected, based on the executive order Trump signed in February targeting the rule. But this is the first clear signal of how the EPA will act on the president’s order.

The current rule, known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS), unambiguously gives EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers authority that many think the agencies already possessed under the Clean Water Act. The 1972 law gave the agencies control over navigable rivers and interstate waterways, but a series of court rulings left the extent of that power ambiguous. The Obama administration sought to end a decade of confusion by finalizing the WOTUS rule, which took effect in August 2015, triggering protests from a variety of real estate development, agricultural and industrial interests.

The existing regulation covers wetlands adjacent to either traditional navigable waters or interstate waters, as well as streams serving as tributaries to navigable waters. The rule says that wetlands and tributaries must be “relatively permanent,” a phrase used in previous court opinions, which means they can be intermittent. Defining it this way extends federal jurisdiction to 60 percent of the water bodies in the United States.

Trump signed an executive order in late February calling on EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to revisit the regulation, a move he described as “paving the way for the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.”

The executive order instructed the agencies to change the interpretation of a 2006 Supreme Court decision on what falls under the federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. In the Rapanos v. United States decision, the court split three ways. Its four most conservative justices at the time offered a very constrained view that only “navigable waters” met this test. But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who refused to join either the conservatives or the liberals, said in a concurring opinion that the government could intervene when there was a “significant nexus” between large water bodies and smaller, as well as intermittent, ones.

Trump’s executive order said that federal officials should rely on the dissenting opinion of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who argued the law should only apply to “navigable waters.” No court has ever ruled that this test is the single decisive threshold for triggering Clean Water Act protections.

“This proposal strikes directly at public health,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “It would strip out needed protections for the streams that feed drinking water sources for 1 in every 3 Americans.” She called it a “reckless attack on our waters and health.”

Pruitt told senators in testimony Tuesday that the Obama-era rule “created a situation where farmers and ranchers, landowners across the country did not know whether their stream or dry creek bed, in some instances, was actually subject … to EPA jurisdiction and EPA authority.” He said that “they were facing fines that were substantial as they engaged in earth work to build subdivisions — I mean, it was something that created a substantial amount of uncertainty and confusion.”

But Suh said that the repeal of WOTUS “would make it easier for irresponsible developers and others to contaminate our waters and send the pollution downstream.”

Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that “from vernal pools in California to prairie pothole ponds in the Midwest, small wetlands provide essential habitat to hundreds of endangered species, birds and migrating wildlife.”

Foes of the WOTUS rule hailed the administration’s plans to revoke it.

“The West has finally won in the battle over the Obama administration’s WOTUS rule,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.). “This regulation would have been a disaster for rural communities in the West and across the country, giving Washington near-total control over water resources.”

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association chief executive Jim Matheson said that as written, the rule “would have increased costs and impaired the ability of co-ops to build and maintain power lines.” He urged EPA and the Army Corps to propose “a new common-sense rule.”

The administration’s push to revoke the rule has sparked nearly 500,000 public comments, many of which urge the federal government to preserve the existing regulation.

After taking comment on repealing the rule and reaching a final decision, EPA will have to craft its own proposed rule for defining which waters deserve federal protection under the 1972 law. That new regulation, which will be subject to public comment, will very likely be challenged in federal court by environmental and outdoors groups.

Jo Ellen Darcy, who co-authored the Obama-era rule as assistant secretary of the Army for civil works and now sits on the board of the advocacy group American Rivers, questioned why the new administration would revisit a regulation that received more than 1 million comments and drew on more than 1,200 peer-reviewed studies.

“By tossing out years of scientific study and public input, Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration are muddying the very waters the Clean Water Rule sought to clarify,” Darcy said.

Brady Dennis contributed to this report.


Slashed Funds to Help Rural America Keep Farm Pollution Out of Drinking Water

(202) 667-6982
FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

WASHINGTON – Rural Americans were key to President Trump’s election, but the president’s proposed budget would reward their support by allowing more animal waste, toxic pesticides and fertilizer pollution in their drinking water, said EWG.

“President Trump has put a dirty-water bullseye on the backs of the very same voters who swept him into office,” said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at EWG. “If the president’s plan to cut programs that protect clean drinking water in farm country becomes law, his most ardent supporters will see even more manure, pesticides and nitrates fouling their drinking water sources than they do now.”

Recent image from a Nebraska rest stop.

Trump’s budget proposal seeks to eliminate or slash federal funding for a number of vital programs that help states and rural communities deal with water pollution, much of which comes from polluted runoff from corn and soybean fields and factory farms.

One water protection program targeted for elimination is the Environmental Protection Agency’s 319 grant program for nonpoint source pollution.  Trump is calling for zeroing out its budget of $164 million. Under the program, rural communities “receive grant money to support a wide variety of activities” to help mitigate water pollution, including from agriculture and forestry operations.

EPA estimates that its nonpoint source pollution program has “partially or fully restored 674 water bodies” in the U.S. Success stories of this initiative abound for virtually every state in the country, including Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and Michigan.

In Iowa alone, there are 124 nonpoint source pollution projects that are either ongoing or completed. Exposure to nitrates in drinking water has been linked to higher rates of thyroid, bladder and ovarian cancer, and can lead to so-called blue baby syndrome, which can be fatal to infants under 6 months old.