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[ The Great Lakes ] Death Watch

September 8th, 2011 No comments

[ Lake Erie Death Watch ] By Barry Yeoman for the NRDC

Brought back from the brink once before, a Great Lake again faces biological collapse

What would it mean to lose one of our Great Lakes? The environmental and economic calamity could devastate the region’s tourism, sport fishing industry, drinking water supply, and wildlife, and could also take a toll on human health. And there would be plenty of blame to go around, from changing agricultural methods to inattentive politicians to weaknesses in our nation’s bedrock environmental protections — many of which can partially trace their existence to concern over Lake Erie in the first place.

Erie is the most fertile of the Great Lakes: It contains only 2 percent of their water but 50 percent of their fish. Its biological abundance, and its location in a densely settled corner of the Midwest, make the prospect of collapse all the more frightening. If conditions grow worse, imploding native fish populations could decimate Lake Erie’s recreational fishing industry. (Fishing generates $7 billion a year throughout the Great Lakes.) The water supply for 11 million people could become undrinkable without expensive treatment. And blue-green algae, linked to liver cancer in China and fatal poisonings in Brazil, could pose a grave threat to people here, too, particularly if ingested.

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The Water I Drink: Grand Cal Toxins Excavated

March 24th, 2010 No comments

via [ NWI Times ] “$33.1M RIVER BOTTOM REMEDIATION PROJECT ON WAY TO RESTORING AQUATIC HABITAT” By Steve Zabroski

HAMMOND | The first phase of a long-awaited cleanup of the Grand Calumet River was completed last week, with remediation work on the waterway now moving westward through the heart of the city.

The $33.1 million project aims to remove from the bottom of the river sediment contaminated with toxic and cancer-causing chemicals deposited there through more than a century of industrial activity.

Tainted river bottom between Columbia Avenue and Howard Avenue has been hauled away since work began in December, and excavation all the way to Calumet Avenue is scheduled for completion by June.

Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the remediation project will remove close to 82,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment from the waterway — last dredged in 1895 — all the way to Hohman Avenue.

Read more…

Categories: The Water I Drink

Regional Rats: The Grand Calumet River

March 8th, 2010 1 comment

I plan to plot the more than 600 contributers of contamination

Why would any community agree to such extreme negative costs to its land, water, air and residents?

Is there any doubt that East Chicago should be the epicenter for the dialogue on environmental justice and stewardship?

Simple thoughts:

  • If we solve the environmental problems for fence-line industrial communities like East Chicago we solve the problem for middle-class America and the causes of global warming.
  • When negative costs outweigh positive benefits is there justification to revoke the responsible party’s “Land Use” privileges?
  • Does the Law of the Commons apply?

[ EPA’s EnviroMapper ] [ Grand Calumet River Area of Concern ]

via [ Post-Trib ] Region’s sewer: Grand Cal faces long recuperation
By Gitte Laasby

State and Federal “14 Beneficial Use” Criteria.

  1. Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  2. Undesirable algae or too many nutrients in the river, often from runoff. It causes dense plant growth or animal death because of a lack of oxygen
  3. Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor
  4. Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor
  5. Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  6. Beach closings
  7. Fish tumors or other deformities
  8. Degradation of aesthetics
  9. Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
  10. Added costs to agriculture or industry
  11. Degradation of flora and fauna at the bottom of the river
  12. Degradation of plankton consisting of small plants or animals
  13. Restriction on dredging activities
  14. Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

GARY — The Grand Calumet River has the most problems of any river in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Cleanup has progressed slowly since the river was designated as one of the nation’s worst in 1987. Locals say it could take several decades before the river is restored to its pre-industrial state and can be a source of recreation for region residents, but several proposals are in the works

Municipalities in the region used the river as a sewer for their waste. For about a century, steel mills and treatment plants have spewed untold amounts of heavy metals, pesticides, bacteria and pollutants that can cause cancer in humans into the river.

Today, elevated levels of mercury, lead, cadmium and polychlorinated biphenyls lie buried in the Grand Cal to a depth of up to 11.5 feet below ground surface, according to the EPA. The river also has problems with oil and grease and too little oxygen. EPA estimates that the Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal contain 5 million to 10 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment up to 20 feet deep.

What else contributes to the ailments of the Grand Cal?

Fifteen combined sewer overflows discharge an estimated 11 billion gallons of raw wastewater into the harbor and river, according to the EPA. About 57 percent of that is discharged within eight miles of Lake Michigan, which contributes to E. coli contamination nearby, EPA says. Bacteria are the main reason for beach closings.

Stormwater runoff and water leached out from 11 waste disposal and storage sites located within 0.2 miles of the river continue to degrade water quality.

Five Superfund sites, the most contaminated places in the nation, are located in the area. So are 423 hazardous waste sites. And more than 150 leaking underground storage petroleum tanks. Air pollution and contaminated groundwater also affect the river, EPA says.

Today, about 90 percent of the river consists of wastewater from industry and sewage from municipal treatment plants, EPA says.

When officials assess the health of a river, they judge it based on 14 possible “beneficial uses,” such as whether people can swim in the river or eat fish from it and whether the river has the variety of bugs that would be expected in similar places.

The Grand Calumet is the only river in the United States that’s impaired in all 14 possible ways, said Gary Gulezian, director of EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office.

The Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal were identified in 1987 as an “area of concern.”

Read more…

Categories: The Water I Drink

The Water I Drink: Trading on The Great Lakes Water Resources

December 28th, 2009 No comments

Quarterly average water bills for high-volume industrial customers:

  • Sheboygan: $37,119
  • Milwaukee: $41,151
  • St. Louis: $53,497
  • Green Bay: $64,086
  • Chicago: $65,800
  • Dallas: $79,512
  • Louisville: $80,087
  • Kansas City: $90,544
  • Philadelphia: $105,717
  • Denver: $110,717
  • New York: $115,528
  • Cleveland: $121,430
  • San Diego: $157,557
  • Pittsburgh: $172,367
  • Phoenix: $176,405
  • Seattle: $209,482
  • Atlanta: $251,984
  • Los Angeles: $274,000

Source: Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

via [ Journal Sentinel ]

Milwaukee, which has a lackluster record in luring new industry with tax breaks or subsidies, has a new plan up its sleeve: giving deeply discounted water to new companies that create jobs.

At a time when regions such as metro Atlanta and the Southwest face acute water shortages, the Milwaukee Water Works operates at only a third of its capacity. And it draws off the Great Lakes, which hold a fifth of the world’s surface supply of freshwater.

That means the city, which operates the utility, can add new water customers at marginal cost – even if they guzzle prodigious volumes of water.

“This is our comparative advantage,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Monday at a conference on the economics of water at Marquette University. “We have to sell on our comparative advantage. We cannot sell our winter weather.”

“We would be the first city to offer water for jobs,” said Richard Meeusen, the chief executive of Badger Meter Inc., a Brown Deer-based maker of water meters.

Meeusen said Milwaukee should begin by poaching industries from metro Atlanta, which was regarded as an economic boomtown for the past two decades. Atlanta, which already faces water shortages, will confront even tougher challenges after a federal judge ruled in July that Atlanta must stop drawing water from its Lake Lanier reservoir within three years.

“Their taps are going to run dry in three years,” Meeusen told the conference. “We should be running full-page ads in the Atlanta papers, ‘Worried about Water?’

John Laumer of Treehugger offers a response Milwaukee’s plan for economic development.
via [ Treehugger ]

Although superficially, this may seem quite sensible, there is a high risk of unintended and unwanted consequences if a cheap water incentive were offered to all comers. The choice is one of seeking sustainable industry or returning to the Iron Age trade offs of environmental degradation and hidden impacts on taxpayers.

Strategic context.
Duluth, Green Bay, Escanaba, Marquette, Munising, Green Bay, Racine, Kenosha, Chicago, Toledo, Erie, Buffalo, Toronto and other Great Lakes cities all are capable of making a similar offer of cheap water for jobs. In that context, any well-led business would step back into due dillegence, looking for possible unintended consequence down the road.

High industrial water consumption brings other intensities.
Water-intensive industries very often also are energy intensive, and also tend to have high air and water pollution burdens. The much diminished paper and steel industries, once common in the Midwest, exemplify the pairing of water and energy intensities with water and air pollution.

For every gallon of water taken in by industry, there will be some fraction of a gallon discharged into public sewers: typically flowing into a publicly owned treatment works (POTW), constructed and operated at public expense.

Water supplies from Lake Michigan are, for local purposes, near infinite. On the other hand, both sewerage treatment capacity and ability of Lake Michigan to assimilate pollution are limited. Overuse can have hidden direct and indirect costs. Logical questions to precede any water sale to industry, then are:

is there excess treatment capacity at the sewerage treatment plant which matches the discharge potential of water intensive industries?

could waste water discharges from a single, new polluting industry potentially “limit out’ waste water treatment capacity, excluding other job opportunities?

is it possible to compare jobs creation potential per million gallons per day of wastewater discharged by industry sector?

EROWI – Energy Return of Water Invested

November 24th, 2009 No comments

via [ The Oil Drum ]

The data in the table originate from “Energy demands on water resources”, report to the congress, 2006 [ link ]

For the past century, America has invested significant research, development, and construction funding to develop both fresh surface- water and groundwater resources. The result is a water infrastructure that allows us to harness the vast resources of the country’s rivers and watersheds, control floods, and store water during droughts to provide reliable supplies of freshwater for agricultural, industrial, domestic, and energy uses. During this same period, the U.S. developed extensive natural resources such as coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium and created an infrastructure to process and transport these resources in an efficient and cost-effective manner to consumers. These two achievements have helped stimulate unprecedented economic growth and development.

However, as population has increased, demand for energy and water has grown. Competing demands for water supply are affecting the value and availability of the resource. Operation of some energy facilities has been curtailed due to water concerns, and siting and operation of new energy facilities must take into account the value of water resources. U.S. efforts to replace imported energy supplies with nonconventional domestic energy sources have the potential to further increase demand for water.

ENERGY AND WATER INTERDEPENDENCIES

Water is an integral element of energy resource development and utilization. It is used in energy-resource extraction, refining and processing, and transportation. Water is also an integral part of electric-power generation. It is used directly in hydroelectric generation and is also used extensively for cooling and emissions scrubbing in thermoelectric generation. For example, in calendar year 2000, thermoelectric power generation accounted for 39 percent of all freshwater withdrawals in the U.S., roughly equivalent to water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture (withdrawals are water diverted or withdrawn from a surface-water or groundwater source) (Hutson et al., 2004).

Categories: Energy, The Water I Drink

Liquid Assets

July 27th, 2009 No comments

via [ www.liquidassets.psu.edu ] 


This evening I happened to click on the East Chicago Public Government Channel which for all purposes has been the Mayor’s personal campaign channel. But to my enormous surprise this evening they were running this wonderful documentary “Liquid Assets.” I don’t know who coordinated the broadcast, but I was thrilled to see something of real substance and value to the community on the channel. Very Good.  

Liquid Assets is a public media and outreach initiative that seeks to inform the nation about the critical role that our water infrastructure plays in protecting public health and promoting economic prosperity.

Combining a ninety-minute documentary with a community toolkit for facilitating local involvement, Liquid Assets explores the history, engineering, and political and economic challenges of our water infrastructure, and engages communities in local discussion about public water and wastewater issues.

Earth Day: Three Decades Since the Clean Water Act

April 22nd, 2009 No comments

It has been three decades since the enactment of the Clean Water Act and not a single project has been initiated to clean this country’s most polluted waterway – The Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal (IHSC).

The IHSC is the only body of water to fail all measurable beneficial uses. This human made waterway even impairs the industry that is both dependent on it and responsible for its condition. Yet, industry is not alone East Chicago carries some of the responsibility with its combine sewer overflow system. East Chicago is the single greatest violator of its NPDES permit in the State. Do to politics they haven’t been pursued. The same politics that recently approved BP’s water permit, despite the fact that it was in clear violation of the Clear Water Act. Today, it is not only about the pipe sticking into the waterway, but also surface runoff. Surface runoff is probably an even greater threat.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) likes to refer to data that indicates that non-point source pollution attributed to transportation is an even greater threat to the environment. This is true if you are measuring pollution levels from the concern of middle-class communities in the southern part of the Lake County or you decide to aggregate the data county wide. This does not do justice to those who live under the plumb of industry.

We can have discussions about whether it is save to drink water from the Chesapeake Bay – But we do know that it is NOT SAFE TO HAVE ANY CONTACT WITH THE WATER IN THE INDIANA HARBOR SHIPPING CANAL.

Perhaps the reason we can have a public discussion about the Chesapeake Bay is because it affects a large middle-class demographic. The IHSC does not. East Chicago is about 56% Hispanic and 38% Black with a medium income < $26,000. Is this an environmental justice issue – Yes. What is right ought to be enough to correct this, but economics of scale is in effect and I concede it needs to be. So why should middle-class midwesterns be concerned?

Because, if you draw any benefit from Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes it effects you. Because the IHSA flows into the world’s greatest fresh water resource – Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. Because more than 6 million people in the Chicago Metropolitan region draw their drinking water from Lake Michigan (more than the entire population of Indiana which governs the releases). Because every time a barge goes into and out of the channel it scraps the bottom and resuspends contaminated sediments into the water column. Because $500,000,000 (half billion) of your tax dollars are going into maintaining this waterway as a navigation channel and $0 are going into maintaining it for environmental reasons. Because tens of millions of your tax dollars are being diverted into the pockets of a corrupt local political regime [ posted, here, here and here ]. It used to be, when it came to contamination “if you touch it you own it,” but under the Bush administration the constraints of commerce over-road environmental concerns.

Because of this.

The products produced in East Chicago factories are shipped across the country. The safety regime protecting consumers are far more stringent and protective than the environmental guidelines protecting residents from the by-products of these products. The IHSC and East Chicago is host to the Largest integrated Steel Mill in the country – Arcelor/Mittal, and the second largest oil refinery in the country – BP. Arcelor/Mittal supplies materials for appliances and vehicles. BP supplies gas to the more than 6 million residents who populate the Chicago Region.

Most of the photos above were taken in the late 1960s during an environmental campaign that eventually resulted in establishing the USEPA and the Clean Water Act. The only difference between then and now is the attenuation of time, where dilution became the solution. I don’t mean to disparage time, it is important. But:

  1. we haven’t been proactive to severely stem discharges, and
  2. we haven’t cleaned this body of water, and
  3. we haven’t set up a sustaining environmental regime to ensure it will remain clean well into the future.

In the end, after 30 years of the Clean Water Act the problem persists, and still no clean-up project has ever been initiated.

Frontline: Poisoned Waters

Categories: The Water I Drink