WaterWorld Weekly Newscast: Mar. 12, 2012

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The following is a transcript of the Mar. 12, 2012, edition of the WaterWorld Weekly Newscast.

Hi, I'm Angela Godwin, digital media editor for WaterWorld magazine, bringing you this week's water and wastewater news headlines. Coming up...

• Drilling wastewater linked to Ohio earthquakes
• Water leaders show support for infrastructure financing legislation
• Reprieve for Florida water quality rules
• Water authority launches website scrutinizing MWD operations
• Pavillion water to undergo further testing
• Clean water reaches 2 billion people

[story1]
A report released by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources concludes that a series of earthquakes in the Youngstown area over the past year are, in fact, linked to the underground injection of drilling wastewater.

Some of the factors supporting the findings: Operations at the Northstar I Class II deep injection well began only three months before the first seismic activity was noted. Also, seismic activity was concentrated around the well bore. And a fault has been identified in the basement rock layer.

In conjunction with the report, ODNR has released a set of reforms, making Ohio's disposal wells some of the most stringently regulated in the country.

Under the new rules, well operators will be required to submit more comprehensive geological data when requesting a drill site, and the chemical makeup of all drilling wastewater must be tracked electronically.

Also, injection into Precambrian rock will be banned going forward, and existing wells penetrating the formation will be plugged.

Extensive pressure and volume monitoring procedures will be required, including automatic shut-off systems.

And the makeup of all drilling wastewater fluids entering the state will have to be tracked electronically.

[story2]
More than 160 water utility leaders converged in Washington, DC, last week for the second annual Water Matters! Fly In. WEF and AWWA members participated in more than 400 meetings with legislators to show support for draft legislation that would create a federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority, or WIFIA.

The mechanism would borrow U.S. Treasury funds to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees, or other credit support for eligible water infrastructure projects in local communities. Loan repayments -- with interest -- and guarantee fees would flow back to WIFIA and into the Treasury -- again, with interest.

At a time when the nation's aging infrastructure is in dire need of replacement -- to the tune of $1 trillion over 25 years, the legislation would lower the cost of large water projects for consumers.

During the Washington meetings, water utility leaders also emphasized the connection between economic development and having a reliable water supply. The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated that every dollar spent on water infrastructure generates $2.62 in the private economy. For every job added to the water workforce, about 3.68 jobs are added nationally.

[story3]
Last Monday, just hours before Florida's new water quality rules were to take effect, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle pushed the date to July 6.

Just a few weeks ago, Judge Hinkle ruled in favor of upholding numeric nutrient limits set by EPA in 2009 and said they must take effect March 6.

The extra four months will give EPA more time to consider whether a similar set of water quality rules developed by Florida's own Department of Environmental Protection will be sufficient to protect the state's waterways.

[story4]
The San Diego County Water Authority has launched a new website that they say will provide needed transparency into the operations of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, an organization the Water Authority calls "powerful and secretive."

The website, www.MWDFacts.com, is intended to be a forum where the public can find information about and discuss MWD's finances, rates, governance, ethics and other policies.

MWD is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people in six counties. In a statement, John V. Foley, chairman of MWD's Board of Directors, emphasized the complexity of such a comprehensive water system and the importance of cooperation among the region's cities and communities.

Foley said it was "regrettable that San Diego County Water Authority is using ratepayer money to engage in political gamesmanship and questionable tactics outside of the deliberative process where all member agencies attempt to work collaboratively to resolve differences."

MWD, he said, is committed to open and transparent public forums and discussions.

San Diego County Water Authority is currently involved in a lawsuit against MWD challenging its 2011 and 2012 rate increases.

[story5]
The EPA and the state of Wyoming have agreed to conduct further water tests near the town of Pavillion, WY, where last year EPA found evidence of contamination related to hydraulic fracturing.

The results of EPA's 2011 study have been harshly criticized by state oil and gas officials as well as Encana Corp, the driller at the center of the controversy.

Some have raised concerns that the synthetic and organic chemicals detected in the study were actually introduced during the drilling of the monitoring well.

EPA and the state will now collaborate on two more rounds of tests. Peer review of the initial test results will be put on hold pending completion of this new set of tests.

[story6]
In international news, U.N. officials announced last week that between 1990 and 2010, more than 2 billion people have gained access to clean drinking water.

Not only does that mean that 89 percent of the world's population has access to improve drinking water, it signifies the early achievement of a key Millennium Development Goal: to halve the proportion of people without safe drinking water by 2015.

The UNICEF and World Health Organization report estimated that by 2015, 92 percent of the global population will have access to improved drinking water.

While certainly encouraging, the report also points out that there is much work yet to be done. Certain areas of the world still face major challenges, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, where only about 61 percent of the population has access to improved water supplies.

Globally, 783 million people still lack access to clean water.

For WaterWorld magazine, I'm Angela Godwin. Thanks for watching.

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