WaterWorld Weekly: April 7, 2011

April 8, 2011
Transcript of the April 7, 2011, edition of the WaterWorld Weekly newscast...
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The following is a transcript of the April 7, 2011, 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...

The collapse of a wastewater holding tank at a treatment plant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has claimed two workers lives and rendered the plant inoperable.

The workers have been identified as John Eslinger, 53, and Don Storey, 44, both employees of Veolia Water North America, which operates the plant.

At this time, officials don't know what caused the foot-thick reinforced concrete wall to give way, spilling as much as 3 million gallons of strained raw sewage and water into the west prong of the Little Pigeon River.

At this time, the plant is still without power. Wastewater is being rerouted to an older plant where it's receiving minimal treatment before being discharged into the West Prong.

Officials say the drinking water is not affected, but warn residents to stay clear of the river.

Kansas' lawsuit against Nebraska over use of water from the Republican River was reopened this week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kansas is accusing Nebraska of taking more than its share of water in 2005 and 2006 and violating the terms of an earlier settlement between the two states.

The court's action gives Kansas permission to file a new petition, which would force Nebraska to reduce irrigation of farmland in the river basin and pay restitution to Kansas -- a payment estimated at $72 million dollars.

William J. Kayatta Jr., an attorney from Portland, Maine, has been appointed by the Supreme Court hear the petition and make recommendations to the justices.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 872, a bill that could make it easier to use pesticides near waterbodies.

The legislation would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify Congressional intent about regulating pesticide use in or near navigable waters.

Under the measure, farmers or companies would not need an NPDES permit when using pesticides, in accordance with labels, on or near water sources.

Supporters of the bill say pesticides are adequately regulated by other laws and that current regulations are too costly and burdensome for industry.

Opponents say it would severely undermine water quality protection efforts.

The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate for approval.

In Iowa, a bill is moving through the state legislature that would shift administration of water-quality programs from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to the state agriculture department.

Environmentalists see the move as a conflict of interest because the agriculture department's mission is to support farming and agribusiness initiatives -- the source of many of the problems plaguing area waterways.

Supporters, however, say it will make government more efficient and improve work to clean waterways because farmers would be more likely to participate in voluntary runoff reduction programs if led by the Department of Agriculture.

The state's House of Representatives passed its bill in March. The Senate version has yet to reach the floor.

A federal judge has approved a $26.5 million dollar settlement for a central Michigan community whose water supply was contaminated by a chemical company in the 1950s and 1960s.

The city of St. Louis, Michigan, hopes to use the funds from the 2007 settlement Velsicol Chemical Co. to replace the water system that serves the area.

Prior to the plant's shutdown in 1979, Velsicol had dumped chemicals, including DDT and fire retardants, in a county landfill, at the site of the plant and in the Pine River. Those chemicals were later found in the community's water supply.

The settlement of the 2007 lawsuit was approved this week by the City Council.

Money for the settlement includes $20.5 million from an insurance company for Velsicol and $6 million from a Fruit of the Loom trust, Velsicol's former parent company.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is cutting its budget more than $400 million dollars, but says there will be no rate hikes or service interruptions for its four million plus customers.

To reach this goal, the authority plans to impose a hiring freeze, reduce nonessential training and eliminate take-home vehicles for executives.

Among challenges facing the utility are fuel price hikes, costs of greenhouse-gas emissions reductions, labor costs and the expense of replacing an aging infrastructure.

In international news...

Major sewer problems are plaguing Christchurch, New Zealand, where a 6.3 earthquake caused widespread damage on February 22.

While aboveground infrastructure is in pretty good shape, underground assets have suffered severe damage.

City officials say it could take several months and tens of millions of dollars to repair the city's wastewater treatment plant and the hundreds of miles of broken underground pipes.

Silt has become a major problem, blocking pipes and clogging treatment tanks.

The city council's water and waste manager said a lid had to be taken off a tank because sand had gotten to within a few feet of the top.

Officials hope to have a better idea of the cost and extent of repairs once the underground tanks can be evaluated.

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