WaterWorld Weekly: June 30, 2011

June 30, 2011
Transcript of the June 30, 2011, edition of the WaterWorld Weekly newscast.

The following is a transcript of the June 30, 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...

• Bill seeks to weaken EPA's authority
• Anchorage not required to repay water customers
• Hypoxic zone in Gulf of Mexico expected to increase
• Water pressure blows manhole cover
• Fake signs warn travelers about PA water
• Fukushima water treatment system gets off to rough start

The U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill that, if passed, would take away the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to intervene in cases where states' efforts to protect water quality are inadequate.

H.R. 2018, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, is at least in part a reaction to the recent situation in Florida, where EPA, under a settlement with environmental groups, promulgated water quality standards there placing numeric limits on nitrogen and phosphorus.

Proponents of the legislation say that numeric limits are too restrictive and unrealistic, arguing that while the level of nutrients in one watershed might cause impairment, those same levels could sustain a healthy ecosystem in another watershed.

They also contend that the stringent environmental regulations are further straining an already struggling economy.

U.S. EPA has strongly denied allegations that it intends to impose 'one size fits all' numeric nutrient limits on states. Rather, the agency stresses its intent to work in conjunction with states as partners to evaluate water quality conditions on a case-by-case basis and devise creative strategies to improve the health of impaired waters.

Opponents of the bill caution that its passage could undo 40 years of environmental progress, taking away EPA's ability to hold states accountable for the health of their watersheds.

Alaska's Utility Regulatory Commission has ruled that the Municipality of Anchorage does not have to pay back water and wastewater customers whose rate increase was being challenged.

The case stems from a 2003 change in the formula used to calculate payments collected by the Municipality from the utility. To cover its increase, the utility increased rates for its customers.

The state argued on behalf of the public interest that the city collected about $50 million dollars too much from Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility between 2004 and 2010.

The Regulatory Commission found that the city acted properly and that it does not have to return that money to ratepayers.

A team of government and university researchers predicts that this spring's extreme flooding of the Mississippi River will cause the hypoxic -- or 'dead zone' -- in the Gulf of Mexico to be larger than ever.

The forecast is based on nutrient inputs compiled each year by the USGS. With the increased runoff from this spring's unusually wet weather, nutrient levels are extremely elevated. According to USGS, nitrogen transported to the Gulf in May 2011 was 35 percent higher than average May nitrogen loads estimated in the last 32 years.

While the researchers are not entirely certain of the size or position of the hypoxic zone, they're predicting it could measure between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles. That's about the size of New Hampshire.

The latest round of heavy rains in Nebraska caused intense pressure to build up in wastewater lines near Omaha's Papillion Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, blowing a manhole cover and shooting a 12-foot high, 2-foot wide geyser into the air.

Blackhawk helicopters dropped sandbags onto the failed manhole in an attempt to temporarily control the breach. Ultimately, they covered the hole with a 3-ton concrete block.

Officials said pumping equipment would also be brought in to help remove spilled wastewater.

At rest stops along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, signs placed on drinking water fountains suggested travelers test for methane by putting an open flame to the water.

The signs claimed to be from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, but the agency said it was definitely not their doing.

Pennsylvania is home to a large portion of the Marcellus Shale natural gas reservoir, which has been at the center of controversy around hydraulic fracturing and its impact on water resources.

At this time, nobody knows who is responsible for the fake signs, but they are being removed and authorities are looking into whether any laws were broken.

In international news...

Treatment of the highly radioactive water at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant started earlier this week, but was halted after only 90 minutes of operation, reportedly due to leaks.

TEPCO is using U.S. and French technology to clean the pooled up cooling water so that it can be reused.

The complex network connecting the water purification facilities with the reactors has presented some challenges, such as unexpected leakage.

The system has reported resumed operation at this time.

Its success is a cornerstone of TEPCO's goal to bring the reactors to safe shutdowns by January 2012.

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


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