Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Using Gypsum to Contain Phosphorus on Farm Fields

Curbing fertilizer runoff a challenge

By JD Malone & Laura Arenschield

While many farmers employ what are thought to be best practices to keep fertilizers from running off their fields and feeding huge algae blooms in lakes, including Erie, scientists are working on novel ways to curb the problem.

New ideas include spreading gypsum to better hold phosphorus in fields and creating farm-area flood plains with plants that gobble up the fertilizers before they reach waterways.

The issue came to the forefront in August when Toledo was forced to shut off its water system for two days when it became tainted with toxic algae from Lake Erie.

“Hopefully, this is a wake-up call,” said Eugene Braig, program director for aquatic ecosystems at Ohio State University. “These are big problems that are difficult to manage.”

The Ohio legislature passed a bill in November that made an age-old practice of spreading manure on frozen fields illegal. The bill also forced farmers to become certified before spreading fertilizer, but that regulation doesn’t go into full effect until 2017.

Read the rest of the story, including a discussion of the science, in The Columbus Dispatch

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nutrient Sensor Challenge Launched

A group of federal agencies and private partners have announced the Nutrient Sensor Challenge. The goal is to support efforts to create affordable, accurate and reliable sensors. The challenge will provide the organizations that participate with laboratory and field verification and help them showcase their innovation.The challenge will help accelerate the development of sensors that can be deployed in the environment to measure nutrients in our country's waterways. Its goal is to have new, affordable sensors up and running by 2017.

The challenge is for a sensor or sensors that:
  • Measures dissolved nitrate and/or phosphate
  • Provides real-time data
  • Easy to Use
  • Less than $5,000 purchase price
  • Unattended deployment for up to 3 months
  • Highly accurate and precise
  Read more about the Nutrient Challenge at EPA Connect and read the announcement/challenge at the Alliance for Coastal Technologies
Sources: Water Headlines, EPA Connect and Alliance for Coastal Technologies

Cyanobacteria May Be Linked to ALS

Medical researchers are now uncovering clues that appear to link some cases of ALS to people’s proximity to lakes and coastal waters.

For 28 years, Bill Gilmore lived in a New Hampshire beach town, where he surfed and kayaked. “I’ve been in water my whole life,” he said. “Before the ocean, it was lakes. I’ve been a water rat since I was four.”

Now Gilmore can no longer swim, fish or surf, let alone button a shirt or lift a fork to his mouth. Earlier this year, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In New England, medical researchers are now uncovering clues that appear to link some cases of the lethal neurological disease to people’s proximity to lakes and coastal waters.

About five years ago, doctors at a New Hampshire hospital noticed a pattern in their ALS patients—many of them, like Gilmore, lived near water. Since then, researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center have identified several ALS hot spots in lake and coastal communities in New England, and they suspect that toxic blooms of blue-green algae—which are becoming more common worldwide—may play a role.

Now scientists are investigating whether breathing a neurotoxin produced by the algae may raise the risk of the disease. They have a long way to go, however: While the toxin does seem to kill nerve cells, no research, even in animals, has confirmed the link to ALS.

. . .

Read the entire story at Scientific American
Source: Lindsey Konkel and Environmental Health News

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Safe Drinking Water Act Turns 40 - EPA to Celebrate with a Twitter Chat

December 16 Twitterchat: 40th Anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act

On Tuesday, December 16 at 1 p.m. EST, the Office of Water will hold a Twitter chat featuring Peter Grevatt, the director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. The chat will explore the accomplishments of the past 40 years under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the challenges that lie ahead.

To participate, tweet @EPAwater and use the hashtag #safetodrink.

For more information about the Safe Drinking Water Act and 40th Anniversary, please visit: http://www2.epa.gov/safedrinkingwater40.

A Plastic Problem in the Chesapeake

"Maybe you’ve heard of “micro plastics.” They’re created when plastic products eventually break down into tiny particles that drift in our ocean waters and can be eaten by fish and other wildlife. They’re a big problem globally, as is trash from plastic products in general. As much as 80 percent of trash in the ocean comes from sources on land, and up to 60 percent of this trash is plastic.
I got an offer from two conservation groups to tag along as they trawled the upper Chesapeake Bay waters to assess the extent of plastics pollution. As an oceanographer, I always cherish the days that I get to take my off my tie and get back out on the bay, so I was eager to join them.

I predicted that we wouldn’t find much. My theory was that the Chesapeake Bay is too dynamic, with its constant tides, winds and currents, as opposed to the somewhat quiet open ocean circulation patterns that can concentrate plastics pollution.
I was wrong."

Read Jeff Corbin's article about micro-plastics in the Chesapeake.
source: Jeff Corbin, US EPA