Study Finds Green Infrastructure Gets More Support
A new study from the University of Delaware suggests that people prefer conservation methods of protecting drinking water. The study was headed by Kent Messer, the director of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The experiment consisted of 251 participants throughout northern Delaware. In it, participants earned money by completing a simple task; they were then asked to donate some of that money to help alleviate water quality issues. If they agreed, they had the option of donating to conservation causes or to help drinking water utilities. Most of the participants opted for conservation.
“People are much more willing to pay for conservation,” said Messer. “They like the idea of permanently protecting water at its source and avoiding having to do technological fixes.”
Chicken Factory Racks Up Wastewater Violations
A Harbeson, Delaware chicken factory has been cited for dozens of wastewater violations since 2012. Allen Harim is guilty of dumping water with excessively high pollutant levels into nearby sewers and waterways.
One violation includes releasing wastewater with 1.7 million colonies of enterococcus bacteria—which can cause gastrointestinal diseases—per 100 ml of water in 2013, more than 9,000 times the permitted amount. The most recent violation was in October 2016, where, on five different days, the factory dumped more than 100 lbs. of ammonia into the nearby creek.
The state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has given the plant 30 days to identify the root cause of ammonia overages and submit a plan outlining how the violations will be addressed and rectified.
Companies Sued for CWA Violations
Zanker Road Resource Management Ltd. and Z-Best Composting Facility in San Francisco, California, have been sued for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). California River Watch, a non-profit organization, filed a complaint that the companies had failed to follow applicable safety guidelines and regulations.
According to the lawsuit, large quantities of composted material on the business sites are exposed to stormwater and eroded by wind, which contaminates the surrounding watershed. The two companies also allegedly failed to undertake and complete mandated sampling and analysis, and failed to obtain a general permit exemption of sampling and analysis from the state board.
California River Watch is seeking a trial by jury to declare the companies in violation of the CWA. The non-profit also wants the companies to pay civil penalties of $37,500 per day/per violation and restore quality water in addition to paying miscellaneous court fees.
EPA Launches Pilot Program
Five communities have been selected by the EPA to receive $150,000 in technical assistance for stormwater projects. Burlington, Iowa; Chester, Pennsylvania; Rochester, New Hampshire; Santa Fe, New Mexico and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were selected.
They will also become pilot communities for the agency’s new web-based toolkit.
The tools in it are intended to help communities plan long-term strategies for managing stormwater. They promote solutions that are flexible, spur economic growth and stimulate infrastructure investments. The tools will be refined and more broadly released next year.
Colorado Springs Sued for EPA Violations
The city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been sued by the EPA for repeated violations of the Clean Water Act and Colorado Water Quality Control Act. The mayor points to the abolishment of the city’s Stormwater Enterprise in 2009 as the reason why the lawsuit has been filed. The EPA disagrees, saying it is Colorado Springs’ lack of a stormwater management plan and soft treatment of developers.
For instance, rather than asking for funds to install detention ponds and other flood-control measures, the city reduced developers’ fees for new buildings. Seven residential developments were built without requiring stormwater controls. Additionally, the city also had drainage violations that were never rectified.
Mayor Suthers will not be fighting the lawsuit, instead opting to use the city’s money to fix its stormwater problem. He has also announced a 20- year stormwater improvement plan for Colorado Springs, starting immediately.
Detroit Going Green
The city of Detroit embraced green infrastructure as a cheaper, more effective way of meeting its stormwater goals years ago. Now, a bill in front of Michigan’s state government is designed to encourage the private sector to take part. House Bill 5991, proposed by Representative Mike Mc- Cready, solves stormwater funding issues created by a 1998 Michigan Supreme Court case, and grants tax credits for green infrastructure capital projects.
Green infrastructure projects that qualify would generate an 80% tax write-off for property owners, a considerable incentive for implementation. Chuck Hersey, senior fellow at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing, says that green infrastructure credits make for a fairer system. “A company can turn its engineers loose,” he said. “If I plant trees or vegetation, put in new technologies, I’m calculating my return on investment. Now, I’m saving money.”
Aid for Dirty Canal
America’s dirtiest waterway is finally getting cleaned up. The EPA is clearing debris from the 100-footwide, 1.8-mile Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York, and has big plans for the toxic site. Green infrastructure has also been installed along the canal, including 70 rain gardens and a sponge park.
The sponge park is a 1,800-squarefoot park that will capture and clean stormwater that runs down the street before it reaches the canal. It’s estimated to collect about one million gallons of stormwater per year. The rain gardens, on the other hand, are estimated to collect and absorb six million gallons.
Both methods should significantly reduce the amount of water going into the sewage system, preventing over flows.
Just in case, though, two eightmillion-gallon sewage and stormwater retention tanks will be installed in two locations along the canal to aid with overflow.
Facility Dumps Hazardous Waste in Water
US Ecology, a hazardous waste facility in Detroit, Michigan, has released excessive amounts of mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other toxic chemicals into city sewers more than 150 times since September 2010. Detroit residents are furious, especially since US Ecology plans an expansion to store ten times the hazardous waste it does now.
US Ecology’s records show frequent violations of permitted maximum discharges of at least 20 hazardous chemicals or metals. Officials from the company deny that the discharges are a regular occurrence, saying that these incidents were found in less than 1% of the 10,000 tests conducted over four years. Environmentalists in the area argue that increased mercury and alkaline levels have built up, putting the area and residents at risk.
Water Cleaning Robot
A team of robotics experts in Bristol, England, have recently created a robot designed to clean up contaminated water. The robot imitates a transparent, tube-like creature called a salp which filters water for living scraps. It uses a soft polymer membrane to filter organic material out of water, and feed it into a bacteria-driven fuel cell.
The bacteria break down organic matter into chemical energy, which the robot then transforms into electrical energy. Should the process perform as efficiently as hoped, the robot could be self-sustaining, feeding on algae and other contaminants in polluted waterways.
SARA Retrofits Take City by Storm
Texas’ San Antonio River Authority (SARA) has been awarded a Clean Water Act grant from the EPA. The money was awarded to fund stormwater retrofits at SARA’s main office, including cisterns, rain gardens and permeable pavement parking stalls.
This is one of many Low Impact Development (LID) initiatives that SARA has been promoting, and it is using this opportunity as a case study of LID retrofits in highly urbanized areas.
California Law Promotes Natural Green Infrastructure
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the groundbreaking Assembly Bill 2480, a law which dictates that “source watersheds are recognized and defined as integral components of California’s water infrastructure.” As a result, infrastructure finance can be used toward the restoration of forest and maintenance of meadows, streams, and rivers.
California is following Peru’s lead. Recently, the country has been utilizing millions of its capitol’s water fees for green infrastructure initiatives, including restoring ancient water structures.
Peru has also announced a three year plan of adding green interventions to their existing gray infrastructure. California water conservationists hope to do the same in the near future.
“It’s a major shift in the way we think about conservation,” said Genevieve Bennett, senior associate at Ecosystem Marketplace and report author. “Nature isn’t just ‘nice to have,’ but an absolutely critical piece of our water infrastructure systems.”
Polluted Pond Chokes Out Fish
Almy Pond in Newport, Rhode Island, is so polluted that all aquatic life in it is extinct. Phosphorus levels have led to an increase in algae, which has made oxygen levels drop too low for fish and other aquatic animals to survive.
The rise in phosphorus comes from waterfowl waste, biogeochemicals, wastewater and stormwater coming from 13 different drainage pipes. The report says that the waterfowl population and surrounding land use contribute very little to the pollution.
According to the report, “The possibility that wastewater is a significant source cannot be discounted.
Specifically, there is a concern that sewage may be leaking out of force mains…or that there may be failing septic systems along the eastern and northern shores [of the pond].”
The city will begin testing possible infrastructure pollution sources this spring.
San Mateo Seeks Funding
San Mateo County, California, drafting a new Stormwater Resource Plan, utilizing green infrastructure to fight stormwater runoff and flooding. The plan includes a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) chemical abatement program to reduce the amount of the pollutant in local creeks, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
The high levels of PCB in the water can do extensive harm to health, according to the State Water Control Resources Board. Fish in the bay are inedible due to PCB contamination.
Currently, San Mateo is challenging Sacramento’s stormwater mandates for extra funding, arguing that requirements go beyond federal standards.