Friday, October 3, 2014

What We Learned This Week - "Nor any drop to drink"

U.S. EPA Administrator McCarthy said that Toledo's water contamination episode this summer was symptomatic of two larger water quality problems: nutrient pollution and toxic algal blooms. The EPA plans to issue drinking water health advisories for the culprits in such harmful algal blooms - cyanobacteria - by May 2015.  Iowa Governor Branstad spoke out against the proposed Obama administration clean water jurisdiction rule, known as "Waters of the U.S.," as did 63 business groups, citing "serious concerns" over the way the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have operated during the proposed rule comment period. Meanwhile, the EPA's Science Advisory Board declared that the controversial clean water proposal is supported by science.  Hundreds of unmonitored hazardous chemicals routinely pass through U.S. wastewater treatment plants into receiving water bodies.  The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week in a Republican River water dispute between Kansas and Nebraska dating back to the 1980s. The water under dispoute in Kansas and Nebraska and found elsewhere in the solar system is actually older than the sun and planets - originating in a cold interstellar cloud of gas from which those objects were formed.  Some of that very old water - from the Ogallala aquifer - continues to pour onto farm fields despite decades of dire forecasts regarding its unsustainable use.  Barge industry representatives contend that the U.S. inland waterways system is one flood, drought or mechanical breakdown away from disaster, following years of neglect.  The super weed, Palmer amaranth, has been confirmed in South Dakota for first time, raising concerns it could next spread into the Upper Midwest.  U.S. emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide have risen six percent in the last two years.  The U.S. ranks last overall in environmental attitudes and habits of its citizens, contrasting sharply with public attitudes in large developing economies.  A mere seven percent of likely voters approve of the way Congress is handling its job.   That job-handling capacity may not be changing soon, since GOP candidates facing reelection in "safe" Republican House districts are tacking decidedly to the right in a move likely to increase divisions in the already-polarized U.S. Congress.   And last but not least, in agricultural news that transcends watershed boundaries, a New Jersey farm opened a five-acre corn maze carved in honor of retiring New York Yankees shortstop and baseball great, Derek Jeter.

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