News Briefs: Air Force Fuel Spill Headed Toward Municipal Wells

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A decades-old fuel spill at the Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, N.M., is slowly creeping toward municipal water sources. Discovered in 1999, the spill came from an underground fuel pipe that had been leaking undetected since the 1950s. Cleanup efforts are ongoing, and are headed by the New Mexico Environment Department. The Air Force is responsible for actual cleanup work.

In 2002, the spill reached Albuquerque groundwater, and it is currently less than a mile from the nearest Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority well. Projections estimate the contamination could reach the wells in 30 to 40 years. So although the threat to municipal drinking supplies is not imminent, community groups are pushing for a faster cleanup.

“I understand the public wanted this cleaned up yesterday,” says Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn.

After gathering data at a pump test of a well adjacent to the base, the next step is to capture contamination still trapped in the soil between the spill site and the aquifer. The third deadline — to design a system to clean groundwater — should be completed by June.

Source: Albuquerque Journal

Detroit To Increase Water Service Shutoffs
Customers who are more than 60 days late on water bills will soon receive a notice from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The department plans to shut off service to 1,500 to 3,000 customers per week in an effort to change customer behavior.

“Not everyone is in this situation where they can’t afford to pay,” says Darryl Latimer, DWSD deputy director. “It’s just that the utility bill is the last bill people choose to pay because there isn’t any threat of being out of service.”

Of the 323,900 Detroit accounts, nearly 165,000 were overdue on March 6, accounting for $175 million in unpaid bills. The department is also tightening a policy that allowed customers to make multiple partial payments on overdue accounts.

“Shutting off the water certainly sends a message,” says Robert Daddow, Oakland County’s deputy county executive.

Source: Detroit News

What Can California Learn From Israel?
Despite dire drought conditions this winter, Israel has suspended a long-standing campaign to conserve water, mainly because of a successful desalination program. Israel boasts four desalination plants, all built since 2005, and a fifth is set to go into service this year. Nearly 80 percent of water used in Israeli cities comes from the Mediterranean Sea.

“There’s no water problem here because of desalination,” says Hila Gil, director of desalination at the Israel Water Authority. “The problem is no longer on the agenda.”

In California, where water concerns increase by the day, the lessons learned in Israel could be critical to the state’s water supply. Currently, more than a dozen desalination projects are at various stages of planning.

Source: Seattle Times

Coal-Ash Woes Continue After Duke Energy Spill
After a massive coal ash spill into the Dan River just upstream from Dan, Va., on Feb. 2, Duke Energy has again come under criticism — this time, for illegally pumping 61 million gallons of coal-ash wastewater into canals that feed into the Cape Fear River, which supplies drinking water for several cities and towns in southeastern North Carolina. According to utility officials, the dumping was preparation for routine maintenance of two settling ponds that hold ash. However, regulators say the pumping exceeded permits.

“The state’s investigation revealed that pumping activities ongoing at this plant far exceed what would reasonably be considered routine maintenance,” says Tom Reeder, director of water resources at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The wastewater dumping occurred from September through late March. On March 28, the DENR also cited Duke Energy for a crack in an earthen dam holding back coal ash slurry.

Source: NY TimesLA Times



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