Weekly News Briefs: Unreported Spill Prompts Mercury Testing

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An unreported mercury spill triggered concern over employee health at the East Lansing, Mich., Wastewater Treatment Plant after an anonymous caller tipped off officials using the state’s toll-free Pollution Emergency Alerting System.

The incident occurred four months ago, in November 2013, when plant workers used a Shop-Vac to clean up a 1.5-pound mercury spill. Follow-up testing at the plant in late March revealed remnants of the heavy metal at the wastewater treatment plant, but nothing hazardous to workers.

“The really important thing is the exposure that’s left is real low,” says Jim Wilson, Ingham County’s environmental health director.

The city has arranged for wastewater treatment plant workers to receive mercury testing. After interviewing employees, Public Works Director Todd Sneathen helped schedule tests for at least 16 staff members.

“There’s clearly a failure when an incident like that goes unreported for so long,” says Mayor Nathan Triplett.

The incident is under investigation.

Source: Lansing State Journal

Oklahoma Senate Passes Water Reuse Legislation
Water reuse policy got a thumb’s up in Oklahoma when state legislators passed Senate Bill 1187, which establishes procedures and permit applications for water reuse. Officials in Norman, Okla., are closely following the bill because the municipality hopes to reroute discharged wastewater from the Canadian River to a tributary that feeds Lake Thunderbird.

“It’s good to have this legislation introduced and create dialogue between the regulatory agencies and the cities that need to reuse,” says Ken Komiske, Norman Utilities Director.

The Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District requested reclaimed water from Norman’s sanitary sewer system be used to augment the lake.

Source: Norman Transcript

Water & Sewer Employee Pens Sanitation History Book
Sanitation history is perhaps a small publishing niche, but it’s one Richard Zang, chairman of the Newton County (Conn.) Water & Sewer Authority believed was worth entering. His recently published book, A History of Newtown Sewer System — Its Planning, Design, Construction and Operation, explains the complexities of the two local municipal sanitary sewer systems along with detailed text, photos maps, charts and diagrams.

The book chronicles the 35-year journey from the town’s first appropriation for a wastewater study in 1962 to when it begin treating wastewater at its own plant in 1997.

The book is available for reference reading at the C.H. Booth Library, Newton, Conn.

Source: Newtown Bee

City Approves $22 Million Wastewater Contract
The city council in Richmond Hill, Ga., recently approved the largest expenditure in city history, voting for a $22 million contract with Bates Engineering/Contractors, Inc. for the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. The city’s current plant treats up to 1.5 mgd with membrane bioreactor technology and constructed wetlands. The new plant will nearly double that capacity, treating 3 mgd when the plant comes online with the potential to treat 4 mgd after further expansion. The new plant will also meet ammonia removal guidelines that are unattainable at the current treatment plant.

Project funding will come from a combination of grants, usage fees and water/sewer connection fees.

“It is not a cheap endeavor,” says Mayor Harold Fowler. “This is the most money the city of Richmond Hill has ever spent on anything. It is quite an undertaking.”

Source: Savannah Morning News

Universities Collaborate on Wastewater/Algae Studies
Students and researchers at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona are working to grow algae from wastewater, potentially reducing the resource load of algal biofuels. The multi-university project recently opened the doors to the public, with a public forum and a presentation of student projects held on March 7.

“The most effective way of addressing the challenges (of growing algal biofuels) would be in an integrative approach addressing all the factors together — water, nutrients energy, land use and greenhouse-gas emissions,” says UA Professor Joel Cuello.

Arizona hosts more than 40 algae-related enterprises, including industries stemming from university research.

Source: UA News, Yuman Arizona News


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