News Briefs: Oil Train Derailment Threatens Water, Triggers More Questions

News Briefs: Oil Train Derailment Threatens Water, Triggers More Questions

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Officials in Richmond, Va., took precautionary measures on Wednesday, April 30, to protect the city’s water supply after a train carrying crude oil derailed 100 miles upstream in downtown Lynchburg. About 15 tank cars jumped the track and ignited, causing an evacuation of about 250,000 people. Three of the cars ended up in the James River, and oil ignited in the water. No injuries were reported.

The Lynchburg water supply intake is upstream of the wreck, so city water sources were not threatened. In Richmond, however, the utility switched to an alternative water supply as a precautionary measure.

Crude oil shipments have increased dramatically in the past several years as producers rush oil to areas not served by pipelines. After a series of oil-transportation accidents in the past year, rail safety has fallen under scrutiny. Just hours after the Lynchburg accident, the Department of Transportation sent a package of rules aimed at improving the safety of oil transportation to the White House. Those rules are expected to mimic Canada’s tougher restrictions.

Source: NY Times, LA Times 

Panel to Discuss Water Infrastructure Crisis
The Value of Water Coalition will host an in-depth conversation on water infrastructure on May 14 in Washington, D.C. The panel, which will include George Hawkins, DC Water; Tony Parrott, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati; Ed Pinero, Veolia North America; Ken Kopocis, U.S. EPA; and Mark Strauss, American Water, will discuss the consequences of letting water infrastructure worsen and solutions to current and future water challenges.

Those unable to attend may join the conversation via Twitter @TheValueofWater with the hashtag #valueofwater. For information on reservations, live webinars and more, visit the Value of Water website.

Texas Utilities Consider Drought Fee
If drought conditions in Texas persist, Austin Water Utility board members will consider implementing a drought fee. The fee would help the utility combat an increasing deficit if the city goes into Stage 3 or 4 restrictions. Stage 3 occurs when lake storage levels hit 600,000 acre-feet, which experts predict could happen in July. Under those conditions, residents would be asked to use less water. To make up for lost revenue, customers would pay an additional drought fee on their water bills.

Dallas recently created a similar fee, which targets high-volume users. Under the Dallas model, customers using more than 15,000 gallons per month will see rates jump 25 percent under Stage 2 drought conditions and 50 percent under Stage 3. Austin is considering several models: a fixed fee, a tiered fee depending on water usage levels, an option equivalent to the Dallas model where users pay more after using 11,000 gallons, and a system where per-gallon-rates change based on drought stages.

Source: KVUE

California Issues Second Drought Emergency Proclamation
Water, water isn’t everywhere in California, where residents are even being asked to reconsider accepting a glass of water at restaurants. Governor Jerry Brown says the state will roll back some environmental protections and loosen rules on transferring water to farmers to combat the drought.

“With this proclamation I’m calling upon all Californians, municipal water agencies, and anyone who uses water to do everything possible to conserve,” says Brown in a Reuters article.

The new executive order shortens the application process for farmers who need water for crops, and cuts the red tape for cities that need to improve or expand their water systems. It also forbids homeowner associations from fining residents who let their lawns go dry.

Source: Reuters


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