News Briefs: Operator Says Space Debris Hit Treatment Plant

In this week's news, debris tumbles from the sky ... right onto a treatment plant. Also, a phosphorus solution could make you a millionaire.
News Briefs: Operator Says Space Debris Hit Treatment Plant

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Workers at New Jersey’s Secaucus Municipal Utilities Authority were surprised to see a piece of debris tumbling from the sky toward the plant last week. Two workers who were walking nearby at the time heard a “pretty loud bang,” as the object hit two pieces of equipment, according to a UPI article.

“It shook the guys up a little bit,” Operations Foreman Steve Bronowich told 1010 WINS, New York. “Quite frankly, if it would’ve hit them, it would’ve killed them.”

The object first hit the plant's primary clarifier and then bounced up 20 feet in the air and hit the trickling filter. 

Bronowich says he tried to identify the object online, and concluded it resembled a space shuttle heat tile.

“What they show online for a space shuttle tile, it’s a little thicker than what we actually have here, but it certainly looks like it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s actually a tile, but I know it did come out of the sky.”

A NASA representative responded to the event in an email saying it was “extremely unlikely this object is related to the space shuttle” because “we have not flown the space shuttle since 2011, we had a highly accurate accounting of the tiles, and this does not appear to be a tile.”

Treatment plant employees turned the item over to the county health department. The tile appears to be made of ceramic, metal and rubberlike layers. The agency then turned the object over to the Federal Aviation Administration. Bronowich says the FAA has visited the plant twice, and as far as he knows, the plant is not in a flight path.

""The reason I wanted to know [about the object] is safety," he says. "We've had 5,176 days without an accident. We kind of pride ourselves on our safety record."

Sources: New York CBS, UPI

Remove Phosphorus, Win $10 Million

The Grand Challenge, sponsored by the Everglades Foundation, could make someone a multi-millionaire. A single anonymous donor has provided $10 million for the competition, which will be paid to an individual or team that reduces phosphorus levels to 40 parts per billion in Lake Okeechobee. Water entering the lake from the Kissimmee River has phosphorus levels of 250 to 350 parts per thousand.

“What kinds of solutions are out there to avoid what we saw in Toledo?” says Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg in a News-Press article. “Things have to change. The private sector has to step forward to solve the problem.”

The Grand Challenge will formally launch in February 2015, and the Foundation expects to award the prize by 2022. An additional $1 million will be awarded in various subcategories.

Source: News-Press

Los Angeles Mayor Announces Aggressive Water Goals

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced an aggressive campaign to reduce per capita potable water use in the city by 20 percent by 2017. The mayor’s plan is in response to the severe drought affecting the region.

The city’s 4 million residents currently use 130 gallons per capita per day.

“Severe drought and a changing climate call for a bold response,” says Steve Fleischli, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Water Program. “The mayor’s investments in 21st Century solutions to improve water conservation, capture rainwater and use treated wastewater make good economic and environmental sense no matter the weather.”

The mayor’s plan will first target outdoor water use including rainwater capture, greywater use and building code changes. The plan also asks city residents to reduce outdoor watering to two days per week, cover swimming pools when not in use and take advantage of rebates for water-efficient landscaping.

Sources: Press release


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