News Briefs: Diesel Fuel Spill Creates Water Supply Woes

In this week's water and wastewater news, a fuel spill shuts down a Virginia water supply, a federal report calls for rural system funding, and the U.S. House takes on algal toxins.
News Briefs: Diesel Fuel Spill Creates Water Supply Woes

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Virginia American Water shut down its Hopewell plant this week after 600 to 800 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Appomattox River. The fuel came from generators used for backup power at the intake facility. Officials first noticed the leak late on Monday, March 2.

Virginia Water halted water production most of Tuesday, forcing Hopewell schools to dismiss students early on fears of a water shortage.

Testing on Tuesday revealed no trace of fuel in the water.

“All rounds of testing so far have come up negative, which means there’s no sign of any contamination, which is great news,” says William Walsh, Virginia American president, to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The fuel spill created a sheen on the Appomattox for more than 3 miles. A contractor removed about 90 percent of the floating fuel by Tuesday afternoon.

Treated water within the plant was not affected, and Virginia America says the shutdown was precautionary. Walsh said the effects of the spill were limited because the plant’s intakes are underwater. Also, the cold weather made the fuel thicker and easier to collect.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Booming Wine Industry Seeks Wastewater Permits

The Washington Department of Ecology is working on a general wastewater permit for the state’s burgeoning wine industry. The number of wineries in the state has doubled in the past decade to more than 850. Of those, 13 currently have individualized wastewater permits.

The wine industry creates the most wastewater in the fall, during harvest. The wastewater can be difficult for municipal plants to treat because of its high biological oxygen demand and low pH levels.

The Department of Ecology plans to create a reasonable process that will protect water and soil quality.

Officials are unsure if the permit will be required for wineries already discharging into a publicly owned wastewater treatment plant.

Source: Tri-City Herald

Rural Water and Wastewater System Need $140 Billion

Small water and wastewater systems will need about $140 billion in system upgrades in the coming decades, says a report from the Government Accountability Office. The report concludes rural systems face unique funding challenges that make those expensive upgrades difficult.

According to the report, rural communities have a smaller rate base and therefore the systems depend heavily on grants and subsidized loan programs. However, the loan application process is itself expensive for these communities. Small communities often don’t have the technical expertise needed for the applications, so they must hire consultants or engineers to help with the loan process. Also, rural communities often face duplicative efforts during the application process when applying for multiples loans and grants.

In an Agri-Pulse article, Bobby Selman, a certified water operator and representative for the Mississippi Rural Water Association, said the loan application process can sometimes take up to three or four years to complete. He urged Congress to adapt simpler funding applications.

“Federal agencies, with states, have long played a role in assisting local communities and will likely continue to do so. As they do so, they can and should consider how to ease communities’ effort to obtain funding,” concludes the report.

Source: GAO report

U.S. House Passes Algal Toxin Bill

According to a recently passed U.S. House bill, the Environmental Protection Agency could be required to study algal toxins and how they affect drinking water. The bill, HR-212, passed with a 375-37 vote.

This past summer, 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, were placed under a do-not-drink advisory when algal toxins were detected in drinking water.

“The situation demonstrated a need for a more strategic, comprehensive and strong scientific approach to protect our citizen’s public drinking water,” says Rep. Bob Latta (Ohio), the bill’s sponsor.

The bill requires the EPA to submit a strategy to Congress within 90 days. The plan must include an evaluation of human health, a list of known algal toxins, recommendations for treatment and guidelines on when to publish health advisories.



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