News Briefs: EPA Official Says 'No Reasonable Operator' Would Have OK'd Flint Plant

In this week's water and wastewater news, a high-ranking EPA official says Flint's water plant shouldn't have been approved by the state; and more than 300 schools in San Diego, California, are testing for lead
News Briefs: EPA Official Says 'No Reasonable Operator' Would Have OK'd Flint Plant

Robert Kaplan, the EPA’s interim Region 5 director, says Flint, Michigan’s water plant should never have gotten the approval to operate.

“No reasonable plant operator would have given the go-ahead, and in fact they didn’t,” said Robert Kaplan, interim Region 5 director for the U.S. EPA, at a news conference. “It was a mistake. It was rushed. It was hurried. It shouldn’t have happened.”

Kaplan said he supports the mayor’s recommendation to purchase pre-treated water instead of operating the plant using water from the Karengnondi Water Authority.

Three years have passed since the state licensed the plant to operate, ignoring warnings from the plant’s operator that the facility wasn’t able to supply safe water.

The city is only weeks away from deciding what it will use as a water source.


San Diego Schools Use New Regulations to Test for Lead

More than 300 San Diego schools are testing their water for lead, according to state data reported by the city’s own NBC7.

Among those, at least 17 have tested at levels above 5 ppb, which some health officials say is cause for concern. Guidelines put in place by the state suggest anything over 15 ppb requires action.

New rules in California require public utilities to test schools free of charge if the school requests a test.

“There is no safe level of lead in drinking water for kids,” public health advocate Jason Pfeifle told NBC7. “These schools must protect children's health and shut off access to these water outlets immediately.”

Source: NBC7 San Diego

WaterSense Program At Risk Due to EPA Budget Cuts

Water utilities around the country are supporting an effort by the Alliance for Water Efficiency to save the U.S. EPA’s WaterSense program, which aims to assist consumers make smart water choices by using certification labels on products.

In Wisconsin, many communities rely on the program, according to Madison Water Utility public information officer Amy Barrilleaux.

“Our toilet rebate program alone, which relies on WaterSense to build that program, has saved a half-billion gallons of water, $2.6 million in water and sewer costs, and has actually even saved enough energy to power 130 Madison homes for a year,” she told WXPR.

Any product earning the WaterSense label is certified as water efficient, and the program could soon disappear as the Trump administration has proposed significant cuts to the EPA.

Source: WXPR

New Phosphorus Management Study Proposes Restructured Index

A new project proposes a restructured index to build on phosphorus management efforts in Wisconsin and beyond.

“The idea is to account for the characteristics of a field, and help evaluate the risk of phosphorus runoff from that location,” says Quirine Ketterings. Ketterings is lead author of the new study.

The new index structure aims to improve upon previous approaches, focusing on the existing risk of phosphorus runoff from a field based on the location and how it is currently managed. Qualities like ground cover, erosion potential and distance to a stream or water body all come into play. The index also highlights best management practices to reduce this risk.

“The new index approach will direct farmers toward an increasingly safer series of practices,” says Ketterings. “Higher-risk fields require more and safer practices to reduce and manage phosphorus runoff.”

Ketterings directs the Nutrient Management Spear program at Cornell University. She and her colleagues used a combination of surveys, computer-generated examples and old-fashioned number crunching. They used characteristics of thousands of farm fields to develop the new index. Involving farmers and farm advisors was also a key step.

Read more about Ketterings’ work in the Journal of Environmental Quality.


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