News Briefs: Billings Water Source Runs Low as Yellowstone River Levels Drop

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, the U.S. EPA takes action to control and clean up the contamination created by decades of coal ash disposal

The only water source for Billings, Montana, is running low, according to officials via the Billings Gazette.

Following a summer that saw record high temperatures and water use restrictions, the Yellowstone River recently dropped to a historic low. The city talked about the possibility of having to switch to a backup intake if water levels drop below its main intake position.

City Administrator Chris Kukulski says the current levels could be partially due to an ice jam upstream.

EPA Takes Action to Clean Up Coal Ash Disposal

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking several actions to protect communities and hold facilities accountable for controlling and cleaning up the contamination created by decades of coal ash disposal. Coal combustion residuals (CCR), a byproduct of burning coal in coal-fired power plants, contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic that without proper management can pollute waterways, groundwater, drinking water and the air.

The recent actions by the EPA include proposing decisions on requests for extensions to the current deadline for initiating closure of unlined CCR surface impoundments; putting several facilities on notice regarding their obligations to comply with CCR regulations; and laying out plans for future regulatory actions to ensure coal ash impoundments meet strong environmental and safety standards.

“I’ve seen firsthand how coal ash contamination can hurt people and communities. Coal ash surface impoundments and landfills must operate and close in a manner that protects public health and the environment,” says EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Cities Begin to See Better COVID-19 News in Wastewater

As cities around the nation continue to use wastewater as a resource for testing community levels of COVID-19, some good news first emerged in Boston and other East Coast cities, as the detected levels of the omicron variant are steeply declining.

More recently, farther inland cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul are cautiously optimistic as they see omicron variant levels may be past their peak.

St. Paul Board Proposes Replacing All Lead Pipes

With 20-25% of St. Paul (Minnesota) Regional Water Services customers’ homes being serviced be lead pipes, the city’s Board of Water Commissioners is promoting the idea of an aggressive lead line replacement plan.

One member of the board called for a 10-year plan to replace all the lead pipes on public or private property at an estimated cost of $220 million.

“I think we need to be bold on this. We need to say we are going to replace every lead pipe in the next 10 years — public and private — and push it,” commissioner and city council member Chris Tolbert said, according to the Star Tribune.


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