Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Priorities For Protecting Against Emerging Chemical Pollutants

Nov 27: A report released today by the Alliance for the Great Lakes (Alliance) notes that since the production of synthetic chemicals took off after World War II, the waters of Lake Michigan -- which take a century to refresh -- have yet to see a complete turnover. Halfway through this cycle, scientists are beginning to see alarming trends of an increasing multitude of chemicals found in the water. In southern Lake Michigan, one of the most urbanized and industrialized areas in the Great Lakes Basin and home to approximately a third of the Great Lakes population, these contaminants are a steady source of chemical exposure for aquatic species, and affect the quality of the waters we rely upon for drinking and look to for recreation.
    Alliance President and CEO Joel Brammeier said, "The number of chemicals entering the nation's environment each year is staggering, as is the potential for them to degrade the water we drink and swim in." Upwards of 85,000 chemicals are in production and use in the U.S. today -- more than 2,200 of them produced at a rate of 1 million-plus pounds a year. Beyond this, consumers can choose from more than 50,000 pharmaceutical products, and nearly 20,000 registered pesticide products have entered the
market since registration began in 1947.
    The report -- Keeping Great Lakes Water Safe: Priorities for Protecting Against Emerging Chemical Pollutants -- applies a published, peer-reviewed scientific framework to rank chemicals of highest concern found in national waters that are representative of those found in the Great Lakes. The methodology examines both surface water and treated drinking water -- identifying the top 20 emerging contaminants for each based on occurrence, ecologic and human health impacts, and water treatment capabilities. The top-ranking chemicals include representatives from a broad range of categories: hormones, synthetic musks, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, antimicrobials and preservatives, UV blockers, plasticizers, flame retardants and pesticides.
    The Alliance indicates that as the chemical presence around us expands, the potential for them to end up in the Great Lakes also grows -- arriving there via atmospheric deposition, stormwater runoff and sewage overflows. Others are released into the Great Lakes at trace concentrations via treated wastewater discharges because conventional sewage treatment isn't designed to remove them. Lake Michigan's surface waters are affected, with six of the top 20 chemicals detected -- among them flame retardants, synthetic fragrances, bisphenol A (BPA), and a popular cholesterol-lowering drug -- found in the open lake waters.
    Current data shows that, after processing in a treatment plant, drinking water drawn from Lake Michigan may not be significantly burdened with contaminants, with only one chemical -- a flame retardant -- detected of the top 20 identified in the report. The report cautions that the data collected thus far provides only a snapshot of what might be in the open waters of the Great Lakes, however, and doesn't take into account the health risks that bioaccumulating chemicals in the water pose to people who eat Great Lakes fish. Also not known is the level of risk these trace levels of contaminants in the water actually pose for people and wildlife.
    The report calls for a comprehensive approach that involves not only technological solutions, but collaboration among utilities, regulatory agencies, public health officials, manufacturers and environmentalists to focus on pollution prevention. Additionally it
further calls for: Funding development of consistent, uniform regional monitoring standards; Encouraging the U.S. and Canada to draw on credible prioritization methods to set binational objectives for controlling high-priority Great Lakes contaminants, and to pursue these goals through domestic policy reforms; and Reforming the 36-year-old federal Toxic Substance Control Act to feature a framework that places pollution prevention at the forefront of new chemical design and production.
    Access the report website and link to a release, executive summary and the complete 40-page report (click here).
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Eight Draft Aquatic Pathway Assessment For Wisconsin

Nov 27: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released for public comment eight draft Aquatic Pathway Assessment Reports for the State of Wisconsin. The purpose of each report is to evaluate key evidence to estimate the likelihood of an aquatic pathway forming and the possibility of aquatic nuisance species (ANS) using it to reach the adjacent basin, as part of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS). Comments for the eight draft Wisconsin reports will be accepted from November 27, 2012 through December 27, 2012. USACE will review and incorporate public input before finalizing and re-issuing the reports early 2013. Additionally, USACE will host a stakeholder conference call Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 10 AM (Central) to answer questions regarding the Wisconsin reports. 

    The reports, which were developed in coordination with Federal, State and local partners, show that Portage Upstream (Columbia County), Portage and Canal Downstream (Columbia County), Rosendale-Brandon (Fond du Lac County) and Brule Headwaters (Douglas County) have a medium probability for the potential transfer of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSv) from the Great Lakes Basin into the Mississippi River Basin. Jerome Creek (Kenosha County), South Aniwa Wetlands (Marathon-Shawano County), Hatley-Plover River (Marathon County) and West Menomonee Falls (Waukesha County) have a low probability for the inter-basin movement of ANS.

    The overall objective of the Focus Area 2 portion of GLMRIS is to produce an interim report for each of the 18 potential aquatic pathways found between the two basins (outside of the Chicago Area Waterway System or Focus Area 1). The reports are the next step in a tiered approach to assess the probability associated with the spread of ANS between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. Additional reports focusing on potential pathways in Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania will be released over the next few months, as they are completed. The reports include: study methodology; aquatic pathway characterization; aquatic pathway viability for ANS of Concern; overall aquatic pathway viability and some potential opportunities that, if implemented, could prevent or reduce the probability of ANS transferring between the basins.
    Access a release with additional details and instructions for commenting and the conference call (click here). Access links to all reports and online commenting links (click here). [#GLakes]
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