CURRENT DROUGHT


GROUNDWATER PAGE:  Fields of nightmares in Weston (l)?
CT DEP and Health Department monitoring wells here just in case.  How about Stamford?  Link to terrific NYTimes graphic.  Town of Groton flushes pipes;  Island Beach coliform count.

H2O PAGE CONTENTS HEREGROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION NEWS PAGE HERE.  THE 2014 STATUS OF PRIVATE WELLS IN CT  (STAMFORD ADVOCATE REPORT)




U.S.G.S. link;  Click here for Saugatuck Reservoir news - NOTE: view left, 2nd row is not of Weston--it is Barkhamstead Reservoir early in Spring 2002...Eastern CT regional plans for a major link in a water project was completed when a pipeline snaked beneath the Thames River between Montville and Gales Ferry in April 2006.  Map on second row shows sewer and water service in SWR.  Guess which is blue and which is brown.  "Rural Salem" page;  "Eightmile" page.  Hartford Landfill pix and graphic story of how it grew.  NYTIMES editorializes about PCB's and the  Hudson River.  Darien's shoreline inspired one of "About Town's" favorite artists!  Less official site on mercury.


C O N T E N T S   O F   T H I S    P A G E . . .
THE WATER CYCLE:  So what are we talking about, in language that we all can understand?





Jepsen: Aquarion request for water rate increase 'unwarranted'

DAY
Article published Jul 20, 2013

Attorney General George Jepsen asked utility regulators in a filing late Thursday to reject Aquarion Water Company's application to raise rates by $33 million over three years, arguing that the increase is neither necessary or appropriate.

"Utility companies are, by law, allowed to charge customers rates that are just and reasonable," Jepsen said in a written statement. "Aquarion's proposed rates far exceed levels that could be considered just and reasonable and are unwarranted at this time."

Problems with the water company's rate increase request, as seen by the attorney general, include: a high return on equity, miscalculated levels of expected revenues, as well as questions about ratepayer-funding of executive compensation and employee bonus program.

"I have asked that PURA reject this rate application and spare ratepayers an unnecessary and excessive increase to their water bills," Jepsen said.

The company filed notice of its intent to increase rates with the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in March. Regulators plan to release a final decision on the rate case in August.

Concerns about the rate case began last month when Aquarion, the state's largest water company which serves Mystic and Stonington locally, started a series of public hearings to gather input on the average 23 percent three-year rate increase to cover what the company says it $143 million in water infrastructure improvements made since its last rate increase in 2010
.

DPUC allows Aquarion to raise water rate 11.3%
Customers in Mystic and Stonington to see 11.7% increase

By Lee Howard Day Staff Writer
Article published Sep 10, 2010

The typical water bill for residents of Stonington and Mystic will increase about $4.40 a month - or 11.7 percent - as regulators issued their final decision on a rate hike request by Aquarion Water Co. of Connecticut.

The state Department of Public Utility Control held the overall rate hike for Aquarion customers statewide to 11.3 percent, a reduction from the company's requested increase of 17.6 percent but higher than consumers had hoped for. The 132-page final decision, issued by commissioners John W. Betkoski III, Anna M. Ficeto and Anthony J. Palermino, was in line with a draft document issued last month.  Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who had requested no rate increase given the current economic climate, said he was disappointed by the decision.

"The hike is another drag (on) consumers and businesses already coping with the toughest economy in decades," Blumenthal said in a statement. "Utilities should share the struggles of their customers, learning like them to do more with less."

The DPUC's decision, handed down late Wednesday, affects about 5,000 Aquarion customers in Mystic and Stonington starting this month. The DPUC said the quarterly bill for a typical local customer using 2,400 cubic feet of water would rise from $112.44 to $125.65.

Bridgeport-based Aquarion had sought additional smaller increases over two subsequent years, but the DPUC decided not to address water rate hikes in three-year increments, as the company had requested.

Only about 15 people attended a hearing on the proposed rate hike when it was held earlier this year in Mystic. The DPUC said it had received about 170 letters and e-mails from consumers, all of which opposed the rate hike.

"Discretionary expenses and capital expenditures should be put on hold," said a brief submitted to the DPUC in July by state Consumer Counsel Mary J. Healey.

Aquarion said it had been holding the line on expenses, reducing staffing levels by more than 20 percent since 2002 while working out salary reductions with unions and investing in power-efficient technologies. In addition, it proposed expanding a program to help customers facing financial hardships.

The DPUC's decision directs Aquarion to submit an annual report by June 1 on the Hardship Customer Program to provide information on the number of people helped and how many dollars have been allocated.
Attorney General Blumenthal said in a statement that he expects the DPUC to monitor Aquarion's staffing levels.

"Layoffs would be unacceptable given the size of the rate increase," he said.

Aquarion's rate-hike approval comes about three years after it sought a controversial 24 percent increase in local water-use charges that the DPUC reduced to 11.7 percent.


AG opposes revised rate increase for water company
Norwalk HOUR
Dec. 11, 2007

NEW BRITAIN [AP]— State regulators have issued a second draft decision approving rate increases for the Bridgeport-based Aquarion Water Co. affecting customers in 35 towns and cities.

The latest decision from the state Department of Public Utility Control is drawing fire from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Blumenthal says the second draft decision released Monday allows Aquarion a rate increase of $19.4 million or 17 percent. This increase is higher than the $17 million, or 15 percent, increase than the DPUC first proposed last month.

Aquarion originally asked for a $31.95 million, or nearly 28 percent, increase to pay for infrastructure improvements and increases in operating expenses.

A DPUC's final decision is not expected until later this month.






GLOBAL WARMING SOLVED BY SCIENCE - HOW COULD THAT WORK?
What are some scientific alternatives to public water supply systems, as we know them (above, r), from our readings on drought since
2002 in Connecticut?



Why Weston cares about this - underground fuel tanks can leak and pollute groundwater
Governor plays hardball with defiant fuel-tank board

Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
April 16, 2012


The battle to fix Connecticut's debt-riddled, underground storage tank cleanup fund took a new twist last week. Unable to persuade its board to stop pledging aid from a near-bankrupt fund, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy shut it down by making sure it won't have a quorum at its next meeting.

With the help of a legislative ally, Malloy was able to ensure that eight of 14 seats on the Underground Storage Tank Petroleum Clean-Up Fund Review Board will remain empty.

As the board fell into legal limbo, advocates for hundreds of Connecticut gasoline stations, municipalities and others struggling to pay to fix fuel spills warned that the state could be headed for a legal battle.

"It does not seem appropriate or helpful to add to taxpayers' costs when we are pursuing legislation to reduce those costs," said Gian-Carl Casa, a spokesman for Malloy's budget agency, the Office of Policy and Management, explaining why three board members' appointments were revoked Friday.

Malloy canceled two appointments: Timothy DeCarlo of Waterbury, a representative of a municipality with a population of greater than 100,000; and Frederick Johnson of Coventry, an engineer and geologist.

House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, an ally whose office controls one appointment to the board, canceled the term of Paul McCullough of Stamford, the panel's chairman.

Four more spots on the 14-member board belong to administration members -- who are not attending meetings while the fund deficit is pending before the legislature. And another seat is vacant.

All totaled, eight of the 14 seats would be empty at any future meetings. And with a majority unable to attend, the board cannot constitute a quorum and conduct official business.

At issue is a program that has been plagued by backlogs stretching back nearly a decade. It entered the calendar year owing more than $16.8 million in aid -- and funds to cover less than 2 percent of that. That money is owed to Connecticut businesses, particularly gasoline station owners facing leaking underground fuel tanks. The program also had nearly $82 million worth of backlogged applications that hadn't been processed yet.

And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned the state on Jan. 26 that it would de-certify the program if state policy-makers failed to craft a solution before the General Assembly session ends May 9.

Hanging in the balance are hundreds of gas stations that industry officials say would otherwise go out of businesses.

Since Congress toughened regulation of leaking underground tanks in 1984, federal regulators have accepted state cleanup programs as a crucial alternative for gasoline stations unable to get private insurance to cover their pollution liabilities.

Malloy has proposed bonding $5 million to cover a portion of the approved claims. Municipalities and owners of individual gas stations and small chains would get most or all of these funds. The administration would negotiate with larger chains, which represent roughly three-quarters of pending claims, offering pennies on the dollar.

The administration is working to "make sure that Connecticut's small businesses, municipalities and innocent landowners will be paid first," Casa said. "Connecticut taxpayers can't afford to bail out big oil companies."

Some legislators have said the alternative would be to scrap the program entirely -- a nightmare scenario for many gasoline stations.

The legislature's Environment Committee has proposed an $8 million allocation, with additional relief for larger chains.

A compromise between the governor and legislature is expected to be negotiated before the May 9 session deadline. Malloy's budget office asked the Underground Storage Tank review board earlier this spring to suspend business until a deal is wrapped.

But the panel met March 20 and approved another 51 claims, worth more than $1.4 million, lifting the state's overall obligation now above $18.2 million, according to DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain. DEEP provides staffing assistance to the review board.

And another meeting was scheduled for this Tuesday.

Two of the removed review board members, McCullough and DeCarlo, could not be reached for comment Friday.

But the third, Johnson, said board members had no choice but to continue to meet.

"The board has a statutory obligation to review applications in a certain time frame, and that statutory obligation is still in place," he said. "We can't just throw the law away."

Michael J. Fox, a board member and executive director of one of the state's largest associations of gasoline station owners, also warned Friday that suspending board operations was a legal risk the state shouldn't be taking.

"We need to meet our obligations," said Fox, whose Stamford-based Gasoline & Automotive Service Dealers of America represents more than 400 stations. "I know people are trying to change things, but they can't circumvent the board in the meantime."

Casa added that the review board vacancies would be filled if the panel remains in place after a final fund repair bill is adopted. The governor proposed eliminating the board and allowing the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to administer the program.

"The board is dominated by people representing the industry and entities that benefit from the fund," Casa said. "That is inappropriate and should not continue."

Six of the 14 board seats belong to gasoline station or oil industry representatives.

Sharkey said he backed Malloy's decision to stop board operations. "The administration has a direction they want to take and the board, frankly, was not working with the administration toward that end," he said.





RECYCLING WASTEWATER - WESTON DOES THAT NATURALLY.
Regionalism may be the answer...this has been, you should pardon the expression, coming to a boil...



Colorado River Drought Forces a Painful Reckoning for States
By MICHAEL WINES, NYTIMES
January 5, 2014

LAKE MEAD, Nev. — The sinuous Colorado River and its slew of man-made reservoirs from the Rockies to southern Arizona are being sapped by 14 years of drought nearly unrivaled in 1,250 years.

The once broad and blue river has in many places dwindled to a murky brown trickle. Reservoirs have shrunk to less than half their capacities, the canyon walls around them ringed with white mineral deposits where water once lapped. Seeking to stretch their allotments of the river, regional water agencies are recycling sewage effluent, offering rebates to tear up grass lawns and subsidizing less thirsty appliances from dishwashers to shower heads.

But many experts believe the current drought is only the harbinger of a new, drier era in which the Colorado’s flow will be substantially and permanently diminished.

Faced with the shortage, federal authorities this year will for the first time decrease the amount of water that flows into Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, from Lake Powell 180 miles upstream. That will reduce even more the level of Lake Mead, a crucial source of water for cities from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and for millions of acres of farmland.

Reclamation officials say there is a 50-50 chance that by 2015, Lake Mead’s water will be rationed to states downstream. That, too, has never happened before.

“If Lake Mead goes below elevation 1,000” — 1,000 feet above sea level — “we lose any capacity to pump water to serve the municipal needs of seven in 10 people in the state of Nevada,” said John Entsminger, the senior deputy general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Since 2008, Mr. Entsminger’s agency has been drilling an $817 million tunnel under Lake Mead — a third attempt to capture more water as two higher tunnels have become threatened by the lake’s falling level. In September, faced with the prospect that one of the tunnels could run dry before the third one was completed, the authority took emergency measures: still another tunnel, this one to stretch the life of the most threatened intake until construction of the third one is finished.

These new realities are forcing a profound reassessment of how the 1,450-mile Colorado, the Southwest’s only major river, can continue to slake the thirst of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions. Agriculture, from California’s Imperial Valley to Wyoming’s cattle herds, soaks up about three-quarters of its water, and produces 15 percent of the nation’s food. But 40 million people also depend on the river and its tributaries, and their numbers are rising rapidly.

The labyrinthine rules by which the seven Colorado states share the river’s water are rife with potential points of conflict. And while some states have made huge strides in conserving water — and even reducing the amount they consume — they have yet to chart a united path through shortages that could last years or even decades.

“There is no planning for a continuation of the drought we’ve had,” said one expert on the Colorado’s woes, who asked not to be identified to preserve his relationship with state officials. “There’s always been within the current planning an embedded hope that somehow, things would return to something more like normal.”

Unfortunately, the Colorado during most of Lake Mead’s 78-year history was not normal at all.

Studies now show that the 20th century was one of the three wettest of the last 13 centuries in the Colorado basin. On average, the Colorado’s flow over that period was actually 15 percent lower than in the 1900s. And most experts agree that the basin will get even drier: A brace of global-warming studies concludes that rising temperatures will reduce the Colorado’s average flow after 2050 by five to 35 percent, even if rainfall remains the same — and most of those studies predict that rains will diminish.

Already, the drought is upending many of the assumptions on which water barons relied when they tamed the Colorado in the 1900s.

The Colorado basin states tried in the 1920s to stave off future fights over water by splitting it, 50-50, between the upper-basin states of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming and the lower-basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California.

In fact, the deal underestimated how much water the fast-growing lower-basin states would need. During most of the wet 20th century, however, the river usually produced more than enough water to offset any shortage.

Now, the gap between need and supply is becoming untenable.

Lake Mead currently stands about 1,106 feet above sea level, and is expected to drop 20 feet in 2014. A continued decline would introduce a new set of problems: At 1,075 feet, rationing begins; at 1,050 feet, a more drastic rationing regime kicks in, and the uppermost water intake for Las Vegas shuts down. At 1,025 feet, rationing grows more draconian; at 1,000 feet, a second Las Vegas intake runs dry.

Lake Powell is another story. There, a 100-foot drop would shut down generators that supply enough electricity to power 350,000 homes.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation’s 24-month forecasts of water levels at Powell and Mead do not contemplate such steep declines. But neither did they foresee the current drought.

“We can’t depend on history to project the future anymore,” Carly Jerla, a geological hydrologist and the reclamation bureau’s Colorado River expert, said in an interview. The drought could end tomorrow, she said — or it could drag on for seven more years.

That raises questions that the states are just beginning to sort out.

The river’s upper-basin states are worried that they might have to curb their consumption to meet their obligations downstream. But the thorniest problems are in the lower basin, where a thicket of political and legal deals has left Arizona holding the bag should the Colorado River continue to diminish.

In the 1960s, California’s legislators demanded first dibs on lower-basin water as a condition of supporting federal legislation to build the Central Arizona Project, a vast web of canals irrigating that state’s farms and cities. Should rationing begin in 2015, Arizona would sacrifice a comparatively small fraction of its Colorado River allotment, while California’s supply would remain intact.

Painful as that would be, though, it could get worse: Should Mead continue to fall, Arizona would lose more than half of its Colorado River water before California lost so much as a drop.

That would have a cascading effect. The Central Arizona Project would lose revenue it gets from selling water, which would raise the price of water to remaining customers, leading farmers to return to pumping groundwater for irrigation — exactly what the Central Arizona Project was supposed to prevent.

“By going back to the pumps, you’ll have made the decision that agriculture will no longer be an industry in central Arizona,” David Modeer, the project’s general manager, said in an interview.

Even Californians doubt Arizona would stand for that, but no successor to the 1960s agreement is in place. And California has a vital interest in holding on to its full allotment of water. The Southern California region using Colorado water is expected to add six million people to the existing 19 million in the next 45 years, and its other water source — the Sierra Nevada to the north — is suffering the same drought and climate problems as the Colorado basin.

“The basic blueprint of our plan calls for a reliable foundation that we then build upon, and that reliable foundation is the Colorado River and Northern California water,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “To the extent we lose one of those supplies, I don’t know that there is enough technology and new supplies to replace them.”

There may be ways to live with a permanently drier Colorado, but none of them are easy. Finding more water is possible — San Diego is already building a desalination plant on the Pacific shore — but there are too few sources to make a serious dent in a shortage.

That leaves conservation, a tack the lower-basin states already are pursuing. Arizona farmers reduce runoff, for example, by using laser technology to ensure that their fields are table flat. The state consumes essentially as much water today as in 1955, even as its population has grown nearly twelvefold.

Working to reduce water consumption by 20 percent per person from 2010 to 2020, Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District is recycling sewage effluent, giving away high-efficiency water nozzles and subsidizing items like artificial turf and zero-water urinals.

Southern Nevada’s water-saving measures are in some ways most impressive of all: Virtually all water used indoors, from home dishwashers to the toilets and bathtubs used by the 40 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year, is treated and returned to Lake Mead. Officials here boast that everyone could take a 20-minute shower every day without increasing the city’s water consumption by a drop.

Moreover, an intensive conservation program slashed the region’s water consumption from 2002 to 2012, even as the area added 400,000 residents.

Even after those measures, federal officials say, much greater conservation is possible. Local officials say they have little choice.

“The era of big water transfers is either over, or it’s rapidly coming to an end,” said Mr. Entsminger, the southern Nevada water official. “It sure looks like in the 21st century, we’re all going to have to use less water.”

As ‘Yuck Factor’ Subsides, Treated Wastewater Flows From Taps
By FELICITY BARRINGER NYTIMES
February 9, 2012

SAN DIEGO — Almost hidden in the northern hills, the pilot water treatment plant here does not seem a harbinger of revolution. It cost $13 million, uses long-established technologies and produces a million gallons a day.

But the plant’s very existence is a triumph over one of the most stubborn problems facing the nation’s water managers: if they make clean drinking water from wastewater, will the yuck factor keep people from accepting it?

With climate change threatening to diminish water supplies in the fast-growing Southwest, more cities are considering the potential of reclaimed water. A new report from the National Academy of Sciences said that if coastal communities used advanced treatment procedures on the effluent that is now sent out to sea, it could increase the amount of municipal water available by as much as 27 percent.

San Diego’s success, 12 years after its City Council recoiled from the toilet-to-tap concept, offers a blueprint for other districts considering wastewater reuse.

For most of the four decades beginning in 1970, the arid West was the fastest-growing region in the country; the population of Nevada quintupled in that period while Arizona’s nearly quadrupled. Continued population growth, unmatched by growth in water storage capacity, makes this a “new era in water management in the United States,” the science group’s report said.

“The pressures on water supplies are changing virtually every aspect of municipal, industrial, and agricultural water practice,” it said.

Back in 1998, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, issued a study finding that supplementing stream flows or reservoirs with this water, a process called indirect potable reuse, was acceptable, although only as a last resort. Now, acceptance of reclaimed water for drinking is spreading, if slowly.

Funneling reclaimed water into water supplies is being considered in a variety of communities like Miami and Denver (which has experimented with the technology), as well as in drought-ravaged municipalities in Texas like Big Spring. The tiny mountain resort town of Cloudcroft, N.M., mingles reclaimed water with local well water. In Northern Virginia, reclaimed water has flowed into the Occoquan Reservoir for three decades.

Still, just one-tenth of 1 percent of municipal wastewater nationally was recycled into local supplies in 2010. Only a handful of systems replenish their reservoirs or groundwater basins with treated wastewater.

The largest is in Orange County, Calif., about 100 miles north of San Diego, where a four-year-old system replenishes the groundwater basin with 70 million gallons of treated effluent daily — about 20 percent of the content of the aquifer. Other sites include El Paso and some areas around Los Angeles.

Edmund Archuleta, the president of El Paso Water Utilities, said in an interview that his city recycled all of its wastewater. Most is used for things like cooling industrial plants or watering playing fields, he said, but “it’s been accepted that we’re recharging some of that water into the aquifer” and into the Rio Grande.

Globally, the largest population center to adopt the technology is Singapore, home to five million people. Officials say about 15 percent of its water originates from treated effluent, marketed as “NEWater.” Most is used for irrigation or manufacturing; some for drinking.

The original technology for recycling wastewater was developed in the 1950s — involving chemical disinfection, carbon-filtration treatment or both — and is in use on the International Space Station. The bulk of recycled water is used on lawns or golf courses, in factories or as an underground barrier against seawater intrusion.

The newest iteration, in use in Orange County, is a three-step process involving fewer chemicals and more filtering.

First, wastewater is filtered through string-like microfibers with holes smaller than bacteria and protozoa. Then it goes through reverse osmosis, an energy-intensive process forcing the water through plastic membranes that remove most molecules that are not water. Finally, it is dosed with hydrogen peroxide and exposed to ultraviolet light, a double-disinfectant process. The result is roughly equivalent to distilled water, Orange County officials say.

After touring the $481 million plant in Orange County, visitors are offered a glass of the water. Is it safe? The new National Academy analysis suggests that the risk from potable reuse “does not appear to be any higher, and may be orders of magnitude lower” than any risk from conventional treatment. There are currently no national standards for water reuse processes, only for drinking-water quality.

Of course, the treatment process is much more expensive than tapping local groundwater — in Southern California, about 60 percent more, and in El Paso about four times more. But to remain sustainable, groundwater must be used sparingly. Orange County’s reclaimed water costs $1.80 per thousand gallons when regional water subsidies are factored in. This is similar to what it pays to import either Colorado River water or water from Northern California. Without the benefit of subsidies, reclaimed water’s cost was just 14 percent less than desalinated water’s, which experts say requires 3 to 10 times the energy output.

The bigger hurdle to public acceptance may be psychological. Carol Nemeroff, a psychologist at the University of Southern Maine, said the notion of treated sewage “hooks into the intuitive concept of contagion” and contamination. To overcome this, she said, a city must “unhook the current water from its history.” That proved to be the case in 1998 in San Diego when the water department’s initiative was derided as “toilet to tap” during a bruising City Council campaign. Council members refused to allow further discussion of it.

A 2004 poll commissioned by the San Diego County Water Authority found that 63 percent of respondents opposed reuse. Then the water department began reaching out to customers with discussion groups and public meetings. Members of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, reminded residents that almost every municipal wastewater plant practices water reuse anyway, since discharged treated wastewater is reused downstream.

“It isn’t toilet to tap. It’s toilet to treatment to treatment to treatment to tap,” said Belinda Smith, a Surfrider volunteer.

Water shortages and rationing, however, did the most to change attitudes. San Diego’s annual rainfall meets about 15 percent of its needs, and the city’s water managers grew worried that as California reeled from droughts, they could have trouble importing water.

In 2009, the third year of a severe drought, Mayor Jerry Sanders met with biotechnology industry executives who told him that water shortages posed a threat to their businesses. “They were talking about moving away from San Diego,” he said.

So the mayor quietly switched sides, and the City Council fell into line. “If science is behind you and you can prove that, I think people are willing to listen,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview. “The public is worried about scarcity.”

Marsi Steirer, the deputy director of San Diego’s public utility agency, said it now estimated that by 2020 or so, recycled wastewater could account for 7 percent of the total in the city’s main reservoir.

Some people are still put off. Virginia Soderberg, 91, president of the Convair Garden Club in San Diego, called reclaimed water “the end of the world. I wouldn’t even want my cat to drink it.”

But a 2011 poll by the utility showed that local opposition to reuse had dropped to 25 percent.

The change of heart found voice on the editorial page of The San Diego Union-Tribune, a onetime opponent, in an editorial titled “The Yuck Factor: Get Over It.”

That sentiment was echoed in a cartoon on a California public radio blog depicting a dog with its nose in a toilet.

The caption? “Ten million dogs can’t be wrong.”


Call goes out for additional water supplies
Officials support early plans to develop sources that can provide region with up to 10M gallons daily
By Judy Benson Day Staff Writer
Article published Dec 19, 2011

Preliminary plans endorsed by the region's chief elected officials last month call for development of new drinking water supplies of up to 10 million gallons per day, with several potential new sources identified for further investigation.

"We're looking for supplies that can add two to three million gallons each," said Chris Clark, chairman of the technical advisory committee of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments' Regional Water Committee. He is also operations manager for the Mohegan Tribal Utility Authority.

The committee's plan to develop new sources of water for the region was endorsed by the Council of Governments at its November meeting.

Water shortages predicted

The work of the committee is a response to projections that the region will face water shortages in the coming decades unless new sources are developed, along with the completion of the Thames Basin Regional Water Interconnection Project in 2008, Clark said. The project, which brought Groton Utilities' water through a pipeline under the Thames River to the Mohegan Tribe and nearby towns, helped make regional leaders aware of the benefit and need for a regional approach to solving water issues, Clark said. The recent agreement on a water interconnection project between East Lyme and New London is one of the results of that collaborative effort.

The region's work also picks up where the state's Water Planning Council left off, said Lori Mathiew, section chief of the state Department of Public Health's Drinking Water Section. The water council began long-term water supply planning on a statewide basis, and the southeastern Connecticut council has taken that framework to begin developing a plan specific for this region.

"They're a great model for the state," Mathiew said. "They're working together to serve the region's needs."

Earlier this month, representatives of the southeastern water committee presented its plan to the Water Planning Council. Their progress is significant, she said, because communities must look beyond simply meeting current water needs to be able to support future development.

"Without good quality water supplies, communities can't grow in the way they want to grow," she said.

To solve the region's water supply issues, the committee divided the 20 COG towns into three subregions. Each is centered around the major municipal utility that serves that area, either Norwich, Groton or New London. Combined, the three systems supply about 18 million gallons of water a day to the region.  Under the plan, each of the utilities would lead efforts in its subregion to develop new supplies that would serve not only its current geographic area, but also expanded service areas to surrounding towns.

Of the three, Norwich is the furthest toward developing new supply, Clark said. It is looking to hire a consultant to conduct an engineering study of a large aquifer in Windham that could be the site of new groundwater wells. A pipeline would be laid along Route 32 through Windham and Franklin to carry the water to Norwich. From there, the water could be distributed to customers in other towns such as Sprague, Lisbon, Preston, Bozrah and Colchester, if the towns are willing to fund a share of the pipeline construction costs, Clark said.

He emphasized that developing new public water sources is a years-long process of studies, tests, obtaining permits from the public health department and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and many other steps. In addition to developing new supplies, the plan also calls for interconnecting existing water supplies with new pipelines across the Thames River between Montville and Preston, and between Ledyard and Preston.

In the eastern portion of the region, Groton Utilities would lead efforts to develop a new source that could serve North Stonington, Stonington, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Westerly. An aquifer near the intersection of routes 184 and 78 in North Stonington has been identified as a potential location for groundwater wells.  Groton Utilities is also working on an agreement with Aquarion Water Co., a private company that services Mystic and parts of Stonington. Groton Utilities would provide some of its water to supplement Aquarion supplies.

In the western part of the region, New London's public water authority is working to increase supplies that could be made available to customers in New London, Waterford, Montville, East Lyme and Salem.
Barry Weiner, chairman of the city's Water and Water Pollution Control Authority, said more water would come from improvements to current resources, as well as from acquiring new supplies. The city's current water supply comes from reservoirs in Salem and Waterford.

"We're improving our existing reservoirs, changing how we pump to retain more water," he said. At Lake Konomoc, the city is adding a pump so that it can draw more water from the deepest part of the reservoir.
Weiner added that the city is "actively working to find some additional sources of water," but declined to be specific.

"We are being very proactive," he said. "Water is one of those things taken very much for granted. But there is a lot going on in the region to make sure" that the region continues to have sufficient supply.




Professor And Students Find High Levels Of Mercury In Wethersfield Cove

The Hartford Courant
By ERIK HESSELBERG, Special to The Courant
7:00 PM EDT, October 8, 2011

WETHERSFIELD –A research team of graduate students from Wesleyan University has discovered abnormally high levels of mercury in the sediment of Wethersfield Cove, a shallow inlet on the Connecticut River. The amount of mercury trapped in the cove's silt is estimated to be more than 500 pounds, according to a pollution study by Wesleyan graduate students Kristen Amore, Luis Rodriguez and Julia Rowny.

The research team was led by Johann Varekamp, a geochemist and Harold T. Stearns professor of earth sciences at Wesleyan. The mercury was found in core samples taken from the cove this summer. Varekamp plans to present the findings at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis, Minn., that starts Sunday.His paper is titled: "Wethersfield Cove: A 300 Year Urban Pollution Record."

Varekamp, a tall, bearded, genial man, likens his studies of sediments in Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River to crime scene investigation. It was his sleuthing 10 years ago that traced mercury pollution in the Housatonic River to historic Danbury hat factories. In Wethersfield Cove, the Wesleyan professor believes high mercury levels are also linked to past industry – in this case an experimental electrical generating station that used mercury vapor turbines to produce power.

Varekamp is also known for his research on volcanoes, and travels all over the world. Locally, he has studied mercury pollution for 30 years. Geochemists have a special interest in mercury because its presence in sediments is an index of past industry. Pre-industrial levels of mercury in sediments are about 50 parts per billion. In the 19th century, mercury levels rose precipitously due to the widespread burning of coal. Varekamp said that the 1960s and 1970s, the concentrations of mercury peaked at about 450 parts per billion. But in Wethersfield Cove, the Wesleyan researchers have found mercury levels as high as 3,000 parts per billion – indicating a point source, or a nearby origin of the mercury.

Varekamp said it was the work of two colleagues that led him to Wethersfield Cove. Geologists Anna Martini, of Amherst College, and Jonathan Woodruff, of the University of Massachusetts, earlier had found high mercury levels in core samples taken from two tidal inlets on the lower river – East Haddam's Chapman Pond and Lyme's Hamburg Cove.

"They found remarkably high levels of mercury – 1,000 to 1,500 parts per billion – and they didn't know what it meant," Varekamp said. "Was there some unknown source of mercury we didn't know about?"

Varekamp decided to look upriver for answers. Wethersfield Cove, below Hartford, had once been an oxbow in the Connecticut River, but was cut off during a major flood in 1692. The professor said that because of the cove's importance as shipbuilding center – the first ship built in Connecticut, the Tryall, was launched from the cover in 1649 – a channel was dug soon after the 1692 flood to maintain the connection to the river. Thus, the 1692 date would be a benchmark.

"The cove is basically a pond," Varekamp said, "with a lot of settlement of material. We knew that once we hit sandy bottom, we'd be in the late 1600s."

In July, Varekamp and his graduate students boarded a small research boat and headed into the middle of the cove. Pounding a steel coring device into the muddy bottom, they took two samples, each about a meter long, which were brought back to the lab to dry for future testing in the department's mercury analyzer. When those tests were done, it was found that mercury concentrations increased steadily with depth. The highest levels recorded were 3,000 parts per billion at approximately 17 inches down.

"This was a lot higher than background levels," Varekamp said. "I knew we didn't have hat-making on the Connecticut River, so there must have been another discrete source."

It was about this time that Varekamp learned about the old South Meadow power station. Operated by the Hartford Electric Light Co. from 1928 to the mid-1960s, the HELCO plant was the first in the country to use "mercury vapor turbines" to generate power. The idea was based on the work of General Electric engineer William Le Roy Emmet, who found that mercury as a working fluid was more efficient in heat transfer to produce steam. However, because of the corrosive properties of liquid mercury, such plants were notoriously leaky, Varekamp said. "It was supposed to be a closed system, but obviously it wasn't," he said. "There were leaks all over the place."

Consequently, frequent shipments of liquid mercury were made to the plant, Varekamp said, adding that this may have led to mercury being spilled directly into the river.

"I received a call from someone who worked at the plant in the 1960s who spoke of mercury barrels being dropped into the river," Varekamp said. In his paper, the professor speculates that the mercury-laden sediments of Wethersfield Cove are directly linked to a spill upriver at the power plant.

Varekamp said mercury in sediments is more dangerous than the slippery, silvery stuff we all know from thermometers. That's because bacteria transform this inorganic mercury to much more toxic methyl mercury – the form found in tainted fish. Exposure to mercury, a powerful neurotoxin, can cause damage to the brain, kidney and lungs. State health officials have advised pregnant and nursing mothers not consume freshwater fish caught in Connecticut.

Varekamp said the mercury in Wethersfield Cove poses no immediate health risk, because it is trapped in mud at the bottom. Additional study will be needed to definitively link this mercury to the old HELCO power plant, he said.

Varekamp said the Minnesota conference will be the first time his findings on Wethersfield Cove will be made public. Calls to Wethersfield officials and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to discuss Varekamp's findings were not returned.

In his Wesleyan office, cluttered with papers and rock samples, Varekamp said, "The fact remains that we have much higher concentrations [in the cove] than we should have. Is it from the plant? We don't know for certain, yet. We'd love to solve this thing."




Greenwich TIME photos
Weston has fishways in the Saugatuck River thanks to TNC!!!  Note what a "fish ladder" on the Mianus River looks like, at right!


Rain sparks river herring run up Mianus River

Greenwich TIME
Frank MacEachern
Published 10:10 p.m., Friday, April 27, 2012


Last weekend's rain not only helped water a dry earth, it also sparked a massive one-day rush by river herring through the fishway at the Mianus River dam.

"There were so many fish that they were falling out of the chute," Michael Aurelia said about the scene Monday as 46,000 herring fought to make their way over the dam so they could begin spawning in the Mianus Pond.

The fishway allows fish to make their way from the Mianus River over the dam and into the pond beyond. The fish use the Alaskan fast-pass chute -- somewhat of a stairway for fish -- to make their way over the dam.

Just before they enter the Mianus Pond, the fish go through one of eight 4-inch PVC tubes. As they pass through these tubes they trigger an electric current that trips an counter, Aurelia, a Conservation Commission volunteer, said.

Conservation Director Denise Savageau was delighted by the rush of herring.

"We have had 50,000 river herring go through the fishway so far this season, before last weekend, and we doubled the amount in one day," she said.

It was the rain that lured them to the Mianus River, said Joe Cassone, conservation assistant.

"It hadn't rained for a while and they time their migration to rain events," he said. "They really time their runs like clockwork. You get a rain event, you get fish the next day.

"They can detect freshwater in saltwater, that's how they find these rivers. When it rains, there is a much stronger freshwater signature out in the saltwater environment and they pick up on it."

Herring follow that freshwater flow to rivers and streams, Cassone said. The fish spend most of their lives in saltwater but they return to freshwater to spawn.

"They are what is called anadromous, that refers to species that migrate between saltwater and freshwater," he said.

There are two types of river herring -- alewives that spawn between late February and early May, and bluebacks, which arrive in late April and spawn through late June, Cassone said.

He said there were about 50 to 60,000 alewives that passed through the fishway last year, almost double the amount of bluebacks.

The fish kept coming through the week as 4,000 were counted Tuesday and 7,000 on Wednesday. The numbers tailed off dramatically Thursday and Friday as 160 and 100 respectively were counted, he said.

The first three to four years of their lives the river herring spend in the Atlantic Ocean before returning to rivers and streams to spawn annually, Cassone said. The life span for river herring is from 8 to 10 years maximum, Cassone said.

The river herring do not necessarily return to the same river or stream to spawn, Cassone said, making it difficult to determine if Monday's rush means there are more fish, or simply if the Mianus River was chosen instead of other freshwater sources.

"We don't know if we are getting more fish at another stream's expense," he said. "Fish production is really fluky. Every once in a while you get a great year class."

A popular spot for river herring is Bride Brook in East Lyme, Cassone said. It has attracted 183,000 so far this season.

In Westport, about 1,700 river herring have passed the Wood Dam on the Saugatuck River, Cassone said.

River herring cannot be fished and there is also a move to make them an endangered species, he said.

The town has been counting fish for about a decade.

The fishway was created in 1993 using a fine the state imposed on the town for pollution that escaped into the Long Island Sound, Aurelia said.

The dam was built in the mid 1920s.

Prior to the electronic counter it was a hit-and-miss process to see how many river herring passed through the fishway, Cassone said.

"Before the counter you had to go there and sit and wait," he said.

Waiting is what birds were doing as well, Aurelia said, pointing out birds circling the Mianus Pond, looking for an herring lunch Friday afternoon.

Grabbing his binoculars he saw a great blue heron lazily circling over the pond and later a great egret, both in search of a meal.

Double-crested cormorants, black-crowned night herons also feed on river herring as do striped bass, which gather at the fishway entrance hoping to snag one.






REPORT FROM 2003 DROUGHT HERE
Denise Savageau at SWRPA environment committee on this and related matters in May.  At left, drought last year reveals bottom.  Island Beach h20 OK now;  Seattle ferryboat.

Seattle is a city that depends upon ferries to connect islands with mainland - Washington State runs them.
Ferry malfunctions after three weeks of repairs

Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Updated 10:52 p.m., Thursday, July 5, 2012

A workhorse of the town's ferry fleet that connects downtown Greenwich with Island Beach is back in service after being sidelined by mechanical problems on Independence Day, the latest snafu for a boat coming off of nearly three weeks of transmission repairs a day earlier.  The Indian Harbor ferry, which was built in 1937 and holds up to 251 passengers, could not go in reverse after the first few runs to the island during the holiday, said Joseph Siciliano, the town's parks director.

"They had a malfunction for a couple of runs, but it's back up and running," Siciliano said.

The ship's captain spotted the problem while successfully docking the boat at the Arch Street ferry terminal, according to Siciliano, who said the problem affected only one of the boat's two engines.

"At no time was there any safety issue," Siciliano said.

Town officials blamed the problem on a drive shaft that separated from the newly repaired transmission.

"They were having a hard time maneuvering," said Ian MacMillan, the town's harbor master.

A parks department supervisor, who Siciliano identified as Craig Whitcomb of the marine and facility operations division, was able to repair the faulty drive shaft in time for the ferry to make the final two runs of the day.  The ferry underwent nearly three weeks of repairs to its half-century-old transmission at Bridgeport Dry Dock Corp. and made the return voyage of four hours to Greenwich on Tuesday without incident.

"They're not stock parts off a shelf," Siciliano said.

Siciliano gave the marine repair company positive reviews for its work, which he said is under warranty.  The company was sending its mechanics to Greenwich Thursday for further testing and repairs to the transmission.

"Our goal is to get it up and running and have some consistency with the boat for the rest of the season," Siciliano said.

The town hopes to have the Indian Harbor back in the regular rotation with its younger counterpart, the Island Beach, which was built in 1961 and holds 399 passengers, by this weekend.

"I think they still have to do some machine work on it," MacMillan said.

Ferry service to Island Beach and Great Captains Island, both of which are town-owned, runs from mid-June to mid-September.  The town, the only municipality in Connecticut to run its own passenger ferry service, is considering the purchase of a new vessel to replace the Indian Harbor at a rough cost of $2.7 million.  The temperamental transmission of the Indian Harbor ferry was the second major headache during the holiday for park officials, who declared the water supply on Island Beach unsafe for drinking and bathing because of the presence of coliform bacteria.

The town treated the water, which is stored in an 8,000-gallon underground tank, with chlorine on Tuesday and retested it on Thursday. It hopes to have the results of that water testing by Friday morning.




Island Beach water declared safe
Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Updated 10:16 p.m., Friday, July 6, 2012

It's once again safe to drink the water and use the showers on Island Beach, the town announced Friday after getting confirmation that samples tested negative for coliform bacteria.  The town turned off the water on the island for three days earlier this week, including the busy July 4 holiday, because microorganisms were found during a routine test.  Beachgoers, overnight campers and the island's concessionaire used bottled water as a substitute while the town treated the contaminated water with chlorine and retested it.

"It actually hasn't been too bad. It's just bad timing," said Jay Manning, who is in his second year as caretaker of the town-owned island.

The town supplied Manning with 12 cases of bottled water to distribute as he saw fit during the disruption.  A group of campers who weathered a summer squall on the night of July 4 earned his sympathy.

"So I gave them a couple of cases of water just so they could clean up," Manning said.

The tap water, which is transported to the island by ferry and stored in an 8,000-gallon underground holding tank, was treated with chlorine Tuesday after the test came back positive.

"We're back up," said Joseph Siciliano, the town's parks director.

The town estimated that 1,000 people visited the island, which is located a mile off shore, during the holiday.  Ferries leave the Arch Street dock for Island Beach every hour on the hour and return to the shore every hour on the half-hour.  Roundtrip fares range from $4 for adult beach card holders ­-- available to residents only -- and $10 per adult for non-card holders.

A water fountain near the concession area was still cordoned off Friday with yellow caution tape because it had sprung a leak, not because of safety concerns over the water.  Manning, who lives in the caretaker's cottage at the southern tip of the island, took the outage in stride.

"You get to live on your own island, but you deal with the elements," Manning said.

Island Beach water supply unsafe for drinking, bathing
Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Updated 06:50 p.m., Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Island Beach staycationers might want to stock up on Poland Spring this Fourth of July.  Beer will also suffice.  Public health officials discovered the presence of coliform bacteria in the water supply on the town-owned island Tuesday, prompting them to declare it unsafe for drinking and showering until after the holiday.

"It's not disease-causing bacteria, but it is considered not safe to drink any kind of water with bacteria in it," said Caroline Calderone Baisley, the town's health director.

A water fountain was cordoned off with yellow caution tape and signs were posted in the public showers on the island warning beachgoers not to drink or bathe in the contaminated water.

"For precautionary reasons, I don't want to take any chances," Baisley said.

Beachgoers will still be able to use the toilets on the island, according to the town, which plans to supply hand sanitizer in the restrooms.  The town tests the drinking water at the beaches on a weekly basis for bacteria and has a "zero-tolerance" policy when there are positive readings, which officials said are not uncommon.

"When we get these hot spells, that's when bacteria tends to grow," said Joseph Siciliano, the town's parks director.

While bottled water will be for sale at the island's concession stand, Siciliano said the town has no plans to distribute it for free.

"We're going to have some water available for safety reasons," Siciliano said. "We won't be passing out bottled water."

The tap water, which is transported to the island by ferry and stored in an 8,000-gallon underground holding tank, was treated with chlorine Tuesday after the test came back positive, according to Siciliano.  The town plans to retest the water on Thursday, but it won't be in time for Independence Day.

"Of course, why couldn't this happen on a regular week?" Baisley said.

The island, which is located about a mile off shore, could welcome some 800 to 1,100 beachgoers on the holiday, based on town estimates.

"The timing is awful and unfortunate," said Rick Novakowski, an Island Beach regular from Cos Cob. "You can't necessarily say they could have done something."

Novakowski expressed concern about the island's caretaker, who lives there full time during the summertime.

"I don't think there's any running water on the island," Novakowski said.

Public health officials are trying to turn a negative into positive by reminding residents to check their well water for bacteria.

"Well water should be tested all the time," Baisley said.

The town must also wait for the chlorine levels in the island's water supply to dissipate before people can resume drinking and bathing in it.

"You shouldn't be drinking something with high chlorine," Baisley said.

The island concessionaire will be forced to cook and clean with bottled water instead of tap water during the disruption.

"Even a cup of coffee will be made with bottled water," Siciliano said.

Siciliano downplayed the prospect of people avoiding the island on the holiday, when the temperature is expected to hit 90 degrees.

"I don't see why they would," Siciliano said. "Everything's normally operating."

Ferries leave the Arch Street dock for Island Beach every hour on the hour and return to the shore every hour on the half-hour. Roundtrip fares range from $4 for adult beach card holders -- available to residents only -- and $10 per adult for non-card holders.

"We've made good provisions to try to get this thing under control," Siciliano said.

While beachgoers can bring alcohol out to the island, it's not for sale there.

"No beer," Siciliano said.

Next to the cordoned-off water fountain, a hole in the ground and small dirt piles could be seen Tuesday.  A grill area on the western tip of the island near the pavilion was also taped off, though park officials could not explain why.  Novakowski lamented the appearance of the yellow caution tape in multiple locations.

"It just seems to me neglect," Novakowski said.


Quality issue in this article
League of Women Voters dives into water concerns
Greenwich POST
Written by Kait Shea, Assistant Editor
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 09:00

The League of Women Voters has tried to make sure people know there’s nothing fishy happening in local waters with a four-part informational water program which concluded last week at Greenwich Point.

The fourth installment of the series, which took place last Thursday, featured a panel of local water quality experts who gave lectures regarding wastewater, septic systems and other related topics in an effort to educate the community on the importance of clean water.

Denise Savageau, director of the Greenwich Conservation Commission, gave residents a basic overview of current water quality issues.

According to Ms. Savageau, many people believe chemical toxins to be the greatest risk to the water supply but pathogens are the real concern. Pathogens, which include bacteria, viruses and protozoan, are the number one water issue in the world, contributing to the majority of the nearly 3.5 million deaths caused by water-born diseases each year, she said.

While the United States has an “amazing” level of clean water, that is not the case for a large portion of the world. In fact, said Ms. Savageau, ancient Romans had better water quality than half of the world today. And while the U.S. has superior water quality, challenges remain in maintaining those conditions.

Keeping septic systems clean and properly functioning is crucial to a clean water supply, according to Peggy Minnis, a professor of environmental science at Pace University.

In the U.S., approximately 25% of homes use septic systems, most of which are “completely unmanaged,” Dr. Minnis explained. “The days of big sewer construction are over. We have to start thinking more in terms of having management entities for on-site systems.”

There are several ways for homeowners to keep septic systems functioning properly, according to Dr. Minnis. Some of the most important maintenance tips concern items that should not be disposed of through household drains. Those items include grease or cooking oil, automotive fluids, pesticides, cigarette butts, sanitary materials and any products that claim to be septic starters or cleaners.

The most important recommendation, however, is to minimize water usage, according to Dr. Minnis.

“You don’t want to swamp the septic system,” she said.

Another water issue of interest was the monitoring of beach water and shellfish beds.

Michael Long, director of environmental services for the Greenwich Health Department, spoke in detail about the water testing required by the department, which ensures the maintenance of safe swimming and fishing water.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day each year, the health department conducts frequent water tests at Greenwich beaches to make sure bacteria levels are satisfactory by state standards. If swimming water has an elevated bacteria level, effects on humans may include ear, nose and throat infections or the contraction of hepatitis or salmonella, Mr. Long said. Each instance prompts the department to shut the beach down for at least one day.

Additionally, the Greenwich Shellfish Commission works with the state’s agricultural department to test shellfish beds for indicator organisms which signify problems with water quality, Mr. Long explained. Prior to 1991 shellfish beds had been closed down for 30 years, until extensive water testing in the 1980’s proved the beds to be safe again, he added.

The final panelist of the evening, Department of Public Works Commissioner Amy Siebert, spoke about the importance of Greenwich’s wastewater treatment facility.

According to Ms. Siebert, the town’s Grass Island Wastewater Treatment Plant contains 185 miles of gravity sewer and treats 3.1 billion gallons of wastewater annually. The town is well below its limit on solids and organic matter found in water, as well as its nitrogen limit, as a result of constant maintenance and upgrades made to the facility’s system.

This upkeep costs several million dollars, but “I consider it money well spent,” Ms. Siebert said. “I hope most people do because it helps us keep all that wastewater in the pipes and in the treatment processes.”

As for residents’ roles in keeping the treatment system clean, the commissioner reiterated Dr. Minnis’ recommendations.

Fats, oils and grease, or “FOG,” should never be run down household drains, nor should any products that claim to be “flushable,” Ms. Siebert said.

The town is also focusing on a new standard in Greenwich known as “low impact development,” which concerns drainage systems. According to Ms. Siebert, low impact development is an effort to best use the town’s natural land and resources to drain storm water, as opposed to building large concrete pipes and similar man-made tools to do the job. This includes the use of naturally occurring bacteria, soil products and other natural systems, she said.

Ms. Savageau reminded residents how crucial properly functioning treatment plants and septic systems are to maintaining the community’s water quality. Because of these entities, she said, “We enjoy a very clean Long Island Sound.”


State seeing drop-off in water supplies
Warning signs: Runoff, leaking pipes, deeper wells are signs
Satamford ADVOCATE
Vinti Singh, Staff Writer
Published 05:46 p.m., Saturday, July 9, 2011

Could Connecticut be facing a water shortage? You're probably peeking out from under your umbrella, saying, "definitely not." How could it be, when the state typically gets 45 inches of precipitation a year, and data indicate this is increasing at roughly one inch a decade?

But ironic as it is, droughts are becoming more frequent.

Studies have shown Greenwich is slowly taking water out of the ground faster than it can be replenished, said Denise Savageau, conservation director for Greenwich, and the town is enacting drought restrictions about every three years as a result.

"Everyone thinks water shortages are exclusive to Arizona or other parts of the West," Savageau said. "But they're happening right here, too."

There are other signs around the state that drinking water supplies may be dwindling, including the unfixed leaky pipes and drying wells. Some experts say the solution may be to budget our water, just like we do our tax dollars.

Rainfall may be increasing, but precipitation patterns are changing, said James Belden, executive director of the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition. That means the state, like the rest of the Northeast, is more prone to extreme floods in the spring and more severe droughts in the late summer and fall. Even though the rains are getting heavier, less water is probably getting into the ground because floodwaters tend to flow fast across the surface, instead of slowly percolating into the ground, Belden said. Impervious surfaces like driveways and sidewalks prevent any water from getting into the ground at all.

Also, the state is losing some of its water through its infrastructure. Because some of Connecticut's water pipes have been in the ground for 100 years or more, they are wearing out and cracking, according to a state Water Planning Council Advisory Group study. This means drinking quality water that has been taken from lakes, rivers, and underground reservoirs is leaking out of the system before it ever reaches a faucet.

The Advisory Group discovered water utilities would have to pay $70 million a year to fix the old pipes, but they actually spend $20 million a year overall. Thirty-five percent of the 17 water utilities in Connecticut don't replace old pipes at all, according to the Advisory Group's 2007 report.

Because of the economy, it would be an unrealistic expectation that water companies will ever get ideal funding, the Advisory Group said.

But a bigger problem is that water seems to be dwindling naturally.

A Western Connecticut State University professor who has done extensive research on water shortage problems in China is now exploring similar problems in his own neighborhood. Associate political science professor Chris Kukk said his curiosity was piqued after hearing anecdotal stories about friends having to dig deeper, as much as 300 feet, to get to their wells in Brookfield and Danbury.

So he gathered some students to create Stewards of Water Network. He sent them out to New Milford and Fairfield to gather information about water. They found almost 15 people in the two towns have had to re-drill their wells in the last five years. Most of the people had to drill down about 200 feet, said Rosanna Bruzzi, the project leader. One person had to add another 300 feet to his already 300-foot deep well, and another had to go down 400 feet. Some people abandoned their wells completely and tried drilling somewhere else.

"It's not necessarily due to lack of rainfall," Bruzzi said. "It's because of where the two towns actually sit, the rainfall causes so much flooding that there's no way to collect that excess water. I'm not sure why they haven't put in reservoirs. They say now that it's built up you can't put those things out there because it's an eyesore, but it's frustrating to me because you're allowing all this water to escape."

Information about Connecticut's total water supply is somewhat scant. The United States Geological Survey monitors water levels at 70 wells and 100 streams throughout the state. It used to record readings monthly. State budget cuts resulted in reducing monitoring wells and stream to 10 times a year. There could be further cuts in the 2012 budget, said Virginia De Lima, director of the USGS Connecticut Water Science Center.

Because of the cuts, "there is the possibility you could miss the highest or lowest levels of the year," De Lima said. "It's possible you could miss a measurement that could be significant."

Historically, the state has never had to "budget" its water, Savageau said. There was always enough. But a little less than 10 years ago, state officials began noticing drought patterns, and drought plans began popping up around the region.

Similarly, the Water Planning Advisory Group has begun asking if the state needs a plan to divvy up all the available water between the vying interests, from fisheries to manufacturing plants to golf courses.

"We have to establish how much they need, and compare it to how much clean water we have," Savageau said.

But attempts to control water use can quickly get political. For example, it has been five years since the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection proposed regulations to protect streams from over-withdrawal, but water companies and industry groups have fiercely opposed their passage. In those five years, the regulations have been whittled down to a skeleton of the original rules, as water companies have been given an extra decade to comply and all rules concerning groundwater were completely taken out. But the regulations shave yet to make it out of the state Legislature, as debates between environmentalists and industry representatives continue.

Part of the solution may be in changing the way water companies make their profits, said David Ratka, director of water resources for Connecticut Water Company. Water companies' profits increase if they sell more water to rate payers, he said, so encouraging water conservation would be bad for their bottom line. Connecticut Water Company came up with a potential solution -- it would charge customers a base rate and those that exceed the averages by too much would pay an extra fee.

"We are also exploring other options for promoting water conservation, including providing water companies with incentives to reduce the amount of unaccounted for water through leak detection and water audits and providing rebates and other incentives to customers to use water efficient products," said Elizabeth Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Water Works Association.

Also, perhaps the state should look at recycling some of its waste water to use for things like watering golf courses, said Belden. Bruzzi said she thinks the solution is to stop letting all the rainwater flow away. She proposed building more tanks and reservoirs to catch rainfall, and said instead of dumping snow into the rivers, it should be stored in those tanks to be used later.

"In one sense water is ultimate renewable, recyclable resource," Radka said. "Most people would agree that Connecticut is a very water rich state. The challenge is taking those same water resources where they need to be used and making sure there is enough there."



FOR WESTON TROUT, PROBABLY NO CHANGE - WATCH "ABOUT TOWN" INTERVIEW
Will anything be different along the Saugatuck(l)?  We don't think so, based upon this report below...

Legislative panel takes another look at water regulations
Christine Woodside
December 20, 2010

Ten years after a dispute between two towns ignited the issue, a legislative panel is set to vote this week on rules governing how much water reservoir owners must release downstream and how much can be retained for human use.

If approved, the so-called "stream flow" rules would be the first broad controls of reservoirs in Connecticut. They would replace 31-year-old regulations that covered only a handful of streams where the state stocks trout and other fish.

The proposed regulations would cover 116 reservoirs in the state. Another 23 reservoirs would not be covered regulations because they started operating before the state had any water supply regulations or they follow separate state management plans.

The rules to be considered Tuesday by the legislature's Regulation Review Committee also exclude groundwater sources, such as wells, from regulation. An earlier set of regulations covering groundwater was rejected by the review committee in October.

Even with the section on ground water removed, "I expect the vote to be close," said state Rep. T. R. Rowe, R-Trumbull, the committee co-chair.

Environmentalists say the regulations will help preserve the aquatic ecology downstream from dams-particularly the ability of fish to spawn and thrive. But opponents, including water companies and agricultural interest, say the rules could restrict the availability of water for essential human uses.

The 2005 law that requires the Department of Environmental Protection to develop rules for regulating the quantities of water taken from rivers was inspired by the near-drying up of two rivers in the Waterbury and New Haven area water systems at various times. In Waterbury, the city was using less and less water from one of its oldest reservoirs because of the difficulty to pump its reserves to a new water treatment plant. And it was using more and more water from a reservoir it had added near the Shepaug River, which flows from there into the town of Washington.

About a decade ago, Washington sued Waterbury, claiming it had violated a 1921 water agreement between the two municipalities. The case went to the state Supreme Court and ultimately was resolved in 2002 with a state plan that governs how Waterbury uses water. Millions in state funding went to lay pipes so that the older reservoir-which draws from the Branch Brook, a tributary of the Naugatuck River-could be put into use, taking the strain off the Shepaug River in Washington.

Because of the state plan, Waterbury's reservoirs would not be covered by the proposed regulations.

Around the time that was resolved, the General Assembly had to intervene in another case, when New Haven and Hamden sued the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority over its use of the Mill River watershed for its Lake Whitney reservoir. This led to a state management plan for that system.

A third, dramatic drying up of a small river came just after the General Assembly passed the law requiring these new regulations. The Fenton River near the University of Connecticut's main campus, dried up for a period after nearby wells were pumped.

"I see the Fenton River as the exclamation point" in the argument to regulate the quantities of water people use for their own purposes, said Betsey Wingfield, chief of the DEP's Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse. Public drinking water supplies make up almost half of all water use in the state (47 percent), she said. It dwarfs the amount taken for industry (15 percent) and power plant cooling (1 percent).

Wingfield said that science has come a long way in understanding how to regulate water use since the late 1970s.

The DEP relied heavily on a Georgia study of how fish responded to withdrawals for reservoirs in the Piedmont region of that state. Scientists sampled fish in 28 streams over a three-year period. The study established ways to maintain the minimum flow required during spring and summer, when fish are traveling and spawning.

A later study by University of Connecticut scientists concluded that when high amounts of water are taken from streams, fewer fish stayed alive.

The DEP, while it removed the ground water provisions this round, plans to reintroduce them next session, it said in a letter with the proposed regulations.

Wingfield said the DEP believes state law requires it to regulate ground water too, on order to have healthy rivers. "We're choosing to do a phased approach," she said.

"The ground water provision of the regulations, now removed, caused controversy because it was not clear that the enabling legislation from 2005 contemplated regulation of groundwater," Rowe said. "DEP disagreed, but realized that the regulations would not pass if ground water remained, so they withdrew those elements. I am pleased the groundwater provisions were eliminated, and I understand legislation will be introduced in the coming session to more directly address the ground water issue."

River advocates have been pushing for these regulations. Margaret Miner, executive director of the Rivers Alliance, said that even without the ground water controls, she supports the new regulations. "There is a horrendously long implementation period that I'm very worried about," she added. It will take the DEP some years to classify all of the rivers based on their habitats and water flows. After that, counting years to implement the rules and requests for more time, it could be two decades before the stream flow rules went into effect in some places, she said.

"In the meantime we do have-if this passes, which is a 50-50 chance-guidelines," she said, "and a state policy on the quantities of water that are minimally protected to save river life. That is a large step forward."




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Coalition to oppose new water regulations
By Judy Benson New London Day Staff Writer
Article published Oct 7, 2010

The organization that represents public and private water companies has assembled a coalition to oppose new state regulations that would govern how much water could be taken from the state's rivers and streams.

The Connecticut Waterworks Association announced Wednesday that more than two dozen groups representing agriculture, construction industries, golf courses, greenhouses, landscaping, real estate interests and municipalities had joined to urge lawmakers to reject proposed streamflow regulations.

The legislature's Regulations Review Committee is scheduled to vote on the regulations Oct. 26. They were developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection at the direction of the legislature, which passed a law five years ago requiring new rules to ensure adequate streamflows to protect aquatic life and also meet public water needs.

"It is an unusual group of members, and that speaks to the deep-seated concerns," said Elizabeth Gara, executive director of the waterworks association. "We've been meeting with legislators on the committee, and other legislators, and urging members to contact their legislators so they understand the implications for their particular industries."

The waterworks association and coalition members believe the proposed regulations would impede economic development, cause public water supply shortages, and increase costs to water customers, Gara said.

Environmental groups are urging passage of the regulations.

The DEP, for its part, is defending the work it did to develop the new rules as an inclusive, methodical process.

"The proposed regulations are a modest step forward that will safeguard the public interest in having adequate water for drinking and other human uses as well as in protecting the quality of our waters and the diversity of aquatic life within them," said Dennis Schain, DEP spokesman.

"DEP's mandate from the legislature was to propose regulations that strike this balance - and we believe this regulation does just that," Schain added. "The proposed regulation is the culmination of a multiyear process that allowed for much public and stakeholder engagement and comment. The Department has taken great care to build into the regulations flexibility and modifications to address concerns raised by regulated entities."


From the people and their constituents in favor of PRRI Draft revisions to regulations:
Connecticut Streamflow Regulation: Summary of Provisions:  Public Hearings ongoing now (September 2010):  we have not included those comments that criticize water companies, both public and private.  Will the Committee take action before Election Day, Nov. 2, 2010?  Not likely!  What will this change in regulations, developed over 4 years of research and revisions, do?

•    Expands the present protection of water flows from only those streams stocked with fish by the state to all streams and rivers, and requires the rules balance various interests, as mandated in Public Act 05-142.
  
•    Was developed through 4-year multi-stakeholder committee work, consultation with other agencies, and the public-hearing process (with 400 participants) that resulted in regulations that take into consideration existing and future water uses as well as the needs of our natural resources.
 
•    Sets goals and standards for variable flows based on science determination of the natural pattern of river flows, described in terms of defined bioperiods (periods of the year based on stages in fish development, such as rearing and growing period).  Includes both narrative (descriptive) and presumptive (quantitative) standards.
 
•    Classifies rivers through an open, public process and provides flow goals and standards specific to each classification.  For undisturbed rivers and streams with extremely high natural resource values, Class 1 allows virtually no diversions.  Class 2 rivers are to be protected as “near natural” but some alterations are allowed.  Most rivers used for water supplies and other major uses are expected to be Class 3, defined as: “Working rivers,” where human uses  have a significant influence on steam flow patterns. These rivers and streams are expected to have adequate water resources available to support viable aquatic communities. Some changes in use may be necessary to restore flow patterns needed to ensure these conditions.”   For rivers and streams with major alterations, Class 4 allows for major alterations of flows if best management practices are followed. There are opportunities for change of classification in the future as conditions change.

•    Provides numerous exemptions to accommodate existing conditions and agrements, including for 1) existing state-approved management plans; 2) individual flow-management compacts approved by DEP; 3) existing permits (but not the unpermitted 1983 registrations of system capacities); 4) drought conditions; 5) variances for emergencies or other good cause; 6) small reservoirs and reservoirs in small watersheds; 7) reservoirs with less than a 15% margin of safety (can request more time for compliance); 8) FERC-permitted hydro diversions; 9) diversions from tidal rivers; 10) public safety diversions. 

•    Allows 10 years for major users to come into compliance after rivers are classified.  It’s expected to take five years to classify all rivers so there is up to 15 years for water users to prepare to meet the new rules.

•    Applies primarily to diversions by dams, whereas diversions by well-pumping, siphoning, and other non-dam operations are only required to minimize damage.  For diversions that are shown to harm river and stream resources and therefore do not meet narrative standards, the DEP can issue an order requiring improved management. 

•    Reflects the many comments and interests expressed during the regulation development process and in the public hearing. Most changes were to accommodate water utilities, such as the addition of Class 4 to the original three classes of rivers; simplifying release rules; easing requirements relating to well fields; providing for variances; extending deadlines for compliance; and more.  Major change in response to environmental concerns is addition of required best management practices for Class 4 rivers.


   
State ready to go with new flow regulations for healthier streams. Legislators to vote on rules to balance needs of wildlife, humans
By Judy Benson New London Day Staff Writer
Article published Sep 26, 2010

Although it's the main fresh water source for Quiambog Cove, Copps Brook lately looks more like a trickle through a rocky trench than a significant stream.

The hot, dry summer isn't the sole blame for the brook's dehydrated condition, which has left it the sort of place fish and other aquatic creatures would find inhospitable.

Copps Brook, in Stonington, is among three local streams and dozens throughout Connecticut that state environmental regulators have labeled "impaired" because too much of the water that's supposed to be in the brook is being taken for human consumption, and too little remains to be viable aquatic habitat.

The northern end of the brook feeds Aquarion Water Co.'s Mystic Reservoir, which in turn helps supply water to some 5,000 customers. The "impaired" designation applies to the brook's southern section, between the reservoir dam and the mouth of the cove.

In 2005, the General Assembly passed a bill that directed the state Department of Environmental Protection to establish regulations that would balance public water needs with how much water a river or stream needs to function as suitable wildlife habitat.

A legislative committee is expected to vote on the regulations next month. Supporters are cheering on the adoption of proposed streamflow regulations, while opponents boo the proposed version in favor of starting over.

The only streams and rivers subject to minimum flow limits now are those the state stocks with fish, so water companies are facing a major change in a previously unregulated area of their operations, in which protection of natural resources and aquatic life must be considered.

"There's a lot of tentacles to this regulation, and a lot of folks that will be affected by it, from recreational interests to businesses and municipalities," said state Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, co-chairwoman of the legislative committee scheduled to vote on it next month.

A public hearing and written comment period on the first version of the regulations generated almost 400 responses. The final version now with the committee includes revisions made in answer to some of the concerns raised.  Hartley said she and other members of the Regulation Review Committee, where the vote would take place, are weighing arguments and information from many voices.

Robert Gilmore, supervising environmental analyst for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said some of the state's 6,000 miles of rivers and streams would see little or no effect should the regulations be adopted in their present form. The initial step in enactment of the regulation will be classification of all rivers and streams under a four-tier system based on their ecological condition and human use, with the regulations applying differently to each category.

"There's a lot of interest nationally in streamflow regulations, with the heavy use on some resources," Gilmore said, noting that other New England states are also working to establish minimum flow laws.

In Connecticut, two episodes in which streams were run dry for public water supplies - one involving the Shepaug River and the city of Waterbury, and other involving the Fenton River and the University of Connecticut's main campus in Storrs - prompted the legislature to pass the bill directing the DEP to create the regulation.

'A sea change' in regulations

Elizabeth Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Waterworks Association, said the 45 municipal, regional and privately owned water companies her group represents are lobbying for rejection of the current version.

"The DEP made a genuine effort to address our concerns," she said, "but we continue to have fundamental concerns."

Among the chief issues, she said, are the costs water companies would incur by having to install new equipment and developing new water sources to meet public demand while also keeping streamflows in compliance with the law. Business development could be hampered, she said, and communities could experience water supply shortages.

"Water companies would be required to release a certain amount of water from their reservoirs that could reduce our available supply by 10 to 40 percent," she said. "This is the biggest issue water companies have faced in decades. It's a sea change in how we regulate water."

The association, she said, agrees that streamflows should be better regulated, but not in the way the regulations are now written.  If they had been in place through the hot, dry summer, she believes, "it would have been a very difficult summer."

"There's only so much you can save through conservation," she added.

Margaret Miner, executive director of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, agreed the regulations probably would have forced companies to impose restrictions on water use over the past summer.

"In a dry year, they would have to start their drought alerts earlier," she said. "A dry year is very good for water companies, because they sell a lot of water."
But she believes water supply is too valuable a public resource to be left largely unregulated.
"We should be taking better care of our water," she said.

Trout Unlimited onboard

Other supporters of the regulations, including the Nature Conservancy's David Sutherland, say many concessions were made to accommodate the objections of water companies. In the final version, they are given 10 years to come into compliance with regulations once streams are classified, rather than the five years in the earlier version, and provisions for taking more water during drought conditions are included.

"We've already gone too far," Sutherland said. "The investment they'll have to make to comply with these is a modest fraction of what they'd be making in infrastructure anyway. Until now, we've had a very ad hoc approach to water management, but Connecticut still has a chance to do this right. If we can't pass these very accommodating regulations, I don't know what would pass that would have any meaning."

Changes in precipitation patterns attributed to climate change, he added, have made it even more important to better control water consumption and streamflows, especially as household and business demand for water continues to increase. Longer dry spells, more frequent droughts coupled with more intense storms are predicted.
"We still have a chance to plan for a sustainable future," he said.

Michael Goodwin of Ledyard, past president of the southeastern Connecticut chapter of Trout Unlimited, said water companies and other opponents should accept that they "already lost the battle" over streamflow regulations when the legislature passed the initial bill five years ago. His group and Trout Unlimited's statewide chapter, with about 4,000 members who advocate for protection of recreational fishing resources, support the regulations, because when streams are allowed to run dry, "all the fish are killed," he said.

"The regulations will cost the water companies, some more than others," said Goodwin, whose wife, Dixie, is the president of the local chapter. "But this is a problem we're going to have to face."

Paul Formica, first selectman of East Lyme, had opposed the original version of the regulations, but is ready to accept passage of the revised ones. East Lyme's municipal water system has long struggled with supply issues.

"If this gets rejected, I don't know what we're going to get that's much better," he said.

"We will have to do something about managing our water better. If we don't, we will have dry streams."
 
Impaired local waters from low stream flows:

Copps Brook, Stonington
Whitford Brook, Ledyard/Stonington town line
Bride Brook, East Lyme
Source: 2008 Impaired Waters List (Connecticut waterbodies not meeting water quality standards), state Department of Environmental Protection

More information: www.ct.gov/dep/streamflow






Water levels drop but no drought
Greenwich TIME
Frank MacEachern, Staff Writer
Published: 10:31 p.m., Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reservoir levels have dropped dramatically during a dry autumn, but it is not at drought levels yet, said officials.  The reservoirs are at 30.5 percent capacity, said Erik Bernard manager of planning with Aquarion Water Company.

"It's below normal but we are still above any formal drought action level," he said. "The normal for this time of year is 77.6 percent."

The last reading was conducted Monday before rain fell midweek, he said.  Full capacity for the three reservoirs, Rockwood and Putnam in Greenwich and the Samuel J. Bargh in North Stamford, is 3.2 billion gallons, he said. Currently there are about 975 million gallons in the reservoirs, he said.  The Merritt Parkway runs between the Rockwood reservoir on the north side of the parkway and Putnam on its southern border. They are located between Lake Avenue on the west and Taconic Road on the east.

Denise Savageau, the town's conservation director, said with the lack of leaves on trees, which soak up water, and the cooler weather, a drought in the fall is not the same as one during summer's heat.

"It's not the same conditions as a drought in the summer. That said, once we get to 28 percent, then we would really start asking people to go to voluntary restrictions," she said. "We need people to understand that we are watching the water supply closely, the reservoirs are low."

A drought emergency, when severe water restrictions are imposed, comes into effect when the reservoir capacity hits 15.6 percent, said Bernard.  One indication of dry conditions is that she's noticed fewer vernal pools, small bodies of water that are not connected to other bodies of water, said Savageau. The pools tend to dry out in the summer but fill again in the fall.  She said groundwater conditions are also low and are almost at the level they were during the 2007 drought. The groundwater level is important for residents who use their own wells, she said.

First Selectman Peter Tesei said the town is monitoring the water levels.  If there is an emergency the town could receive additional water through a pipeline from Bridgeport that was built three decades ago, said Tesei.  It can supply two million gallons of water per day, one sixth of the town's daily 12 million gallon consumption, he said at the Board of Selectmen's meeting Thursday.

"Clearly it is not going to be an elixir to the problem," he said. "I would just encourage people to exercise voluntary conservation."

The Greenwich system supplies water to Greenwich, parts of Stamford and the three adjacent New York State communities of Port Chester, Rye and Rye Brook.  The reservoirs and the treatment plants owned by Aquarion are part of the larger Mianus River watershed that also includes North Castle, N.Y., Bedford, N.Y., and part of Stamford that replenish the reservoirs.



Putnam Lake in Greenwich above - looks like a global matter to me!

Not just in Southwestern CT!
Parched English fields reveal ancient sites

YAHOO
31 August 2010

LONDON (Reuters) – The exceptionally dry early summer months in Britain have revealed the ghostly outlines of several hundred previously unknown ancient sites buried in fields across the English countryside.

From Roman forts to Neolithic settlements and military remains dating to World War Two, English Heritage has been busily photographing the exciting discoveries from the air.  Known as crop marks, the faint outlines of unseen buried structures emerged because of the length of the dry spell, leading the national conservator to label 2010 a vintage year for archaeology.  The outlines show up when crops grow at different rates over buried structures. Shallower soils tend to produce a stunted crop and are more prone to parching, bringing to light the new features.

"It's hard to remember a better year," said Dave MacLeod, a senior investigator with English Heritage.

"Crop marks are always at their best in dry weather, but the last few summers have been a disappointment," he said.

"This year we have taken full advantage of the conditions. We try to concentrate on areas that in an average year don't produce much archaeology."

One of this year's most important finds is a Roman camp in Dorset, southwest England. Experts say it is a relatively rare structure in that part of the country with only three others known of in the region.  The lightly built defensive enclosure, which emerged from parched barley fields, provided basic protection for Roman soldiers on maneuvers in the first century AD.  In the Holderness area of the East Riding of Yorkshire, an area rich in agricultural land on the east coast, 60 new, mainly prehistoric sites, were found in just one day.

Archaeologists say at least 200 new historic sites have been discovered with detail on many more existing structures revealed for the first time.  At another Roman site for example, a fort at Newton Kyme in North Yorkshire, the crop marks showed stronger defensive walls built of stone three meters thick, together with a massive enclosing ditch.

English Heritage says some important structures have not been seen in their entirety since the scorching conditions of the 1976 drought.


Dry spell prompts Rell to urge water conservation
CT POST
John Burgeson, Staff Writer
Published: 11:19 p.m., Thursday, August 19, 2010


BRIDGEPORT -- There's no need to trade in your car for a camel just yet, but state and national officials are taking note of the lack of rain and are urging people to save water.

On Thursday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued a statement urging residents to conserve water "due to the lack of a soaking rain and a dry spell in the near-term forecast."

The statement from the governor's office was made after Rell met with her Interagency Drought Advisory Workgroup, a panel of experts that determined it was time to issue a "drought advisory stage" in the state. This means people are being asked to "avoid unnecessary water usage such as watering lawns, washing cars at home or running ornamental fountains."

This summer, June and July have had close to normal rainfall amounts. But someone turned off the rain spigot about Aug. 1.

"Since Aug. 1, we've had only about 20 percent of the normal rainfall," said meteorologist Paul Walker of AccuWeather. "But this is a short-term thing -- even if you go back to July 1, we've had 90 percent of the normal rainfall in Bridgeport."

Meanwhile, the National Drought Mitigation Center, the federal agency that monitors rainfall, or the lack of it, has placed the state at a "moderate" drought level, meaning that rivers and streams are exceptionally low, farmers with livestock have to purchase hay because grass isn't growing very much, and the forest fire danger is on the upswing.

"We do have moderate drought in the area now," said NDMC climatologist Brian Fuchs, who added that the dry conditions are seen in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, too. "What we really focus on is the lack of rainfall, and most of the rivers and streams are running significantly lower than they should be for this time of year," he said. "Soil moisture is dropping as well."

He said impacts so far are few, in that there are no mandatory water restrictions yet. "But as we progress more with the drought, we're going to see more of these issues become a concern," he said.

There are five levels of drought: abnormally dry, moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional. A different gauge of dryness, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, also places Connecticut in a "moderate" level of drought. And the national Crop Moisture Index has most of the state with "excessively dry" croplands.

River and stream data from the U.S. Geological Survey has nearly all of the flow levels in the state as running well below what's normal.

For example, as of Thursday, the Rooster River in Fairfield is discharging at a rate that's about 8 percent of average. Other discharge rates, as reported by the USGS, are 30 percent for the Farmington River, 24 percent for the Housatonic River, 13 percent for the Norwalk River, 7 percent for the Naugatuck River and 34 percent for the Connecticut River.

Still, the situation isn't quite as dire as these figures make it seem, according to Bill Jacquemin, director of the Connecticut Weather Center, who notes that while it's been dry for the last few weeks, the rainfall since Jan. 1, 2010, has been about 2 to 3 inches ahead of normal. "We've had many, many worse years, and no one has gotten excited," he said. "The numbers really don't support a drought -- we're not even in a deficit. Even in the early 1990s, we've had situations where wells were running dry -- we're not even close to that."

The Aquarion Water Co., which serves most of lower Fairfield County, had asked for voluntary cutbacks in July, although company officials said that was done because too many homeowners are watering their lawns and that was straining the distribution system. Those voluntary cutbacks have since been rescinded.

The company's reservoirs remain in "terrific" shape, company officials say.

"While we always urge conservation, people can feel free to use all the water they want," said company spokesman Bruce Silverstone. "Our reservoirs are a little down from normal this time of year, but we are in fine, fine shape."

One of the worst dry spells in recent history was in 1965-66, when mandatory water restrictions were put in place in many towns and cities in Connecticut. In 1965, the weather station at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks recorded only .42 inch of rain in June, .44 in July and .35 in August, or about a 3-inch deficit for each of those three months. That drought didn't ease until 1967.

Silverson said the 1965-66 drought today is seen by the company as a "baseline" for how dry it can get.


Rell calls for water conservation
New London DAY
Associated Press
Article published Aug 19, 2010

Hartford  (AP) — Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell is asking residents and businesses to limit their use water as groundwater and stream levels continue to decrease during the prolonged hot and dry weather.

Rell says the state's not in an emergency situation, but there's not much rain expected in the next two weeks and conditions are likely to deteriorate across the state.
Rell also says the fire danger in the state remains high.

The governor's drought advisory workgroup says a high number of days with temperatures over 90 degrees have boosted evaporation rates and reduced groundwater and stream levels to the lower end of their normal ranges.

The National Weather Service says the Hartford area has received nearly 25 inches of precipitation this year, about 4 inches below normal.




STILL WATERS RUN DEEP - BUT HOW DEEP IS THE QUESTION - CONNECTICUT LINKUSGS NATIONAL
After no snow this winter, are we due for another drought?  Lack of infrastructure such as water and sewer lines is a hallmark in Weston.



Weston: As temperatures rise, water levels fall
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 14 July 2010 11:49

With hot weather now the norm for the summer, officials are urging residents to be aware of both their electric and water consumption. The state is also monitoring potential drought conditions as rainfall amounts remain far below average for this time of year.

Last week, temperatures reached record highs as they stretched into the double-digits for several days in a row, making the 90s and 80s that followed feel cool by comparison.

Air conditioning and electric fans are the most popular way to beat the heat these days. Across the state, peak demand for electricity happens most often between noon and 8 p.m. on weekdays, usually when it’s hot and humid. According to CT Energy Info, most of this is due to air conditioning use.

Last week, peak electricity usage across the state almost reached the 2006 record of 7,367 megawatts when residents used 7,000 megawatts on Tuesday, July 6, according to Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P).

There are other things that drive up electricity use during peak periods, namely pool pumps, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and even computers.
Water

The other thing that gets used a lot during hot weather is water.

The same day that CL&P reported the highest peak electricity usage (July 6) Aquarion Water Company reported the highest customer demand for water in more than 150 years — the company delivered 145 million gallons to its customers in lower Fairfield County. Demands for water have been running between 30% and 50% above normal.

Compounding the problem of high demand is low supply. According to Gary Lessor of the Connecticut Weather Center in Danbury, the average rainfall for the first 12 days of July is 1.22 inches. This year, only 0.08 inch had fallen in that time period.

Year-to-date, the region is not too far off from the average of 24.22 inches — thus far, we have had 22.16 inches. However, this March alone saw nearly five inches more than normal.

But the last three and a half months saw about eight inches less rain than average, Mr. Lessor said. April, May and June each normally have more than four inches of rainfall; this year, there was 1.49 inches in April, 1.41 inches in May, and 2.46 inches in June.

Mr. Lessor said the area is not in a drought situation, but at the beginning of a drought “if the precipitation pattern doesn’t change. Over the next two weeks, it appears we are not in a favorable pattern to change and above normal temperatures will continue,” he said.

However, the lack of rain in recent months has affected reservoir levels and the underground water table.
Water emergencies

As reservoir levels dropped, Aquarion issued temporary water emergencies in Ridgefield, Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich, and Stamford. It also asked customers to voluntarily restrict their water use through the end of this week.

Compounding problems for Aquarion, a water main in Westport broke on Monday, affecting service in several area towns. As a result, the water company asked all first selectmen and mayors in Aquarion’s coverage area — including Weston — to cease all public watering for the day.

Aquarion, whose Saugatuck Reservoir is in Weston, serves relatively few customers in town (only 93 residential customers, plus 69 fire protection connections — sprinklers — mostly in town and school buildings); most Westonites have private wells. But, officials say it’s still important for Westonites to pay close attention to water usage.

“I think even those on wells need to be careful with our water usage, given the near drought conditions,” said Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein. She urged Westonites to follow the same voluntary water restrictions Aquarion is recommending.

These include:

    * Watering lawns and plantings on alternate days, and between the hours of 5 and 9 a.m. or 7 and 9 p.m.
    * Defer washing boats, cars, and other motor vehicles at home.
    * Turn off any ornamental fountains.
    * Put off power-washing homes, decks or other areas.
    * Cover pools when not in use to prevent evaporation.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell offered similar caution, especially while the state’s fire danger remains high.

“We are not in an emergency situation, but it is important for people to take sensible steps now to stretch our water supply,” Ms. Rell said.

Scattered storms help slightly, but until there is a sustained, soaking rain, the water table is in danger of dropping considerably, Ms. Rell warned.

“These water conservation measures should also be heeded by people with private wells as well — no water supply is inexhaustible,” the governor added. “At the same time, the dry weather increases the risk of brush, grass and forest fires. Careless smoking, improper burning and other fire risks must be eliminated.”

Drought panel

On Monday, July 12, the Interagency Drought Work Group met in Hartford. The group includes representatives from the state agriculture, environmental protection, and public health departments, as well as the Office of Policy and management, the Office of Emergency Management, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The panel was established in 2003 to create a plan to respond to water emergencies of varying severity.

“Every day we go without a good, soaking rain the situation will be aggravated,” the governor said after the drought group met. “The spotty weekend showers were not nearly enough to really refill the water table and the forecast for this week remains uncertain,” she said.

“While there is no emergency, it is still important to residents to avoid non-essential uses of water like watering lawns or washing cars at home until the water levels are back to normal,” Ms. Rell said. “State agencies will continue to monitor the situation.”

The drought work group said higher demand for water during nighttime hours suggests the increased usage is related to lawn watering.

The group is recommending that those with automatic watering systems consider having their systems reprogrammed to reduce the flow and/or frequency of watering.



Ohio lake's algae dangerous to swimmers, economy
YAHOO
By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jul 2, 5:09 pm ET

ST. MARYS, Ohio – Patches of green and turquoise slime floated like thick paint in the channel behind Kyle Biesel's home. His pontoon boat sat covered up, unused for weeks, on a wooden lift stained by the algae.

A foul smell enveloped the backyard where he used to fish and watch blue herons glide over the water. He called it a "sickening combination of manure and propane gas."

Even more alarming, tests reveal that the waters in Ohio's largest inland lake contain dangerous toxins with the potential to cause rashes, vomiting or even liver and nerve damage. State officials say it's no longer safe for swimming and skiing.

It's causing economic and environmental distress for hundreds of people who work along Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio, an area already hurt by manufacturing cuts that have contributed to Ohio's highest unemployment rates in a quarter century. Tourism brings an estimated $216 million into the area with much of that coming from visitors to the lake.

"People are scared to death," said Chuck Black, who manages Windy Point Marina. "You can look out on this lake and count the boats on one hand."

Boat repairs are the only thing keeping Black in business because gasoline sales are down by more than half and could cost him well over $50,000 this year. He now wears waterproof boots when he's fixing boats after getting a rash when water dripped on his feet.

This is the second straight summer of water warnings along what locals call "Ohio's other Great Lake." The water problems led to a drop in visitors last year to 687,000, down from about 737,000 a year earlier.

It's likely to be even worse this summer.

Boaters and tourists have canceled trips, leaving cottages and camp sites empty during what normally would be a bustling Independence Day weekend. Marinas and restaurants are cutting workers, and a few have shut down for good.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland asked the heads of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and agriculture department on Friday for financial and environmental assistance in dealing with the lake's water.

"We have reached a tipping point where the degraded nature of the lake is causing a significant loss to local businesses and the total livelihood of the region," the governor said in his letter.

Grand Lake St. Marys is one of the state's most lakes polluted because of the fertilizer and manure that runs off from nearby farms and into creeks and streams flowing into the lake, feeding the algae that produces toxins.

This year state environmental regulators have found a different species of algae that can produce up to seven different toxins. Water tests have shown there are low levels of two toxins that can affect the liver and nervous systems.

While this type of blue-green algae has been found elsewhere in lakes and rivers, less is known about the toxins they produce.

There are no guidelines from the federal government or the World Health Organization on how much exposure is dangerous so state regulators decided to warn people not to touch the water.

"We just don't know what's safe," said Dina Pierce, spokeswoman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Closing public beaches or banning swimming hasn't been done because of the lack of guidelines, said Mike Helton, a spokesman for Ohio's natural resources department. "We're letting people use their own use discretion," he said.

Boating still is allowed, and the state says it's safe to eat the fish.

So far, there are no reports of anyone getting sick from the water.

Those at the greatest risk are swimmers who accidentally gulp the water and people on Jet Skis and boats who are splashed repeatedly. The spray sends particles of the bacteria into the air where it can be easily inhaled or ingested, said Linda Merchant-Masonbrink, who oversees the state EPA's monitoring of inland lakes.

There's also the potential for catastrophic fish kills with large algae blooms that rob the water of oxygen.

About 300 dead fish washed up in the algae-filled channel behind Biesel's home a week ago. "I worry about the wildlife," he said. "I watched the ducks out there, and they could hardly push through it."

How much algae covers the water varies each day depending on the weather and winds. Earlier this week, parts of the lake showed no signs of the smell or algae, but it was apparent in some areas.

For generations, the 9-mile long lake has been lined with fishing shacks and vacation cottages, but in recent years more expensive homes have been built by retirees who have relocated near the water.

Many worry that the algae outbreak will bring down their property values, and some real estate agents say potential buyers have backed out of deals.

Some residents say they've been warning politicians about the increasing pollution flowing into the lake for at least a decade. State officials say they've been meeting with farmers, asking them to cut down on the manure that makes it way to the lake.

But residents aren't satisfied. They say stricter regulations are needed on large farms, limiting when they can apply manure to their fields and how close they can plant to streams.

"It's getting to the point where somebody needs to step on somebody's toes," said Dave Meyer, a member of the Lake Improvement Association.

No matter what happens, it may take a long time to get rid of the algae and the stigma surrounding the lake.

Jason and Delarie Adams, of Chicago, spent three days at a cabin along the lake this week, not knowing about the water warnings until they arrived.

They stayed clear of the lake and kept their 1-year-old daughter's sand toys packed away. "We saw the bubbles on the water," said Delarie Adams. "It looked like dishwashing detergent."

"I don't think we'd come back," her husband said. "I mean we can't even get in the water."



Clay In West Hartford's Soil Spells Drainage Woes
Hartford Courant
By BILL LEUKHARDT
11:44 PM EDT, May 9, 2010

WEST HARTFORD —

During spring rains, the grassy fields of St. Joseph College become more wading pool than lawn.

And, like clockwork, in low-lying neighborhoods off North Main Street, hoses sprout post-rainstorm from flooded basements to pump out water.

Blame the annual problems of poor drainage on clay — a geologic calling card left 14,000 years ago by the last glacier to scour Connecticut and the northern half of the continental United States. A band of dense clay snakes through subsoils in the eastern part of town. It is 100 feet thick in a few spots, less than 6 inches in others. But, thick or thin, it prevents water from quickly draining.

"We have ponding each spring," said Vince Draper, grounds manager at St. Joseph for the past 11 years. "A few years ago, we couldn't mow some sections until June because it was so wet. I call this a floating campus."

Localized flooding is a problem on those days when the heavens open up. And the flooding is tough to avoid in clay-rich neighborhoods.

"You can dig a dry well to help, but it only does so much, because water can't dissipate in the clay," said Eddie Salvatore of Brothers Landscaping on Albany Avenue. The clay, studied by geologists for clues about New England's past, can shift when wet, just enough to wear out pavement prematurely.

'It's Like Iron'

"Your streets can move. Your pipes can move," Town Manager Ronald Van Winkle said of the elastic clay underlying half his hometown.

Road contractors here often put down a protective fabric before paving to prevent movement and keep asphalt from cracking. That fabric, commonly used in Louisiana and other low-lying, wet states, is being installed this month on Edgemere Avenue, off South Quaker Lane, before a contractor repaves it, highway supervisor Brian LaVoie said.

"You don't want to pave over mud," LaVoie said. "If clay is not wet, it's like iron. When it's wet, it is loose. You have a squishy road base and you'll soon get wheel ruts."

Mike Mancini, manager of engineering with the Metropolitan District Commission, the capital district's regional water and sewer authority, said the ability of clay to move sometimes results in sections of newly laid pipe getting pushed upward overnight before the trench is filled and paved.

When the MDC began cutting a tunnel through bedrock under Hartford last year for new sewer lines, Mancini said, the district was cautioned to keep the multi-ton boring machine moving so "it wouldn't sink into the clay" before reaching the rock layer.

To geologists such as Janet R. Stone of the U.S. Geological Survey office in East Hartford, the clay and how it got here during the last Ice Age are fascinating.

It's found mostly on the west side of the Connecticut River, from Rocky Hill north into Vermont. It was deposited 12,000 to 17,000 years ago when glacial Lake Hitchcock ran 200 miles, occupying that same swath from Rocky Hill to northern Vermont, Stone said. Layers of the clay sediment can be extracted in cores.

They can be read like tree rings and hint at annual weather patterns from a time when no human lived in the state, and most of what's now known as New England and the continental United States were under a 2-mile-thick ice sheet, she said.

The immense weight and pressure of the ice cap pushed the earth down almost 1,000 feet and slowly pulverized everything in its path. In places such as Berlin, where redstone and other sedimentary rocks got ground up, the clay is red. In areas without sandstone, like West Hartford, the clay is gray, Stone said.

Starting in Colonial times, the clay was used by dozens of brickyards established from Berlin to Windsor.

In West Hartford's Elmwood section, the Goodwin Bros. Brickyard once was the town's largest employer. It burned in 1908 and closed down.

At one time, Old Windsor had 40 brickyards. East Windsor had a dozen brickyards, eight of them along the Scantic River. Bricks were hauled by barge downriver to Hartford for sale.

Now the state has one last operating brickyard — KF on Fitch Boulevard, South Windsor. It began 100 years ago and is one of four American brickyards owned by Redland Brick of Maryland.

"The large glacial lake system is why we have so much clay because sediment settled out for several thousand years. In some places, it's more than 100 feet thick," said Julie Brigham-Grette, a geoscience professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who studies Lake Hitchcock's history, geology and effects. "If people don't understand what they're building on, they'll get wet basements."

Her house is built on sand.

Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant




'Water, water, every where . . . '  Extremely wet weather has basements flooding across the region like never before
By Judy Benson, Day Staff Writer
Article published Mar 25, 2010

Like a sponge that can't absorb one more drop, the ground is so saturated from this month's heavy rains that water is finding its way into basements around the region that had stayed dry for decades.

"I haven't had water in my basement for years," Al Chapman, senior engineer for the City of Groton and also a resident, said Wednesday of the 2 inches of water in his cellar.

Since the beginning of March, 7.4 inches of rain has been measured at the gauge maintained by Groton Utilities, and more is forecast to fall today and Friday. That compares to an average rainfall for the entire month of 4.6 inches.

Dennis Schain, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the Connecticut River is still rising due to snowmelt in the north, and the DEP is monitoring it as well as dams and flood-control equipment around the state.

"The ground is already so saturated it won't be able to absorb much more water," Schain said.

Basement flooding occurred around the region after the heavy downpours two weeks ago, and some cellars had just been dry a few days when about three more inches of rain came Monday and Tuesday and flooded them again.

"With the water table so high, we've had a lot of basement flooding," said Gene Arters, emergency management director in Norwich. "Some were people who had never had a flood in 30 years."

Fire departments around the region stayed busy after the March 13-14 deluge, pumping out basements for homeowners who also lost power and couldn't run sump pumps.
After this week's rain, fire crews responded to more calls. Groton City Fire Chief Nicholas DeLia said most people were able to get rid of the water themselves, this time with shop vacuums, mops and pumps, but fire crews did help a few whose furnaces were at risk from the flooding.

Center Groton Deputy Chief Derek Fauntleroy said his department responded to a half-dozen requests for pump-outs Tuesday and Wednesday. The Old Mystic Fire Department also helped about a half-dozen residents on Sandy Hollow Road and Pequot Avenue, some of whom hadn't had their basements flood previously, said Chris Clarkin, captain of the department.

The Mystic Department found itself going back this week to some of the same homes it had been to two weeks ago, Chief Fritz Hilbert said.

In New London, the basement of a home on Dart Street flooded this week with about 2 feet of water, which city firefighters were able to pump out in about an hour, Fire Department Battallion Chief Tom Curcio said.



A Connecticut Fund For the Environment e-mail received Nov. 17, 2009:

Long Island Sound License Plate Fund

Did you hear the good news? Thanks to concerned citizens like you and a timely letter from Attorney General Blumenthal, the state legislature and governor reinstated the Long Island Sound License Plate Fund and returned over $600,000 that had been stripped from it since June. This is a major victory for the Sound-the fund will now be able to continue to spark projects like coastal trails, public education, and town docks. We thank you for your support.



Yemen's capital running out of water
Heather Murdock, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Sunday, November 15, 2009

SAN'A, Yemen | Five years ago, Hussein Saleh al-Ayni's well was full.

He grew onions, garlic and other vegetables in his garden and sold them for $30 a day.

Now, a slight breeze blows beige dust where crops once grew. An old tire and a yellow bottle of cooking oil poke out of the mud at the bottom of the well. Mr. al-Ayni drives a motorcycle taxi and supports his wife and two children on about $5 a day.

"I just make enough for daily food," he said.

Water shortages can be felt in every corner of Yemen's capital. Gardens are dry, and water trucks crisscross the city to deliver to households that can afford it. Those who cannot send women and children to line up at mosque spigots.

With well levels dropping as much as 65 feet a year, many Yemenis and outside specialists predict that San'a will become the first capital city to run out of groundwater. The shortages pose a special challenge in an impoverished nation that is already fighting two insurgencies and al Qaeda.

"The problem is not in the future," said Saleh Aziz, a Yemeni farmer who heads the Hamdan Water Association. "We are suffering now."

Ten years ago, there was 20 percent more rainfall in San'a - 9.84 inches per year compared to 7.87 inches now, according to a water resource specialist at San'a University, Abdullah Al-Numan.

Other parts of Yemen receive less than a third of the water they received a decade ago, dropping from 11.81 inches a year on average to 3.93 inches, he said.

When rain does come, the timing is unpredictable and the concentration so heavy that the water's value is lost, he said. In some areas, the entire yearly rainfall can now happen in a matter of days. Last year 58 people were killed and 20,000 people fled their homes in October floods.

The drought extends into East Africa and is the worst in the region since 2000, according to the Economist magazine. Yemen is among about 50 countries, mostly in the Middle East and Africa, that are facing water shortages owing largely to population increase and climate change. One in six people on the planet do not have enough clean water to drink. By 2025, the United Nations predicts, about two-thirds of the world's population will live in areas where water is scarce.

In Yemen, most homes do not have running water and about a third of the population of 22 million has no access to safe, clean water, according to the U.N.

International efforts to slow the crisis in Yemen have failed, according to Ramon Scoble, a water-resource specialist for the German development agency GTZ.

The United States, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and the World Bank pump tens of millions of dollars into Yemeni water projects each year. But a lack of government will and capability, coupled with a population that is largely uneducated about water issues and resistant to change, have crippled efforts to build a sustainable water system, he said.

In the capital, Mr. Scoble estimates that the population consumes 10 to 20 times the water replenished by rainfall.

"There are families out there that are literally drinking sewage here in San'a," he said.

The future looks even bleaker. Yemen's population is expected to double in the next 20 years. Climate change could mean even less rainfall for a country afflicted with drought for years.

Three current armed conflicts in Yemen, while not directly caused by water shortages, are a sign of the times, Mr. Scoble said. Government forces are battling a Shi'ite Muslim insurgency in the north, secessionists in the south and al Qaeda adherents in the ungoverned countryside.

Water protests are also turning violent. In late August, one person was killed and three were injured in a riot after water access was cut in several districts in the southern port city of Aden.

Besides the growing population and diminished rainfall, rapid urbanization, traditional farming practices and plain old waste are to blame for the crisis, according to Saleh al-Dubby, director of the San'a Basin Water Management Project, which is funded by the World Bank.

As villages dry out, people flock to the cities, further taxing already strained resources. And because city planners cannot keep up with the influx, families dig their own toilets, polluting the groundwater.

Those who remain in arid rural areas buy water from trucks. Farmers say the price of water has tripled in the past four years, and the quality of life in Yemen, already one of the world's poorest countries, is dropping as fast as the water table.

But it is difficult to convince farmers to adopt modern irrigation systems, Mr. al-Dubby said. Farmers, accustomed to flooding their fields many times a year, have a hard time believing that drip-irrigation systems will grow their crops.

"If I am a farmer, I can't imagine that will be enough for my plants," he said.

The most profitable crop in Yemen - khat, a mildly narcotic leaf that is wildly popular here - consumes about a third of the country's water supply, maybe more.  Most Yemeni men spend hours a day chewing the leaves, which saps productivity in every sector, including the government, Mr. Scoble said. The national addiction also makes farmers and government officials reluctant to change.

"We're in Yemen, and almost everything is 'insh'allah, bukra' ["God willing, tomorrow"], except [khat] o'clock," he wrote in an e-mail.

Yahiya al-Hubaishi, a khat farmer, picked leaves off his trees and added them to the tennis-ball sized wad in his cheek. Mr. al-Hubaishi, who also grows grapes and tomatoes in a rocky valley on the outskirts of the capital, said he floods his fields about 13 times a year and that no one has suggested he abandon this traditional method of irrigation.

"The water will not finish," he said. "There is still rain."

But experts say the groundwater will disappear if these practices continue. Even if Yemen could afford to build desalination plants, that would not provide enough water to support agriculture, the mainstay of an overwhelming majority of Yemenis.  Increasing unemployment could boost al Qaeda recruitment in the country of Osama bin Laden's father's birth and produce a host of other ills, from mass migration to food shortages to crippling women's rights.

Johan Kuylenstierna, a specialist on water issues for the U.N., notes that millions of women and girls in water-scarce countries walk for hours a day to fetch water. They carry it home balanced on their heads in 45-pound jerry cans, sometimes climbing mountains late at night.

Girls miss school to collect water and often drop out when they reach puberty because there are no gender-specific toilets, or no toilets at all, he said. Women with no bathrooms go to the outskirts of villages for privacy and are often victims of rape or other attacks.

"You're outside alone, unprotected," Mr. Kuylenstierna said. "You are a very easy target."

Malik al-Amari, who drives a water truck in San'a, moved to the city from a distant village that is now close to uninhabitable. Five years ago, a pump drew water from a local well 24 hours a day. Now, the pump runs dry after two hours, he said.

But villagers are still not conserving water, Mr. al-Amari said, as he leaned against his pink-and-blue-painted metal water truck. He glanced at a crowd of noisy children climbing on his truck, and crossed his arms.

"I'm scared for the whole country," he said.





WESTON'S MOREHOUSE FARM PARK (l) -  Weston glad to help CT DEP and the CT Health Department break new ground, using Morehouse Farm Park as an example of a method by which pesticides and herbicides on public fields might be regulated;  photos of Scofield investigation;  contractors for the city of Stamford install a water main at the corner of Larkspur Road and Skymeadow Drive to address contaminated wells on Hannahs, Larkspur, Cousins and Very Merry roads on Thursday. (Kathleen O'Rourke/Staff photo).  And at right, copies available at Weston Library include generalized locations of testing in 1993 Weston Water Resources Guide pdf





Questions raised by Stamford well water testing methods
Kate King, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 8:04 p.m., Saturday, August 18, 2012

STAMFORD -- Health officials continue to urge Stamford homeowners to test their private well water for pesticide contamination and are now recommending periodic retesting, even for residents with home filtration systems.

Twenty percent of the 835 private wells tested for water contamination in Stamford since 2008 contained long-banned pesticides, according to data provided by the Stamford Health Department this week. Sixty-five wells, or roughly 8 percent of the total number tested, harbored pesticides in concentrations exceeding the safe "action level" threshold set by state health and environmental officials. There are an estimated 5,000 private wells in Stamford.

Well water testing performed prior to 2011 may not have used detection methods sensitive enough to yield precise results, however. Bennett Cancer Center oncologist K.M. Steve Lo discovered the discrepancy while reviewing his North Stamford home's well water testing results, which came back negative.

Lo's test, performed by a private laboratory in 2010, detected chlordane contamination only in concentrations greater than 0.44 parts per billion -- well above the state's action level of 0.3 parts per billion. As a result, it is possible he could have received a "false negative" testing result.

"If my well was contaminated at 0.4 (ppb) -- and that was above the action level -- my test would not have detected that accurately," Lo told a committee of city representatives earlier this month. "That's a problem."

Lo, who submitted his testing results to the city's health department in 2010, is retesting his well water. All Stamford homeowners who tested their private wells for pesticide contamination two years ago should have them retested, he said.

"It's becoming clear that some of the testing that was done, probably even prior to 2011, is problematic," Lo said. "I do encourage people who've had negative well testing (results) in the past to redo this."

City testing performed since 2008, including its ongoing subsidized well water testing program, was conducted using precise detection levels, Stamford Health Department Director Anne Fountain said.

Some homeowners have submitted laboratory testing reports similar to Dr. Lo's, but Fountain said she believes the majority of well water tests performed over the last four years were accurate.

"I think most were sensitive enough," she said. "If you have any questions about your test results, you can call the health department laboratory and they will tell you from what they see on their lab test whether it was sensitive or valid enough. They can help interpret the results."

Regardless, all Stamford homeowners with private wells should strongly consider testing their water on an annual basis, health officials said.

"I think my main message is whether it was prior to 2011 or not, you should be routinely testing your well," Fountain said. "If not every year, every other year."

Mitchell Kaufman, a former hydrogeologist and chairman of the Board of Representatives' North Stamford Water Supply Committee, said he also recommends annual testing, even for residents who have installed water filtration systems.

"Things are going to move around and impact you in different ways," Kaufman said. "So you should get your water sampled once a year. Things are always changing in the environment."

Residents with pesticide contamination detected above action level are at a greater risk for adverse health effects over a lifetime exposure, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Stamford's testing results have so far only revealed the presence of chlordane and dieldrin. The pesticides, historically used on agricultural crops and for termite control, were banned in the late 1970s and 1980s due to "the adverse environmental and human health effects of these substances, including their probable carcinogenicity," according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's website.

Pesticide contamination is easily corrected by installing a granular activated carbon filter in the home, according to state guidelines. The devices cost $1,600 to install and several hundred dollars for annual maintenance.

Brian Toal, a supervising epidemiologist with the state health department, said Stamford homeowners whose private well tests were performed using detection limits above the state's safe threshold may want to retest their water. Toal also recommended "occasional" testing for Stamford residents.

"It's a good idea for people for the near future to at least do a few rounds of testing," Toal said. "Even with a filter it's a good idea to test the water occasionally, just to make sure the filter is working."

A city-run well water testing program, which is mandated by city ordinance to test 750 wells annually for two years, is already fully booked. Another option for reduced-rate testing is available, however, through a program organized by the Stamford Community Advisory Panel.

The service, called the Stamford Well Water Alternate Testing (SWWAT) Program, will provide well water testing for $164.50 plus tax, slightly higher than the $100 charged by the city but significantly lower than the typical $350 price for private testing. Test results obtained through SWWAT must be submitted to the health department and are subject to public disclosure.

"This is really important because this will provide the overall data that we really need," Lo said. "If a well's negative, does it remain negative? Does it change? Can it become positive? That kind of information we're starting to gather."

The program, which uses precise detection methods, launched in mid-June. Sixty-four households had signed up for testing as of Aug. 1, Lo said.

Spots are still available for interested residents, who can take advantage of the reduced rate by calling the Alliance Water Treatment Company at 203-323-9968 and requesting the SWWAT program.

Nearby towns shrug off groundwater contamination in Stamford
Neena Satija, CT MIRROR
August 3, 2012

One of every five private wells tested in Stamford has at least trace amounts of two carcinogenic pesticides, and about 60 have potentially dangerous levels, city officials report.

The most recent data from an ongoing testing program has turned up noticeable levels of chlordane or dieldrin in one-fifth of the 750 wells tested so far. Eight percent have levels above those deemed safe by the state, the officials say.

The data suggest that pesticide contamination is probably not confined to Stamford, but neighboring communities have not been eager to follow suit.

"You don't have to just be in North Stamford," said Anne Fountain, the city's director of health. She was addressing a previous misconception that pesticide contamination is present only in wells north of the Merritt Parkway. "It's anywhere in the city. Or even beyond the city. It doesn't stop at our borders."

Fountain said that the response she has gotten from local health directors has been "lukewarm."

"When you talk to other communities, the reaction is, 'Oh, it's a Stamford problem,'" said Dr. Steve Lo, an oncologist at Stamford Hospital who has worked with the city to get the word out.

Chlordane and dieldrin were used widely by homeowners and farmers to control insects until the 1980s, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned them and declared them carcinogenic.

Stamford health officials first found the pesticides in wells near the Scofieldtown landfill in North Stamford, which prompted further testing throughout the city. A nonprofit group called North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment also pushed for more comprehensive testing. But so far, efforts to conduct widespread testing have not spread beyond Stamford.

"We can't just order them to test their water," said Rob Farfaglia, supervisor of environmental health in Greenwich. "We can educate them... but it's their property and generally people need to take responsibility for their own properties."

Farfaglia estimated that at least several hundred households in Greenwich have private wells; in Stamford, at least 5,000 homes use groundwater wells, according to health officials.

Bethany Zaro, public health nurse for New Canaan's health department, said the town has posted an advisory to its website about pesticide contamination in Fairfield County. But there are no plans for further public awareness efforts.

"It is a private issue and there are no mandates" for testing, Zaro said.

She added that few have made inquiries to the health department regarding the testing. "Actually, we've had a smaller reaction than we thought."

Testing mandates and recommendations for groundwater vary significantly by town. Tim Callahan, Norwalk's health director, said the city simply follows the state public health code and requires newly built wells to be tested for coliform bacteria levels. Testing for volatile organic compounds, pesticides, iron, manganese, arsenic or other chemicals -- which is routine in other parts of the state -- is not widespread.

"Unlike public drinking water, there are not many standards that [private wells] must meet," he said.

Callahan said he is aware of the concerns about pesticides in Stamford, but his city hasn't taken any action. "Most of our city is served by city water," he said, although he thinks at least a few hundred households do use groundwater.

"I don't know that much about what's going on" in Stamford, Callahan said. "The first step for us is to learn more about it, and then we can make a decision as to a course of action for Norwalk." Callahan said there are no current plans to test wells in Norwalk for pesticides.

The cost of testing -- and remediation -- is a major reason towns say they won't require or heavily promote testing for pesticides in groundwater.

Farfaglia said that for newly drilled wells, Greenwich's health department will test for acidity, odor, turbidity, manganese and arsenic, among other possible contaminants. Adding pesticides "would require special equipment, special training, and of course then the cost goes up," he said.

But in Stamford, oncologist Lo said the demand for testing has resulted in a steep drop in cost.

The city contracted with a private lab so that residents could get their water tested for $100. But the city program only provides for testing 1,500 wells over two years, and more than 100 residents are already on the waiting list. Lo helped organize an alternate testing program that will cost $164.50, compared to a normal price of $300 to $400, he said.

"Basically we're down to rock bottom," Lo said. "I don't think the test [price] is going to get lower than that." At least 60 people have signed up for the alternate program, which launched in mid-June.

The cost of filtering contaminated water -- which is done through a granular activated carbon filter -- has also come down. Lo said it costs $1,600 to buy and install the filter; before demand rose, he was hearing figures like $3,000 to $4,000, he said. (Once the filter is installed, it costs about $300 a year to maintain.)

The hesitation on the part of many to get their water tested is probably related to concerns about real estate prices, said many at the meeting in Stamford this week. But Lo thinks that one day pesticide testing will be as normal as testing for other contaminants like radon.

Still, there will always be people who don't see a need.

Farfaglia, Greenwich's environmental supervisor, actually lives in North Stamford and has a well. He remembers when pesticides were readily available at the hardware store and his father sprayed them all over the house and lawn.

"These people put tons and tons of herbicides and insecticides on their lawns," he said. "The finding that pesticides are widespread doesn't really surprise me."

He said he has no plans to test his water for pesticides.

"I'm just not that overly concerned about it," he said.

------------------

Chlordane klawr-deyn, klohr-]
Chlordane  is a manufactured chemical that was used as a pesticide in the United States from 1948 to 1988. It does not occur naturally in the environment. Technical chlordane is a mixture of two isomers called alpha-chlordane and gamma-chlordane and many byproducts from production. It was sold by Chevron as a white powdery dust in combination with an emulsifier. When mixed with water and the emulsifier it becomes a thick colorless to amber liquid. Until 1983, chlordane was used as a pesticide on crops like corn and citrus and on home lawns and gardens. Chevron specifically marketed it as an ant killer, under the Ortho name.

Because of concern about damage to the environment and harm to human health, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned all uses of chlordane in 1983 except termite control. The EPA banned all uses of chlordane in 1988. The EPA recommends that children should not drink water with more than 60 parts of chlordane per billion parts of drinking water (60 ppb) for longer than 1 day. EPA has set a limit in drinking water of 2 ppb.

Chlordane is strongly hydrophobic. It sticks to soil particles at the soil surface and is not likely to enter groundwater. It can stay in the soil for over 20 years where it breaks down very slowly. It has a reported half life of one year.

Chlordane bioaccumulates in fish, birds, and mammals.

Chlordane affects the nervous system, the digestive system, and the liver in people and animals. Headaches, irritability, confusion, weakness, vision problems, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and jaundice have occurred in people who breathed air containing high concentrations, or accidentally swallowed small amounts of chlordane. Eating large amounts causes convulsions and death in people. Recent studies have linked chlordane exposure with prostate and breast cancers in humans.

According to the ATSDR, a man who had long-term skin contact with soil containing high levels of chlordane had convulsions. Japanese workers who used chlordane over a long period of time had minor changes in liver function.

Animals given high levels of chlordane by mouth for short periods died or had convulsions. Long-term exposure caused harmful effects in the liver of test animals.

It is not known if chlordane affects human fertility or whether it causes birth defects. Animals exposed before birth or while nursing developed behavioral effects later. A recent study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that exposure to chlordane metabolites may be associated with testicular cancer. The incidence of seminoma in men with the highest blood levels of cis -nonachlor was almost double that of men with the lowest levels.

References- External links:


It found some other things, but did not test for what would be obvious...like Chlordane.
Pesticide contamination of well water could be widespread in Connecticut

Neena Satija, CT MIRROR
July 3, 2012

State and Stamford health officials are urging residents with private wells to get their water tested for pesticides and other possible contaminants.

A study of 628 private wells by the Stamford Health Department found that 195 had some amount of the pesticides Chlordane or Dieldrin. More than half of those 195 had concentrations that put residents who regularly drink the water at a greater risk for health problems, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Joseph Kuntz, a Stamford lab technician, said that when health officials first discovered some well contamination in 2009, they expected it to be localized and due to the nearby Scofield Town Dump. But testing had unexpected results.

"We saw things on the New Canaan border, things on the Greenwich border, things on the Darien border," Kuntz said, explaining that contamination was everywhere and may well extend beyond Stamford and Fairfield County. "And it was like, OK, this is something anybody with a well anywhere needs to be concerned about."

Chlordane and Dieldrin were used for termite and other insect extermination in homes and on farms for decades in Connecticut. They were banned in the 1980s, and the EPA now says that exposure to such chemicals over a lifetime, even at trace amounts, can increase the risk of health problems.

"You can't see it, you can't taste it and you can't smell it," said Bill Warzecha, an environmental analyst at Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. "And so except if you test it, you're not going to know that it's in there."

About 2.3 million people, or 15 percent of the population, in New England get their water from private wells, which are largely unregulated. According to DEEP, 700,000 of those residents live in Connecticut, which is about 20 percent of the population. Any requirements that individual states or cities have imposed usually apply only to newly built wells and don't extend to testing for pesticides.

Warzecha said the test that is generally required -- which looks at bacteriological, physical and chemical qualities of the water -- costs $100 to $150. Adding pesticides and other compounds to the test can add a significant cost.

"As you add those parameters, it increases the price of the test, into the range of several hundred if not up to a thousand dollars, and people sometimes can't afford that," he said.

Stamford, where Kuntz estimates that 5,000 households have private wells, is unique in offering lower-cost testing. The city health department contracted with a local laboratory to bring down the cost of a $350 test to just $100. More than 1,700 people have signed up to get their wells tested, and last year the city passed an ordinance requiring 750 wells to be tested each year starting in 2012.

Broader concerns

On the heels of Stamford's data comes a broader study that reaffirms long-held concerns about the quality of New England's groundwater. The U.S. Geological Society announced new findings last week that much of the region's wells have levels of arsenic and manganese that exceed federal safety standards.

Most of the nearly 5,000 wells USGS scientists looked at were public-supply wells. In 13 percent of sites, arsenic was present at levels above federal safety standards; manganese was found at unsafe levels in more than 7 percent of sites; and a third of sites had levels of radon that were higher than the EPA's proposed standards.

Those chemicals, unlike pesticides, are considered to be naturally occurring in New England's bedrock and soil. But the EPA warns that as the U.S. population consumes more and more water, groundwater -- relied on now by about 42 million people in the United States -- will become more important, and contamination may be more of a concern.



Stamford launches Scofieldtown landfill closure process
Scofieldtown Park: Work to begin on former landfill site, now closed
Kate King, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 01:03 a.m., Monday, February 6, 2012

STAMFORD -- Three years after an Environmental Protection Agency investigation prompted the closure of North Stamford's Scofieldtown Park, city officials are poised to launch an extensive remediation project that will install a permanent cap on the 80-year-old landfill.

The cap is intended to trap the accumulated remnants of 34 years of household and city dumping -- and related environmental contamination -- underneath a synthetic tarp, which will stretch across all 17 acres of the landfill site. The city will then sprinkle about 50,000 cubic yards of clean soil over the cap and top the whole project off with a state-of-the-art recycling center and public park. The massive undertaking, estimated to cost taxpayers roughly $6 million, is tentatively scheduled for completion in November 2014.

Mayor Michael Pavia said he ultimately would like to see the park, which has been closed to the public since May 2009, reopened as a multi-use recreational area featuring playing fields, walking trails and habitat restoration for birds or wildlife.

"The process will be deliberate," Pavia said of the remediation. "There are certain steps that have to take place; one right after the other is concluded. What will result certainly is the final closure of that landfill, No. 1. And No. 2, some productive reuse of the park."

But before any baseball diamonds or other fields can be built, the city's environmental consultant and engineering department must seal off acres of soil, sediment and groundwater that have been exposed to pollution since the landfill opened as a household dumping site in 1934. The clean-up has been a long time coming, both in terms of recent remediation efforts and within the larger context of Scofieldtown landfill's decades-long history.

Former Director of Operations Ben Barnes first learned in January or February of 2009 that the EPA had found contamination in soil, sediment and water at or near Scofieldtown Park that exceeded recommended health levels. Barnes waited until mid-May to tell city representatives, who then demanded the park's immediate closure. More than a year later, in September 2010, Stamford entered into a consent order with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to officially close the landfill in accordance with state environmental standards. Stamford hired the environmental consultant TRC Companies, Inc. to complete the project.

On May 9, 2011 -- two years after Stamford padlocked Scofieldtown Park -- TRC submitted to the DEEP a nearly 300-page action plan for testing, remediating and sealing off the former dump. The proposed schedule predicted environmental testing would begin in the summer of 2011 and the landfill's cap construction would conclude in fall 2013. After a public hearing and comment session, the DEEP spent four months reviewing the proposed closure plan and offered conditional approval to the city on Dec. 15, 2011.

Stamford officials then gave the DEEP several finalized design drawings and project details and received the final go-ahead to begin field work at Scofieldtown landfill. The city's schedule has now been pushed back significantly, with environmental monitoring scheduled to begin in March.

"I would love for it to be moving along a lot faster," Board of Representatives President Randy Skigen said. "I think everybody needs to try to move faster to bring this to final resolution. This issue has been out there for more than a couple of years now."

The past three years of scrutiny is only the most recent resurgence of environmental investigations by local, state and federal environmental officials at the site of former Scofieldtown Park. TRC's proposed closure plan details several EPA investigations conducted over the last several decades to determine if the landfill should be placed on the country's list of hazardous waste -- also known as Superfund -- sites.

"Information from the city indicates that the landfill may have been in poor condition from 1968 through 1970 as multiple complaints had been filed by residents complaining of vermin, uncontained refuse and a dump fire," TRC wrote in its closure plan. "After the landfill was permanently closed in the early 1970s, the landfill area was graded and reportedly covered with clean fill."

Scofieldtown Park is still not a Superfund site -- it is currently listed on the EPA's website as "awaiting decision" on whether it will be added to the registry. But environmental officials began documenting pollution at the landfill as early as 1987, including drums filed with resin, heavy metal and sludge. Between 1994 and 2004 federal and state officials tested soil, sediment and drum samples, which revealed contamination by volatile organic compounds, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides and metals. Connecticut environmental officials also collected one drinking water sample from a home on Hannahs Road in 1997, which found pesticide contamination above recommended state levels.

Five years later, the EPA report of contamination at Scofieldtown Park sparked concerns from nearby residents about drinking water pollution. Tests revealed elevated levels of the pesticides dieldrin and chlordane in private wells on Hannahs and Very Merry roads. Chlordane and dieldrin were once widely used in the United States for insect control for crops, and ant and termite extermination in private homes, but were banned in the 1970s and 1980s out of concerns over their probable carcinogenicity.

Officials believed pollution at Scofieldtown Park was the source of the drinking water contamination and spent $3.4 million to install water lines to nine streets in North Stamford in late 2009. A subsequent limited inspection by TRC found the water contamination was not due to pollution from the former dump, but not all city officials and residents were convinced by the conclusion.

Officials and residents hope the Scofieldtown landfill closure will shed more light on the severity and scope of environmental pollution in North Stamford. The project's first phase calls for the installation of 45 environmental testing wells; steel pipes measuring about six inches in diameter that will be drilled into the ground to depths ranging from 15 and 60 feet, City Engineer Lou Casolo said. Environmental officials will monitor the new wells, in addition to 11 existing wells, on a quarterly basis. Soil, sediment, surface and groundwater will all be tested over the course of a year at locations on and near the former landfill.

For the neighborhood group North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment, answers can't come soon enough.

"It's so exciting," President Karen DeFalco said late last month. "It's taken so long to get to this point. It's what every town in America thinks about and has played and toyed with and never gets a chance usually to get to this point -- fixing landfills and dealing with contaminants that have been in our environment for so long. It's exciting that we're finding answers, we're pushing the system, we're making things happen."

The environmental monitoring at Scofieldtown will determine the city's approach for sealing off the landfill. If testing reveals widespread, significant pollution at the site, remediation might take more time and resources than predicted. But for now, officials are expecting to install a synthetic tarp and then cover the capped landfill with one to two feet of clean soil. Casolo told city representatives they should begin soliciting public input now for the future use of Scofieldtown Park.

"It is very important to understand what the end use is in terms of how we are going to be designing this," he told the Board of Representatives North Stamford Water Supply Committee last month. "It will save rework, it may save cost. I recommend we start doing that as soon as possible."

The entire project is listed in Stamford's capital budget as totaling $6 million, but Casolo said the cost won't be finalized until spring 2013. Significant savings are possible if the city is able to use soil from an upcoming Connecticut Department of Transportation project on the I-95 corridor to cover the landfill cap, he said. So far, the engineering department has secured $620,000 for work scheduled to last through the end of June, and is requesting another $650,000 for fiscal year 2012-13.

NSCCE spokesman Jay Crutcher said the 17-acre triangular slice of North Stamford on Scofieldtown Road represents a unique chance for residents to reinvent a part of their neighborhood.

"The engineered closure of the landfill is a great opportunity for Stamford to develop additional recreational land, whether it's soccer fields or tennis courts or softball diamonds, and it's something the community should think through very carefully," he said. "How often does a city get to create almost 18 acres from a blank canvas? What would be the most valuable use of the site?"

State to hold public hearing on Scofieldtown landfill closure
Stamford ADVOCATE
Kate King, Staff Writer
Published 10:02 p.m., Saturday, July 16, 2011

STAMFORD -- The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will hold a hearing Monday to hear public comment on the city's proposed $4.4 million closure plan for the Scofieldtown landfill property.

The city closed Scofieldtown Park, located on the north side of Rock Rimmon Road, to the public in May 2009 due to environmental concerns. A federal Environmental Protection Agency report in late 2008 revealed the 18-acre park, located on a landfill, contained soil contaminants in amounts exceeding levels recommend by the EPA. The city and the DEEP entered into a consent agreement in mid-September to officially close the landfill in accordance with state environmental standards.

Mayor Michael Pavia said at his annual state of the city address to the Board of Representatives on July 11 that cleaning up the property is one of his top priorities. The city's proposed plan for closing the former dump will cost about $4.4 million, the majority of which will be included in the fiscal year 2012-13 capital budget.

"The landfill plan that we have put together and is now before the state (DEEP) will transform this facility to safe, attractive use -- probably recreation use -- in the very near future," Pavia said.

Stamford submitted a nearly 300-page closure plan to the DEEP for approval this past spring. The department now must decide whether to reject, approve or conditionally approve the plan, said Robert Bell, assistant director of the DEEP's Remediation Division. Monday's public hearing, which was scheduled at the request of the neighborhood group North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment, marks the beginning of a 45-day comment period during which citizens may offer their opinions on the landfill's closure.

"The city can kind of walk through what's in the closure plan and give citizens the opportunity to make any comments or ask any questions at the hearing," Bell said. "Then based upon the closure plan itself and whatever comments we receive, we'll make a decision on the closure plan."

Jay Crutcher, a spokesman for the NSCCE, said Monday's hearing is an important opportunity for the public to learn more about the landfill closure.

"NSCCE doesn't want to do anything to delay the closure, but we do want to help make sure the process is well understood, efficient and effective," Crutcher said in an email. "The city has committed to spending millions of dollars on this landfill closure, and it's worth a little extra effort now to get it right."

Officials have been investigating water contamination in North Stamford since May 2009, when elevated levels of the pesticides dieldrin and chlordane were detected in private wells on Hannahs and Very Merry roads. Chlordane and dieldrin are highly chlorinated, persistent organic pesticides, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's website. They were once widely used in the United States for purposes including insect control for crops and ant and termite extermination in private homes. The pesticides were banned in the 1970s and 1980s when evidence surfaced of "the adverse environmental and human health effects of these substances, including their probable carcinogenicity."

Officials originally believed pollution at Scofieldtown Park, the site of a landfill, was the source of water contamination in nearby residential wells and spent $3.4 million to install water lines to nine streets in North Stamford. A study performed by the environmental consulting firm TRC, however, found no connection between the landfill and the area's contaminated drinking water.

Crutcher has challenged TRC's conclusions, which he said were based on a narrowly focused study.

A copy of the proposed closure plan for Scofieldtown Park is available on the city's website, in the engineering bureau at the Government Center and at the Ferguson Library. The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday at Scofield Magnet Middle School.


Funds in place for testing at Bartlett Arboretum
Kate King, Staff Writer
Published: 09:01 p.m., Thursday, November 11, 2010

STAMFORD -- Environmental testing of soil and groundwater at the Bartlett Arboretum will begin soon, following approval of $85,000 in funding required for the site investigation.

The Board of Representatives voted Monday night to approve the appropriation of $85,000 to cover the full cost of the second phase of environmental testing at the North Stamford nature preserve. The money will come from closeout of the budget for a vehicle maintenance facility project, which the city ultimately decided to postpone indefinitely in favor of more pressing infrastructure projects.

With all funding in place, environmental testing can now begin on the "several areas of concern" identified in the first phase of the site investigation, said City Engineer Lou Casolo in October. The assessment, conducted by the environmental consulting firm TRC, revealed that the Brookdale Road property was the site of pesticide and herbicide testing for tree care research in the 1960s.

Board of Representatives President Randy Skigen, D-19, said Thursday he was pleased the board had easily passed the funding.

"That was pretty much a non-issue," Skigen said. "Once the Phase One study came back, it was clear that Phase Two needed to be done. And that study is hopefully going to start very soon so we can find out exactly what the extent is of the soil contamination."

The second phase of environmental testing at the Bartlett Arboretum will consist of sampling the property's soil and groundwater to determine if it is indeed contaminated, Casolo said.

If weather conditions allow, it is possible the investigation will be completed over the winter.

If the upcoming environmental testing does find contamination, a third phase of the investigation will most likely be implemented as recommended by guidelines set by the state Department of Environmental Protection, Casolo said. The third phase would seek to determine the extent of the contamination, and then from there a Remedial Action Plan would be drawn up and a contractor hired to clean up the pollution.

The city has owned the Bartlett Arboretum since 2002, when the title was transferred to Stamford from the State of Connecticut. The non-profit Bartlett Arboretum Association manages the property with the goal of preserving the land and promoting nature education.

Concerns about possible chemical contamination arose in June, when soil testing found the banned pesticides chlordane and DDT in the land where the arboretum is building a new education center. Mayor Michael Pavia ordered further environmental testing after a formal audit revealed the historic tree pesticide experimentation.

Pavia and Casolo have said there is so far no evidence linking possible contamination at the Bartlett Arboretum to the finding of toxins in several dozen residential wells in North Stamford. The results of the upcoming environmental testing will nevertheless be scrutinized to see if there is any connection to the contaminated soil at Scofieldtown Park, a former dump closed by the city last year.

Jay Crutcher, a representative for the residential group North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment, said he hopes the second phase of testing is conducted as thoroughly and accurately as possible.

"It's premature to draw any conclusions before the study's been done," Crutcher said. "If phase one showed there are reasons to be concern, Phase Two will help prove whether those concerns are valid or not."

Funding approved for North Stamford water testing
Kate King, Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
Published: 10:13 p.m., Thursday, October 7, 2010

STAMFORD -- The Board of Representatives unanimously approved funding for limited well testing Monday night, freeing nearly $18,700 for analysis of 50 city wells in North Stamford.

"It's not everything that we would have wanted," said Jay Crutcher, a representative for North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment, a residential group. "It's 50 wells out of 5,000 across North Stamford, which is literally 1 percent. The statistical accuracy of it is definitely less than bulletproof, but it's better than nothing."

The testing will cost $18,688.50, according to the appropriation request. Of that amount, $7,500 is allocated for 25 tests, $1,500 for postage associated with participation request letters and test sample delivery, $9,000 for overtime and $688.50 for Social Security. Costs for the other 25 tests will be covered by the state, said Peter Privitera, director of the city Office of Policy and Management.

The city health department hopes to begin testing in late October, depending on how quickly it receives participation responses from North Stamford residents, said interim city Health Director Anne Fountain. Computer software will randomly select 50 addresses for the study and workers will contact homeowners to ask for their cooperation.  Once an owner has agreed to well testing, workers will take samples from the property, Fountain said. The state's Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health will help the city analyze the samples, which will examine the extent of water contamination in North Stamford.

In addition to testing 50 wells, the city is also compiling data voluntarily submitted by North Stamford residents who have tested their wells at their own expense, Fountain said. So far, the city has received more than 70 submissions of data analysis from residents.

"Any environmental results that the city gets are all public information," Fountain said.

The health department is creating a map that will identify contamination locations. The map will be posted on the city's website and also on the Scofieldtown Task Force website when completed, Fountain said.

City Rep. Scott Mirkin, R-13, said he supported funding for well tests, but regretted that a study of the area proposed by Mayor Michael Pavia did not come to fruition. Pavia had proposed to pair the 50-well testing with a study conducted by University of Connecticut professor Gary Robbins to determine the source of the contamination. The professor pulled out of negotiations with the city in July, a development that Mirkin blamed on the NSCCE.

"I think that could have been a very revealing study to understand what is happening below the ground," Mirkin said. "Unfortunately, we met with opposition from the NSCCE."

Crutcher said the group supported the study but had voiced concern that its scope included only about 100 homes.

Board of Representatives President Randy Skigen, D-19, also said testing was a necessary first step in understanding water contamination in North Stamford.

"I'm in support of much more extensive testing than 50 wells," he said. "There are somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 homes that are on wells there and at this point, we have no sense of how extensive the water contamination problem is. While 50 tests is better than none, certainly a significantly higher number would be better to determine what our next step would be."

Skigen, who lives in North Stamford and has not yet tested his own well, has previously said he would support a subsidy from the city to encourage homeowners to test their wells.

"I think the only way to get people to test in significant numbers is to bring down the cost of the testing with the understanding that by bringing down the cost you are sharing whatever information you get with the city," he said.

Mirkin, who lives north of the Merritt Parkway and had his home's well tested for $250, said it is up to homeowners to conduct testing.

"I do not support any subsidy by the city government for well testing," he said. "My neighborhood association negotiated a bulk rate and we all had it done. It's the responsibility of homeowners to protect their property."

Stamford has been examining water contamination in North Stamford since May 2009, when a report by a federal Environmental Protection Agency revealed contaminants in Scofieldtown Park. Former Mayor Dannel Malloy closed the facility, which was built on the site of a former city dump.

In response to the EPA's report, the city tested 209 residential wells near the park and found 35 contaminated with pesticides. The findings led the city to install water lines to nine affected streets, at a cost of $3.4 million. City officials ended the testing program, however, after an environmental consulting firm determined the landfill was not the source of the contamination.

Stamford unveils new well testing plan
Stamford ADVOCATE
Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
Published: 10:24 p.m., Thursday, June 10, 2010

STAMFORD -- The city health department has announced plans to test 50 randomly selected North Stamford wells in an effort to define the extent of area pesticide contamination.

Interim Health Director Anne Fountain said she hopes to have city workers collecting water samples by this summer, with half the results going to state labs for analysis. The city would send the other 25 samples to Premier Laboratory in Dayville, at a cost of about $8,500.

If adopted, the testing would represent the city's first active search for pesticides since January, when the health department discontinued a sampling program that discovered 35 wells contaminated with one or both of the toxic pesticides chlordane and dieldrin. The pesticides are known to cause a range of adverse health effects and are suspected human carcinogens.

In a presentation before the Scofieldtown Area Remediation Task Force Wednesday, Fountain said the city will use GIS software to randomly select 50 locations. City workers will then send letters to property owners at the nearest addresses. Once inspectors reach the site, they will collect information about well location and depth, the home's age, and geographical information in addition to water samples, she said. In all, the study will cost about $2,500 to $3,000 in overtime, Fountain said. The city would seek to perform up to 100 tests, if more funding were available, she said.

The effort comes in response to more than a dozen calls from North Stamford residents notifying the city they had independently found pesticide contamination in their wells, Fountain said.

"Based on the calls, I decided to do random samples of the area to get a better idea of the extent of the contamination," she said.

Board of Representatives President Randy Skigen, a task force member, said he did not believe 50 samples would be adequate to create an accurate picture of contamination in North Stamford, a vast chunk of the city that comprises more than 5,000 households.

"My concern here is we're doing 50 tests, which is approximately 1 percent of North Stamford," Skigen said. "I'm concerned that whatever the results are, it's going to overstate or understate the problem."

Another task force member, Scofieldtown resident Yossi Stern, questioned why the city decided to rule out testing for volatile organic compounds and heavy metals, two other pollutants that have been found in nearby Scofieldtown Park, a former dump.

Fountain said the city wanted to focus on pesticides because they are most clearly "the issue at hand."

The health department tests would come in addition to a planned study, lead by a University of Connecticut professor, which city officials have said will seek to uncover the contamination source.

The testing announcement came three months after the Scofieldtown Area Remediation Task Force asked city officials to sketch out scenarios for a new water testing program in light of confirmed reports that pesticides had been found in wells as far north as Briar Brae Road and as far south as Wire Mill Road, near the Merritt Parkway.

Task force members at the time said the reports were alarming because they were far from a previously known cluster of contaminated wells around Very Merry and Hannahs roads. The city has been responding to pollution concerns since May 2009, after a federal report of PCBs and other contaminants in Scofieldtown Park led officials to close the facility. Later, the health department surveyed 209 wells in a less than one-mile radius of the park.

The city testing program was discontinued in January, after a study concluded the pesticides did not stem from the landfill. Since then, the city has recommended homeowners test their own wells, at a cost of about $350.

Fountain said the city knows at least 515 homeowners have privately undertaken tests, though a much smaller number have reported the results, as officials have encouraged them to do.

To build community awareness of the problem, Fountain said the health department is launching a new safe drinking water webpage and planning an upcoming health fair on the issue.

Staff Writer Magdalene Perez can be reached at 203-964-2240 or magdalene.perez@scni.com.

New contamination found in North Stamford wells
By Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
Published: 10:42 p.m., Tuesday, March 9, 2010

STAMFORD -- A panel examining pesticide contamination in North Stamford drinking wells suggested Tuesday it may ask the city to expand a discontinued testing program in light of new evidence showing the contamination may be more extensive.

In a presentation before the Scofieldtown Area Remediation Task Force on Tuesday, City Engineer Lou Casolo said the city recently learned of two additional contaminated wells north and south of the area near Scofieldtown Park, a former industrial and residential dump.

One is on Briar Brae Road, the other just off Wire Mill Road. The farthest is about three-quarters of a mile from a previously known cluster of contaminated wells around Very Merry and Hannahs roads, Casolo said.

Both results were reported to the city by private homeowners who tested their own wells, he said.

Task force members said they felt the information was significant because both wells are far from the cluster. Task Force member Leigh Shemitz said she felt the city's decision to end a well testing program was "a mistake."

The program, which began in the summer after a federal report of PCBs and other contaminants found in Scofieldtown Park, surveyed 209 wells in a less than one-mile radius of the park. It revealed 35 wells contaminated with one or both of the toxic pesticides chlordane and dieldrin. The pesticides are known to cause a range of adverse health effects and are suspected human carcinogens.

After a city-hired consultant concluded in December that the contamination did not stem from the Scofieldtown landfill, the city chose to end the water testing program. City officials reported the final results earlier this month.

"We won't know the extent of the problem unless we have comprehensive testing, and we won't have comprehensive testing unless the city does the tests," Shemitz said, drawing applause from dozens of Scofieldtown-area homeowners who gathered in the Stamford Government Center's Legislative Chambers for the hearing.

Since concluding its testing program in January, the city health department has recommended homeowners test their own wells for pesticides and other contaminants known as volatile organic compounds. Co-interim Health Director Anne Fountain said residents can request the testing from Environmental Analysis Corporation in New Canaan at a cost of about $350. Health department officials have asked homeowners to share the results with the city.

In response to the newly revealed well contamination, the task force requested the health department sketch out scenarios in which the city could expand testing to a 2- or 3-mile radius around the cluster. The panel could use that information to decide whether to request funding for further testing, Shemitz said.

Task force member Yossi Stern said any further testing should include tests for heavy metals.

Previously the city tested for a range of pesticides and volatile organic compounds, but not heavy metals.

The panel said if the city does pursue further testing, it may not choose to test the well of every home, but perhaps every second or third.

Casolo also reported the city last week completed a $3.4 million project to connect homes on nine affected streets to the city's water supplier, Aquarion Water Company.

Mayor Michael Pavia has said the city will not pay to connect more homes to the Aquarion lines.


Stamford workers scour Scofieldtown area for debris
By Magdalene Perez, Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
Published: 08:58 a.m., Tuesday, March 9, 2010

STAMFORD -- City workers began a search of Scofieldtown Park and other nearby city properties Monday in an effort to locate and remove decaying 55-gallon drums and other debris.

The effort is in response to complaints from nearby residents, who in recent months discovered dozens of large metal barrels in and around Scofieldtown Park, a former residential and industrial dump.

The search included the Scofield Magnet Middle School property, where, in January, a hazardous waste team removed a 55-gallon drum a neighbor found while walking his dog near a school baseball diamond. The team said the barrel appeared to contain water and some traces of oil; since then, city officials have said testing confirmed the barrel did not contain hazardous materials.

Beginning 9 a.m. Monday, workers from the parks and highways departments fanned out in the woods behind the Scofieldtown Recycling Center, collecting rusted fragments of empty metal barrels, dozens of tires, an old washing machine, a refrigerator, car parts and other debris. Workers piled the waste in the back of a flatbed truck for removal.

The city used approximately 30 municipal workers to search several city-owned properties, including Scofieldtown Park; Scofield Magnet Middle School; Scofield Manor, a retirement home operated by the city Housing Authority; Smith House, a municipal nursing home; the Bartlett Arboretum nature preserve; and Potter's Field, a cemetery where the city once buried destitute residents.

City Operations Director Ernie Orgera said the workers removed four to five truckloads of debris by the day's end. While the men found barrel carcasses, none contained any liquids, he said.

A similar number of workers will continue the search on the Smith House and Bartlett property Tuesday, he said.

In a Friday statement, a spokesman for the mayor had invited the public to participate in a grid search, but also warned residents to not try to remove debris themselves.

Several Scofieldtown neighbors, eager to keep an eye on the city's cleanup efforts, took the city up on the invitation Monday. About 20 neighbors joined city workers in their trek through mud, leaves and brush at the northern perimeter of the city compost facility for just more than an hour, until Orgera asked all noncity workers to leave the area for safety reasons. Orgera said residents could join city employees in their search of other city facilities later in the day.

Residents said they did not believe the search was adequately organized. They said city employees did not appear to have clear directions nor a methodical approach to the work.

"It's totally disorganized," said Jay Crutcher, a homeowner from nearby Hunting Ridge Road. "The guys down there don't know who's in charge."

Orgera, who oversees the city's parks, highways and solid-waste departments, among others, said Monday the city was not actually undertaking a grid search, a technique of combing an area methodically by spreading out people who walk slowly in parallel lines.

"This is a walk-through," Orgera said. "We call it a grid search, but it's not technically a grid search, where we're going to have men walking every 3 feet in a line."

Orgera said he took responsibility for any disorganization that may have resulted from him not being present at the search site when it began. Doug Hoyt, an operation supervisor, was in charge, he said. Orgera said he arrived late because he was in last-minute budget meetings with the mayor, as the mayor presented his budget recommendation Monday.

"It was my fault that I didn't give him enough direction," Orgera said of the on-scene supervisor.

The city has been responding to concerns about toxins in the Scofieldtown area since a federal report of contaminated soil in Scofieldtown Park led the city to close the facility in May. In response, the city tested 209 nearby residential wells, finding 33 contaminated with the toxic and long-banned pesticides chlordane and dieldrin. Orgera has said the city is near completion of a project to connect waterlines to nine affected streets, at a cost of $3.4 million.

The Scofieldtown Area Remediation Task Force, a group formed under former Mayor Dannel Malloy to address the contamination and subsequent cleanup efforts, is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss an upcoming study aimed at pinpointing the source of the pesticide contamination. The 6:30 p.m meeting is at the government center, 888 Washington Blvd, in the legislative chambers.


City backs funding for Scofieldtown study
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Elizabeth Kim And Devon Lash, Staff Writers
Published: 09:03 p.m., Wednesday, February 10, 2010

STAMFORD -- In an attempt to find the source of contamination in Scofieldtown, Mayor Michael Pavia has obtained preliminary approval for a $250,000 no-bid contract with the University of Connecticut to conduct a research study.

The Board of Finance and Planning Board voted Tuesday night to approve the capital appropriation request, which was drafted the same day by the mayor. It will go to the Board of Representatives for final approval. In a memo to the boards, Pavia said he will seek a bid waiver to approve the contract, which has not yet been drafted.

Lou Casolo, the city engineer, presented the plans to the two initial boards.

"This is an opportunity to scratch beneath the surface, to look harder," Casolo said.

The impetus for the study came from a task force appointed to look into the area's pesticide contamination. Casolo said its members wanted the city to commission an independent assessment.

In December, TRC Environmental, an environmental consultant hired by the city, concluded that Scofieldtown Park was not the source of the pesticide contamination, as many residents suspected. Last month, a state Department of Environmental Protection official suggested the water contamination found in nearly three dozen North Stamford homes might have been caused by pesticides used by exterminators.

One of the first tasks of the UConn study would be to review the study by TRC.

The research will be led by Gary Robbins, a professor of geology who is considered an expert in hydrogeology and environmental matters.

UConn students will also participate in the research, Casolo said.

Kathleen Murphy, an Independent on the Board of Finance, cast the lone vote against the funding, saying there was not enough information available to move forward and that approving it without scrutinizing the details would set a bad precedent.

Murphy also questioned the legality of awarding the contract to UConn without asking for competitive bids or obtaining a bid waiver.

The city is required to ask for bid proposals for projects awarded to an outside contractor.

Though the project has been divided into three phases, Casolo said he did not know exactly when it might be completed. He said Robbins has said the work could be done within a year.

One possible hurdle that may prolong the project is the need to collect soil samples from private properties. The city, he said, has yet to obtain formal consent from the affected homeowners.

Earlier this month, the administration announced it was delaying having Aquarion Water Co. place caps on the wells of 10 homes on and around Alma Rock Road to connect them to its water mains.

Officials said they feared capping the wells would hamper UConn researchers from examining the wells.

Five other homeowners have declined to cap their wells in support of a study, according to Director of Operations Ernie Orgera.

In the event, however, that homeowners do not cooperate with the study, Casolo said the city has hired the New England-based law firm Pepe & Hazard to see if there might be a legal recourse that would permit the city to gain access to the properties.

Since it began testing wells last August, the city has spent more than $4 million to addres contamination in the North Stamford neighborhood.

As of Jan. 29, 34 homes have tested positive for the banned pesticides chlordane, dieldrin or both.

At the meeting before the Planning Board, Casolo did not specify what legal ramifications might result from the study in the event it identifies a private property owner as the source.

"If, as it turns out, the pollution is on private property, that does create a dilemma for that property owner," he said.
 
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[This user is an administrator] Jay
If we accept the counter-intuitive theory that residential use of these pesticides is the source of contamination, and not dumping at an industrial landfill by Parrott, we're still left with a claim made by Patrick Bowe of the CT DEP Remediation Division -- that this type of contamination could likely be found across the entire state. If the Scofieldtown area test results are an indicator for the rest of North Stamford or the rest of the state, does that mean that 15% of all residential wells are contaminated with toxic levels of pesticides? Wouldn't it be helpful to know that before Mr Casolo tries to pin this problem on a handful of homeowners? 
The UConn study should look throughout all of North Stamford as part of their research, and to deliver a real benefit to the public, suggest a broad regimen of testing that truly reassures everyone on well water, without scaring half of the state into suing the other half. Telling individual homeowners to test their own water isn't sufficient, because water moves. I could test my well today, and have no idea what could flow in next month or next week. 

I sincerely hope this UConn research helps point to a solution, rather than just focus on a scapegoat.

Yesterday, 10:32:50 PM


New North Stamford advocacy group discusses wells
By Devon Lash, Stamford ADVOCATE STAFF WRITER
Published: 04:34 a.m., Monday, February 1, 2010

STAMFORD -- Motivated by a newly formed advocacy group, nearly 200 North Stamford residents met Sunday afternoon to discuss the ongoing investigation into the area's well water contamination.

The objectives of the group, North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment, are straightforward, said Joanna Manley-Moore, a member of the group's executive board.

First, the group, which calls itself the NSCC, aims to obtain clean drinking water in the neighborhood, and then, to discover the source of the contamination and successfully remediate the area, said Manley-Moore, an Alma Rock Road resident.

North Stamford residents have been battling for clean water and remediation since a federal report detailing soil contaminants in Scofieldtown Park, a former industrial dump, prompted officials to test nearby wells last summer. Since then, the city has found more than 30 wells contaminated with one or more of the toxic pesticides chlordane and dieldrin. The city undertook a project to connect waterlines to nine affected streets in the fall, at a cost of $3.4 million.

During the two-hour meeting at Villa Maria School, the group's executive board announced the beginning of a partnership with a public health and environmental nonprofit Toxics Action Center.

With offices throughout New England, Toxics Action Center specializes in waging grass-roots campaigns to force polluters and unresponsive bureaucracies to protect the community's health and safety, said Megan Jenny, a commuter organizer for the Connecticut branch.

Jenny said the NSCC's next step is to divide its members into committees to proceed on such fronts as health and environment, legal affairs and government, and site remediation.

Sunday's meeting was the largest such gathering of residents since former Mayor Dannel Malloy held a public meeting at Scofield Magnet Middle School last year, many said.

"We wanted it to come off as organized and professional, because we need" the members, executive board member Robert DeFalco said.

"There is strength in numbers," DeFalco added, echoing the remarks of many organizers who said they were surprised at the standing-room-only crowd.

Many in the audience who are already hooked up to city waterlines said they came to get more information about a problem that could affect more of the city. Others were familiar with issues surrounding the contamination and came to show support for the fledgling group.

"It was very informative," North Stamford resident Janet Heisel said, adding the outcome of the remediation could have an effect on the area's home prices.

The NSCC adjourned the public forum after 35 minutes into a session closed to the media to discuss the group's strategy.

"We were really going to talk about strategy, just overall strategy, and we felt that would be best suited by having just the members in attendance," Manley-Moore said.

After a preliminary city-hired consultant report pointed to individual pesticide applications for well water contamination -- and not the former landfill, as many residents said they believe -- many have said they are skeptical of city motives.

Investigators find no hazardous material in discarded barrel on Stamford school property
By Magdalene Perez, Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
Published: 09:53 p.m., Tuesday, January 26, 2010

STAMFORD -- An environmental contractor removed an abandoned chemical drum from Scofield Magnet Middle School property Tuesday morning after deeming its contents nonhazardous.

Investigators from Environmental Services Inc., based in South Windsor, said the barrel, located near a baseball diamond north of the Scofieldtown Road school, contained about two to three gallons of water and some oil. After testing the contents, investigators sealed the drum in a larger barrel and turned it over to city officials for storage at the city garage on Magee Avenue.

"Evidently, there was oil in the barrel originally," city Operations Director Ernie Orgera said.

Orgera said he does not believe the barrel had any connection to a nearby former industrial dump at Scofieldtown Park, located across the street, nor any relation to water contamination on several nearby streets.

No children were endangered by the material, he said.

Firefighters and a state Department of Environmental Protection official responded to the area Saturday after a North Stamford resident reported finding the drum, as well as others at nearby Scofield Manor, a city-owned retirement facility.

On Tuesday, the environmental contractors also removed two drums from the Scofield Manor property, Orgera said. One contained a sandlike material and the other about three gallons of fluid, he said. The firm also secured two 5-pound bags of powder, labeled methoxychlor, a banned pesticide, that were located in a storage shed behind the retirement home. Scofield Manor is managed by Charter Oak Communities, the city housing authority.

Orgera said Environmental Services will take samples from the drums and send them to a laboratory for further testing. A DEP official Monday said one of the barrels, found on the retirement home property, may contain embalming fluid.

In addition to the three barrels, Environmental Services found four empty chemical drums, which city employees removed and delivered to the recycling center, Orgera said.

City officials learned of the barrels Saturday, after North Stamford resident Robert DeFalco reported finding the rusted 55-gallon drum north of Scofield Magnet Middle School. Firefighters responded to the scene and cordoned it off with police tape. A fire marshal contacted the state DEP, which sent a member of its emergency response team to investigate.

Based on conversations with DeFalco and another North Stamford resident, Bob Boucher, the DEP official, learned of other potentially hazardous materials stored or discarded on the Scofield Manor property. The retirement home, also on Scofieldtown Road, is southwest and across the street from the school.

On the Scofield Manor property, the state official found a second 55-gallon drum, chemical containers and bags of pesticides. In the same area as the drum, located in a wetland not far from a community garden, the group also found a vintage car half buried in an embankment, and other debris, such as tires.

City officials treated the materials as hazardous, placing police tape around the two areas and waiting until a professional contractor could examine the materials before removing them. They had planned to begin testing contents of the barrels Monday, but heavy rain prevented further investigation, they said.

The weather cleared Tuesday, and by 8:30 a.m., a half-dozen city officials gathered in the school parking lot to wait for the Environmental Services workers to arrive. Two workers donned white protective gear, boots and masks before checking out the drum, located in a patch of tall grass and bushes near the road. The rusted carcass of another drum lay nearby.

Less than 20 feet from the barrel, a stack of 10 tires lay in the grass. Orgera said the tires are used by school officials for athletic training.

Several North Stamford residents, including members of the Scofieldtown Area Remediation Task Force, gathered behind a police line to observe the proceedings.

Diane Lauricella, an environmental consultant hired by neighbors concerned about nearby water contamination, said she was happy to see the city is taking "proactive" action.

"The citizens are glad the city hired a professional to do the work, and they await the results," she said.

After taking a sample of the fluid, workers said the material was not hazardous, packed the drum in a larger container and sealed it. The workers did the same with the two barrels found near Scofield Manor, Orgera said. They took soil samples from below each of the barrels, he said.

By afternoon, the city also called in a tow truck in an attempt to haul the vehicle out from the embankment. The decayed car split in two, and city workers disposed of it in pieces, Orgera said. One city employee said the car had "Sunset Home" inscribed on the door and what appeared to be a date of 1932.

John Baldino, the Scofield Manor facilities manager, said the storage facility and shed, where investigators found the bags of pesticides and one drum, had not been in use during his 22 years on the job. Baldino said employees did not use the storage buildings -- one an old stone structure and the other a small red wooden tool shed -- because they had dirt floors.

"They served no purpose for us," Baldino said.

The discoveries came amid rising concern among neighboring residents about chemical drums found in Scofieldtown Park. Last week, residents gathered at the park to demand the city move forward with plans to remediate the former dump. They said they found 28 chemical drums on property north of the city compost site.

Mayor Michael Pavia responded to the concerns Friday, saying the city is close to developing a plan to remediate the landfill.

The city has been responding to concerns about toxins in the Scofieldtown area since a federal report of contaminated soil in Scofieldtown Park led the city to close the facility in May. In response, the city tested nearly 200 nearby residential wells, finding 33 contaminated with the long-banned pesticides chlordane and dieldrin. The city undertook a project to connect waterlines to nine affected streets in the fall, at a cost of $3.4 million.

A Scofield Manor resident, George Donella, said residents had been informed Monday morning that potentially hazardous materials had been found on the property and that city and state officials would be in the area.

"I hope they get rid of all of it, for safety's sake," Donella added.

2 more wells in North Stamford found to be contaminated
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
Published: 09:54 p.m., Friday, January 8, 2010

STAMFORD -- The city found two additional wells contaminated with pesticides in the latest round of North Stamford water testing results, released Friday. The wells, one on Northwind Drive and the other on Haviland Drive, have elevated levels of the pesticide dieldrin, according to Stamford Interim Operations Director Ernie Orgera.

The new results bring the number of known contaminated wells to 31. The well on Haviland contained the pesticide at a level six times the state limit, while the well on Northwind showed a level just over twice the cutoff deemed safe for drinking.

The city began testing private wells in the area for pesticides and other toxins after a federal report showed soil and water contamination above state limits in Scofieldtown Park.

Both positive results are the second case of contamination officials have discovered on the respective streets. Orgera said the city's environmental consultant, TRC Environmental, will discuss the results Wednesday at a meeting of the Scofieldtown Area Remediation Task Force. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd., in the legislative chambers on the fourth floor.


What’s in that toxic water anyway?
December 17, 2009 at 1:13 pm by Magdalene Perez

Yesterday’s announcement from the city’s environmental consultant that preliminary groundwater tests results do not indicate pesticide contamination is coming from the former dump at Scofieldtown Park did not come as a complete surprise to some Scofieldtown neighbors. Even prior to Wednesday night’s task force meeting, it was rumored that the consultant, TRC Environmental, had come to such a conclusion in its draft report.

Perhaps more surprising were the results of TRC’s ground-penetrating radar survey of the dump. Carl Stopper, the environmental engineering firm’s vice president, told the task force Wednesday that the survey showed no buried drums to a depth of about 25 feet. Not only that, but soil samples collected from a depth of 25 feet did not show evidence of pesticides, Stopper said.

Which raises the question, how could there be no barrels in the dump if barrels have been emerging at the surface of the landfill over the past three decades? Also, it is surprising to hear that there is no evidence of pesticides in the landfill, when one of the most recent EPA reports on the landfill, from 2008, found nine different types of pesticides in surface soil samples, including: DDD, DDE, DDT, Alpha Chlordane, Gamma Chlordane, Aroclor-1254, Arochlor-1248, and Arochlor-1260.

I asked Stopper how the TRC findings could be reconciled with the EPA report. He said the results are different because the EPA tested surface soil samples, while TRC tested from within the dump.

“The presence of pesticides in the soil where the EPA tested doesn’t mean there was enough of those pesticides used or spilled to affect the groundwater,” Stopper said. “That’s going to happen, it’s just the nature of the way these things occur.”

So what else did TRC find with the monitoring wells?

There were plenty of chemicals found, but here’s a list of just those compounds that were above state limits:

From wells on Very Merry Road and Alma Rock Road:

1, 1, 1, 2-Tetrachloroethane

Chlordane

Dieldrin

From wells within the landfill underneath the city composting site:

Benzene

Vinyl Chloride

Extractable Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (I’m told this is a test that will pick up oil products such as gasoline)

Barium

Calcium

The tests also found arsenic, below state limits, in the landfill below the compost facility, and 16 other volatile or semi volatile organic compounds. Interestingly, most of the VOC and SVOC hits came from samples that lay below the composting site, rather than in other sampling areas, such as the park and the Scofield Magnet Middle School property.

Next Scofieldtown Task Force Meeting Wednesday
December 11, 2009 at 2:33 pm by Magdalene Perez

Here’s the best update I have at the moment on what’s going on with the water contamination/investigation situation in Scofieldtown.

The city will have it’s next Task Force meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the government center legislative chambers. The agenda is pasted below.

TRC Environmental, the environmental engineering firm hired by the city as a consultant, has not yet given the task force members any written update on its groundwater and radar monitoring testing, according to Board of Representatives President Randall Skigen. The aim of the testing is to figure out the source of the groundwater pollution.

The city most recently posted well water test results on its Web site Dec. 9. All of the new results were negative for pesticides, according to Margarita Arenas, executive secretary to the director of operations. However, the latest map says that there are 29 contaminated wells, rather than 28, as the city previously reported. Apparently there was an error on the prior report, and the correct number of contaminated wells is 29.

Hope that helps!

SCOFIELDTOWN AREA REMEDIATION TASK FORCE
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2009 – 6:30 P.M.
LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER – 4TH FLOOR
888 WASHINGTON BOULEVARD
STAMFORD, CT 06901

I. Call to Order

II. Staff Reports

a. Water Sampling Program – Dr. Johnnie Lee
b. Site Investigation – Carl Stopper – TRC
c. Water Main Project – Lou Casolo

III. Open Items

a. Well Capping – Purpose and Accessibility for Future Sampling
b. Well Sampling – Concerns Regarding Turn Around Time and Long Term Sampling Plan
c. Municipal Water Hookup – Homeowners Request to Hookup. Providing a Formal Request Process
d. Additional Site Investigations, Scope and Actions – Identification and Remediation of the Contaminant Source(s)

IV. Correspondence

a. Letter from Northwind Drive Residents

V. New Business

VI. Adjournment

cc: Task Force Members
Dr. Johnnie Lee, Health Director
Mike Kraynak, Health Department
Amy Lehaney, Health Department
Lou Casolo, Engineering
Michael A. Pavia, Mayor
Ernie Orgera, Acting Director of Operations
Town Clerk
Valerie Pankosky, Board of Representatives
Technology Department




No pesticides found in streams and ponds near Scofieldtown Park
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Magdalene Perez,
Staff Writer
Posted: 11/16/2009 10:03:36 PM EST
Updated: 11/16/2009 10:03:36 PM EST

STAMFORD -- Recent tests do not show evidence of pesticides in streams and ponds near the former dump at Scofieldtown Park, an environmental consultant told a city task force Monday.

TRC Environmental Corp. Vice President Carl Stopper said water tests conducted by the company showed low levels of benzene, zinc and barium in the surface water around the park, but none of the types of hazardous pesticides the city has found in dozens of nearby wells. None of the chemicals or metals found "raise a red flag in terms of exposure" according to state water quality standards, Stopper said.

"The positive of that is that we are not seeing anything emanating to the streams from the landfill proper," Stopper told the Scofieldtown Area Remediation Task Force at its first meeting Monday. "We found no detection of any chlordane, pesticides or herbicides.

The city hired TRC Environmental to help it develop a response plan to soil and groundwater contamination in and around the former industrial dump after a federal test showed hazardous levels of chemicals in the park. Since then, the city has found 27 private drinking wells with hazardous levels of pesticides on eight nearby streets to the east, west and south of the park.

Stopper said the company does not yet have enough information to advise the city what steps should be taken to clean up the pollution.

"We have not been discussing with public works any next steps at this point," Stopper said. "Right now the plan is to complete the investigation."

More than 50 city residents attended the meeting to get more information about the city's response to the problem.

One city resident asked whether it is true that people can undergo medical tests to determine whether their bodies have absorbed pesticides.

City Health Director Johnnie Lee said such tests do exist, but that the city does not have the capacity to do them. The tests usually involved sampling fat cells, Lee said.

Diane Lauricella, an environmental consultant hired by a group of Scofieldtown neighbors questioned why the city has not tested all nearby wells for heavy metals, especially given that some metals are known to render ineffective the type of carbon filters the city has given residents to remove pesticides.

Lee said the filters should be considered a temporary solution.

TRC is still working on additional testing that will help determine the extent and source of the contamination, Stopper told group of assembled residents.

TRC has drilled eight groundwater monitoring wells to try to determine which direction groundwater is flowing. Three of the monitoring wells are within the landfill, one is on Very Merry Road, one is on Alma Rock Road, one is west of the park and others are on the Scofield Magnet Middle School property. Researchers will not have results from the monitoring wells until later, Stopper said.

TRC also used ground-penetrating radars on the landfill site to determine whether there are any materials in the dump that may threaten chemical releases. The results of the study are pending, Stopper said.

"Our goal is to identify if there are any additional areas of concern," Stopper said



Stamford reservoir ruled safe

Aquarion: North Stamford well contamination has no affect on water supply

Stamford ADVOCATE
By Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/17/2009 07:45:01 AM EDT
Updated: 10/17/2009 11:47:02 PM EDT

STAMFORD - The city's water company said Friday there is no connection between well contamination near Scofieldtown Park and the North Stamford Reservoir.

Aquarion, the private company that provides Stamford's water supply, responded Friday to concerns that the latest round of city testing for pesticide contamination in private drinking wells near Scofieldtown Park have shown hazardous levels of pesticides in wells less than a half mile from the North Stamford Reservoir. The company operates the North Stamford Reservoir, as well as the Laurel Reservoir, which together serve 100,000 people in Stamford. John Herlihy, director of water quality and environmental management for Aquarion, said the company regularly tests water samples from the reservoir and has never found pesticides. The most recent tests were completed in 2008, he said.

"We have tested the reservoirs 13 times since 1998 and have not detected dieldrin or chlordane or any other pesticides," Herlihy said.

The tests, required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and performed every three years, search for 41 compounds, including pesticides, herbicides and PCBs, Herlihy said. The test results are reported to the state Department of Public Health.

Despite reassurances from Mayor Dannel Malloy Wednesday that Aquarion has water filtration systems capable of removing pesticides, Aquarion's water quality director said that is not the case.

"There may be some removal of pesticides, but the treatment
processes that we have in place are not designed to remove pesticides," Herlihy said.

Herlihy said the fact the plant is not designed to treat pesticides is "a non-issue" because pesticides have not been detected.

Aquarion treats water coming from its reservoirs through sand and chemicals that help precipitate substances such as chemicals, soil particles, and color from vegetation, Herlihy said. The water is also treated with bacteria and leaves the plant colorless and odorless, he said.

City officials have said contamination of the reservoir is unlikely because there is little transfer between groundwater, deep in bedrock, and surface water, such as the reservoir. The reservoir extends to a depth of about 30 feet, Herlihy said. Nearby wells, by comparison, have depths ranging from under 200 feet to over 300 feet.

The city began testing for water contamination in private wells near Scofieldtown Park this summer, after a report showed hazardous levels of pesticides and PCBs in the park, a former industrial landfill. So far, 22 wells have been found to contain unsafe levels of pesticides, and the city continues to gather and process samples. The city released the results of 26 tests Friday, which found no additional wells with contamination.

A recent round of tests found contamination on Alma Rock Road, closer to the North Stamford Reservoir than any prior findings. Satellite maps of the area show one contaminated lot is about 1,700 feet from the nearest point of the reservoir. David Emerson, the city's Environmental Protection Board director, said the distance is closer to 2,200 feet.

Herlihy said Aquarion had not previously been aware that Scofieldtown Park is a former landfill, nor that there could be a contamination source there.

Emerson said Friday the contaminated wells are in a different watershed than the reservoir, an indication that groundwater may not be flowing from the contaminated area toward the reservoir. Watersheds are areas where all water drains toward the same place.

According to city maps, all homes that have tested above state limits for pesticides are located in the Poorhouse Brook watershed, while the nearby reservoir is located in the Rippowam River watershed. North of Interlaken Road, nearly all of the Rippowam River watershed is east of High Ridge Road.

In most cases, groundwater follows the path of surface water, Emerson said. Sometimes, however, cracks deep in bedrock divert the path of groundwater in unpredictable ways. The city cannot be certain which direction groundwater in the area is flowing until it completes a groundwater study, Emerson said.

The city has hired an environmental consultant, TRC Environmental Corp., in Windsor, to undertake such a study.


5 more homes test positive for pesticides
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/13/2009 09:52:29 PM EDT
Updated: 10/13/2009 09:52:30 PM EDT

STAMFORD -- Another five homes in North Stamford have tested positive for pesticides, according to City Operations Director Benjamin Barnes.  About 15 properties around Alma Rock Road, Skymeadow Drive and Mary Joy Lane were tested as part of the city's effort to respond to contamination of wells in Scofieldtown.

"This reinforces what we need to do," Barnes said at a meeting Tuesday night before the city's Planning Board.

The properties that tested positive were: 48, 66, 75 and 80 Alma Rock Road, and 58 Skymeadow Drive.  Afterward, the Planning Board unanimously approved a $750,000 capital budget request for the city to install a water main extension to Alma Rock Road and Mary Joy Lane.  Most homes in the area, near a former industrial landfill in Scofieldtown Park, get their household water through private wells.

A $2 million plan was approved last week to install water lines and extensions to reach Hannahs, Larkspur, Cousins and Very Merry roads. The plan was approved after tests discovered hazardous levels of pesticides in 17 wells on Hannahs, Very Merry and Larkspur roads.

Alma Rock and Mary Joy Lane residents argued that they should be provided water lines because homes on the streets are within 1,000 feet of sites on Larkspur where contamination was confirmed.  The city was to break ground to install water lines on the first project this week.


Scofieldtown neighbors ask for groundwater study
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/12/2009 09:24:15 PM EDT
Updated: 09/12/2009 11:28:44 PM EDT

STAMFORD -- With the mayor preparing to meet with Scofieldtown Park neighbors Tuesday to address concerns about contaminated well water, some members of the community insisted a comprehensive study of the area's groundwater flow is long overdue.

After a federal test found contaminants in the park -- built on a landfill -- earlier this year, the city began testing wells for toxic substances, finding two pesticides at levels above state limits in several wells. Most, if not all, homes in the immediate vicinity of the park are not connected to water lines and use private wells.

While neighbors said the first concern should be providing residents in the area with water lines, some said the city cannot make educated decisions about next steps without knowing how water flows through the landfill site and nearby neighborhood.

Netta Stern, a resident on Very Merry Road, said people used to scoff at the idea that well water on the street could be contaminated, because the surface grade on the street is higher than the park. That the city has found pesticides in several wells on Very Merry reinforces that groundwater flow is not self-evident without expert review, she said.

"We need a hydrogeologist to figure out where the groundwater is going. There could be homes that are affected that we don't know about," Stern said. "The water can split, and it can go in different directions, and only a hydrogeologist can figure that out."

The well tests,  undertaken with the state Department of Public Health, looked for pesticides, PCBs and volatile and semivolatile organic compounds, city Director of Operations Benjamin Barnes said. The city and state did not test for heavy metals. So far, the city has found two pesticides, dieldrin and chlordane, at levels above state limits in eight wells on Hannahs Road and Very Merry Road. Officials are waiting for results of at least 20 more tests and plan to undertake more this weekend, Barnes said.

Dieldrin and chlordane have been banned from use for decades. The potential health effects of ingesting chlordane in water include liver and nervous system problems and increased risk of cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Studies have shown oral exposure to dieldrin can cause adverse neurological, reproductive and immunological effects in animals.

Diane Lauricella, an environmental investigator neighbors hired to look into whether the former landfill may affect wells in the area, said a study of groundwater flow is a basic step in any assessment of a hazardous waste site. Lauricella, a former regulator with the state Department of Environmental Protection Hazardous Waste division, said she found it surprising that the EPA did not undertake a groundwater study as part of a 2008 assessment of the former landfill.

"It's the normal way to conduct an investigation," Lauricella said. "I think it's a missing link in the way this site has been evaluated. Because of the lack of a groundwater study, it would be difficult to make informed decisions on many levels."

The estimated population that relies on groundwater drinking sources within 4 miles of the former landfill is 21,864 people, according to the EPA report. The nearest private drinking well, on Hannahs Road, is estimated to be within 500 feet of the Scofieldtown Park property, the report states.

Mayor Dannel Malloy said the city would undertake a groundwater study if the state deems it appropriate.

As a temporary measure, the city is providing bottled water to five streets: Hannahs Road, Larkspur Road, Very Merry Road, Skymeadow Drive between Scofieldtown Road and Larkspur Road, and Nos. 3 to 18 on Cousins Road. According to the mayor, the state will provide water filtration systems for affected homes within weeks.

Barnes said the environmental consultant the city hired to evaluate the site, TRC, may eventually conduct a groundwater study, but the firm's current scope of work is to review the existing state and federal documents on the landfill site, where the city accepted industrial waste for nearly two decades.

Barnes said the city has not ruled out that the pesticides may have come from a source other than the Scofieldtown landfill, saying the city would be "remiss" if it did not consider the possibility. Board of Representatives President David Martin agreed.

"It's possible this contamination did not come from Scofieldtown," said Martin, who is running for mayor. "An exterminator may have poured pesticides on the ground."

The most recent EPA report states that samples of water from 16 private wells found three pesticides and three metals that were "at least partially attributable to source areas located on the Scofieldtown Road Park property."

Martin said a groundwater flow test is a good idea, but the city must focus its efforts on well testing to ensure it is aware of every home that is affected.

Some neighbors said the time for testing is past and the city should instead take immediate action to put residents on water lines.

"We're at a point where this is not about testing where the water is flowing," said Michele Haiken, who lives on Hannahs Road. "Our priority within the neighborhood is getting clean water."

The public information meeting will take place Tuesday in the gymnasium of Scofield Magnet Middle School at 7 p.m. According to the mayor's office, the City Health Department, the State Department of Public Health, the State Department of Environmental Protection and the City Engineering Bureau will all be present to answer questions about well contamination, temporary measures such as bottled water and filtration systems, and public health.

Staff writer Magdalene Perez can be reached at magdalene.perez@scni.com or 203-964-2240.
Learn more A public information meeting about Scofieldtown Park will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the gymnasium of Scofield Magnet Middle School.




Marrella named environmental commissioner
DAY
By Judy Benson

Published on 9/10/2009

Amey Marrella, nominated by Gov. M. Jodi Rell Tuesday to be the state's new commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, said increasing recycling, raising air quality standards, responding to the challenges of climate change and new regulations for the use of fresh water resources will be among her priorities.

”My first love and passion is environmental issues,” Marrella said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

She also vowed to maintain a commitment to state parks and to the No Child Left Inside Initiative begun by her predecessor, Gina McCarthy, to foster a love of the outdoors and outdoor activities among young people. Marrella, 50, who lives with her husband, John, in Woodbridge, has been acting commissioner since June, when McCarthy was named to a post at the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Before joining the DEP in 2006 as deputy commissioner for environmental quality, Marrella served for five years as first selectwoman of Woodbridge. Prior to that she was an attorney adviser in the EPA's office of general counsel.

Her experience with both municipal and federal government, she said, gives her the background to head the DEP, with responsibilities that include wildlife management, flooding issues, hazardous spill response, environmental restoration, state parks and trash disposal, stormwater, land use, water quality and pollution regulations, among many others.

From her perspective as a former municipal official, she said, she understands that “municipalities are important customers and constituents” of the DEP.

”We regulate them, we deal with them on land-use issues, on deer, moose and bear, on flooding and stormwater issues,” she said. “There's so many ways we intersect with them.”

Marrella will head an agency with 1,000 full-time employees and an annual budget of about $149 million. The salary range for the DEP Commissioner is $106,000 to $162,000, said DEP spokesman Dennis Schain. Marrella's salary has not been determined, he said.

State budgetary constraints and the voluntary early retirement of 68 DEP employees means that the agency will “have to be very careful with our resources,” Marrella said. “That is going to be a challenge. We're planning to run a very tight ship, and focus on where we add the most value to the environment.”

Marrella's nomination will go to the General Assembly for the confirmation process when it convenes in February.

Among those praising Marrella's nomination was the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

”This is excellent news for Connecticut,” said Charles Rothenberger, staff attorney for the New Haven-based group. “The DEP is an overburdened and short-staffed agency with a very expansive mandate, requiring exactly the kind of leadership that Acting Commissioner Marrella has been providing. Permanent leadership is particularly important at this time, when Connecticut is working towards implementing the landmark global warming legislation passed last year; endeavoring to boost its enforcement against polluters; and maintaining the many parks and recreation areas in the state despite a down economy. We are confident that Ms. Marrella brings the essential skills and experience to the position.”



UN Report: Nature Best Controls Climate Gases
NYTIMES
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 9:23 a.m. ET
June 5, 2009

AMSTERDAM (AP) -- The U.N. Environment Program says nature's way is best for controlling the gases responsible for climate change.

A UNEP report says better management of forests, more careful agricultural practices and the restoration of peatlands could soak up significant amounts of carbon dioxide, the most common gas blamed for global warming.

It says millions of dollars are being invested in research on capturing and burying carbon emitted from power stations, but investing in ecosystems could achieve cheaper results. It also would have the added effects of preserving biodiversity, improving water supplies and boosting livelihoods.

The U.N. agency released the report Friday at U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany. The event was Web cast worldwide.



Groundwater contamination found in Milford; After a common dry cleaning solvent was found in the ground, wells are being drilled to determine how far it spread

CTPOST
By Frank Juliano, STAFF WRITER
Updated: 06/04/2009 12:51:36 AM EDT

MILFORD -- Three test wells dug Wednesday at the Robert Treat Apartments will determine the extent of groundwater contamination from a long-closed dry cleaner.

Milford Cleaning Village operated at 987-995 Bridgeport Ave. for decades before closing in 2004. The apartment complex is directly behind the shuttered business.

"I've lived here 35 years and they were open went I got here," said Herb Batterson, a resident of the 124-unit complex.

Test wells on the dry cleaner's property and at the Treat Apartments have found elevated levels of a common dry-cleaning solvent, said Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The perchloroethylene -- also known as tetrachloroethylene, PCE, and PERC -- was found at both locations recently, Schain said, and the new wells dug Wednesday are to locate the extent of the plume. Test results will likely be available in a month, he said.

There is no immediate health hazard, officials said, because the apartment complex is served by public water mains owned by the Regional Water Authority.

Dr. A. Dennis McBride, the city health director, said apartment residents will be kept informed by his department of all developments and test results. An information sheet prepared by the Milford Health Department notes that while tests have shown PCE in large amounts causes liver and kidney cancer in animals, its effect on humans isn't known. Based on this evidence, PCE is considered a probable increase to the risk of cancer in people, the fact sheet states.

Owners of both the apartment complex and the former dry cleaner are cooperating with the investigation, Schain said, and the ultimate cost of remediation will be billed to the owners of the commercial property, 993 Bridgeport Avenue LLC.

State officials said it is not clear yet whether any people have been exposed to the PCE.

Deputy DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella said in a prepared statement, "If these tests show there are elevated levels of PCE in the groundwater, it may be necessary to conduct further tests in some buildings. This would allow us to determine if vapors from the groundwater are migrating through cracks in building foundations and entering into the indoor air at levels requiring remediation. If this turned out to be the case -- and it's too early to know -- steps can and will be taken to quickly and efficiently remediate the problem."

Soil contaminated with PCE was removed from the commercial property in 2007, but groundwater samples indicated that the plume was migrating off the former Milford Cleaning Village property toward the adjacent Robert Treat Apartments property, DEP officials said.

Batterson said that residents in the nine-building complex are satisified at the officials' response to the problem, and with the letter sent Tuesday to all residents by the management office explaining the contamination.

A test well in a courtyard was surrounded with yellow caution tape Wednesday afternoon, while workers from Connecticut Test Borings of Seymour put fresh cement around a newly capped well in a parking lot. A machine was digging the third well nearby. An employee declined to speak to a reporter.

"I'm in charge of the pool, and it's been filled for the season," Batterson said. "I understand that it will not be affected by any of this, unless there is a leak in the lining."



Students at Staples raise, release trout into Saugatuck River to test water purity
By JILL BODACH, Hour Staff Writer
Posted on 05/29/2009

The trout population in the Saugatuck River increased by 100 Friday morning as students at Staples High School released the brown trout they have been raising in their classroom since November into the water.

It was raining heavily as students released the trout, cup-by-cup, into the river. The trout will now become acclimated to a natural habitat after being cared for in aquariums by the students.

"I do this program as a way to give the students real hands-on experience and the chance to participate in a real environmental and conservation endeavor," said Mike Aitkenhead, advanced placement environmental science teacher at Staples.

The program is part of an education outreach program led by Trout Unlimited, a nationwide conservation organization. The program began 10 years ago when a wealthy New York businessman granted funding to the organization to use to teach young people about water quality.

Each fall, about 70 classrooms across the state receive 500 fertilized eggs each from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, and students raise them in aquariums. Students must monitor the conditions of the water, clean the tank and feed the fish until they are old enough to be released...full story here.




Rising Calls to Regulate California Groundwater
NYTIMES
By FELICITY BARRINGER
May 14, 2009

TULARE, Calif. — For the third year in a row, Mark Watte plans to rely on the aquifer beneath his family farm for three-quarters of the water he needs to keep his cotton, corn and alfalfa growing, his young pistachio trees healthy and his 900 dairy cows cool.

That is 50 percent more than he used to take, because the water that once flowed to the farm from snow in the Sierra Nevada has been reduced by a long dry spell and diversions to benefit endangered fish.

Since 2006 the surface of the aquifer, in the Kaweah subbasin of the San Joaquin basin, has dropped 50 feet as farmers pumped deeper, Mr. Watte says. Some of his pumps no longer reach far enough to bring any water to the surface.

If he lived in almost any other state in the arid Southwest, Mr. Watte could be required to report his withdrawals of groundwater or even reduce them. But to California’s farmers and developers, that is anathema. “I don’t want the government to come in and dictate to us, ‘This is all the water you can use on your own land,’ ” said Mr. Watte, 57. “We would resist that to our dying day.”

Although California has been a pathbreaker in some environmental arenas, like embracing renewable energy and recycling, groundwater rights remain sacrosanct. But the state government is facing growing pressure to embrace regulation.

Recent scientific studies indicate that in the long term, climate change is diminishing the potential for the Sierra snowpack to generate enough runoff. Aquifers are thus a crucial insurance policy for water users.

Critics argue that refusing to monitor and regulate groundwater could prove catastrophic to the state’s real estate sector and its $36 billion agricultural economy.

“We really have reached the limit of surface water in California,” said Tony Rossman, a San Francisco lawyer specializing in water rights.

“The answer so far has been to drill deeper,” he said. “This can’t continue.”

The opening volley in the current campaign to change the system was fired last fall by Catherine Freeman of the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan advisory agency. In a report, she recommended that the Legislature regulate groundwater pumping statewide.

Then Fran Pavley, a Democratic state senator, proposed a bill requiring that the state measure groundwater usage — a proposal that has been made on and off for half a century.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed similar legislation in 2005, 2006 and 2007, saying that a state-run system would be too expensive and cumbersome.

But even Mr. Schwarzenegger is heeding the growing drumbeat on groundwater. Issuing an emergency drought declaration in February, he asked local governments and water districts for the first time to supply the state with data on groundwater supplies.

Compliance so far has been spotty, said Mark Cowin, deputy director of the state’s Department of Water Resources. “In a lot of cases,” Mr. Cowin said, “it’s simply a matter of the information not existing.”

On the grass-roots level, resistance to monitoring is based not just in a property-rights credo but also in a belief that the state can ride out any dry spell.

Older Californians are quick to recall more severe droughts. Heavy groundwater pumping in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s caused large overdrafts, meaning the groundwater pumped out exceeded the natural recharge of water percolating down from the surface. Some water tables dropped 400 feet; in some areas the ground itself sank as much as 50 feet.

Beginning in midcentury, the state enjoyed a respite with completion of the Central Valley Project, a large hydroengineering effort to redistribute surface water around the San Joaquin Valley. Aquifers were gradually recharged, and today, California accounts for at least 20 percent of the nation’s groundwater use, down from 50 percent in the 1950s, according to the Water Education Foundation, a nonprofit group that works on water resource issues.

But this year, the Westlands water district — the state’s largest, in the San Joaquin Valley — got a taste of what the future may hold when its allocation of surface water from the Central Valley Project was cut by about 90 percent. As a result, area farmers expect to pump two and a half times the usual amount of groundwater this year.

This has led Tom Birmingham, the water district’s general manager, to a subtle shift in his thinking. “Westlands would be opposed to the control of groundwater by a state agency,” Mr. Birmingham said. “However, that doesn’t mean that collecting information is necessarily a bad thing.”

Don Mills, general manager of the neighboring Kings County district, sees only two solutions: recharging aquifers by creating asphalt- and agriculture-free zones where water can be pooled to percolate down to the aquifer, or pumping less.

Regulating demand, Mr. Mills said, “is the tough part.” Some farmers have been phasing out row crops and vegetables in favor of fruit trees, for example; leaving an orchard dry for a year is not an option.

“After one year of no irrigation, it’s firewood, not peach trees,” Mr. Mills said.

Developers have also benefited from groundwater policies as California’s population grew annually by 500,000 in recent years, reaching 38 million. Yet a few local governments are starting to rein in groundwater use.

Visalia, a city of 123,000 a dozen miles north of Tulare, is one of the fastest-growing in California. Under a 2005 ordinance, all housing projects must either cede their surface water rights to the city or pay a fee that is used to set land aside for recharging the aquifer or related activities.

“Unless you can provide water, you can’t subdivide,” said Bob Link, the city’s vice mayor. But aggressive measures like this are the exception.

Landowners and farmers like Mr. Watte say it should be up to them to manage the aquifers.

“When government gets involved in control and oversight, it’s fraught,” Mr. Watte said.

Ms. Pavley, the state senator who proposed the water monitoring bill, predicted a “very tough fight” and said, “Dealing with climate change is easy compared to this.”




The Poseidon venture...another re-use here.


Stamford Company Inks Deal With San Diego County For Nation's Largest Desalination Plant
The Hartford Courant  
By BRIAN DOWLING bdowling@courant.com
5:47 PM EST, November 30, 2012

Fourteen years after proposing the country's largest desalination plant, a Stamford company this week cleared the last major hurdle for the project: approval from a key regional water agency.

On Thursday, Poseidon Resources and the San Diego County Water Authority signed a $3 billion water purchase agreement for the project in Carlsbad, Calif., which will produce 50 million gallons of potable water a day by 2016. Water from the plant will reduce the region's dependency on drought-vulnerable water imported from the Colorado River and northern California.

"It is going to change the future of water supply for San Diego County," Peter MacLaggan, a senior vice president at Poseidon, said in an interview. "We now have access to a limitless source of drought-proof water."

Approval from the water authority was the last step before the company could go to the bond market for financing. The company expects construction on the reverse-osmosis, desalination plant to begin in early 2013. In addition to the plant, the project includes a 10-mile pipeline that would deliver treated water to customers.

Poseidon is in the process of placing another desalination plant in Huntington Beach farther up the coast. A company official said that project is about a year and a half behind the Carlsbad project. The company also said it is looking into locations in Florida.

"San Diego has reached a major milestone in its long-term plan to develop drought-proof, local sources of water to sustain our economy and quality of life," Carlos Riva, the company's chief executive, said in a statement. The company has its corporate headquarters in Stamford and offices in Carlsbad and Huntington Beach.

When the project is up and running, the plant will provide about 7 percent of the region's water needs, serving nearly 450,000 residents, the company said. Building the plant will create about 2,300 jobs, with its operation supporting 275 jobs.

The cost for the plant and pipeline is $984 million, with more than 80 percent of the costs paid with bonds through the California Pollution Control Financing Authority.

One early downside of the 30-year water purchasing plan is the cost. The price per acre-foot, the industry's measure of water volume, is more than double existing contracts. Average ratepayer bills — which now average about $52 — will increase $5 to $7 with the desalination plant, the water authority said.

But the water source is unaffected by drought, coming from the Pacific Ocean, and an analysis by the water authority expects that regional water prices could be more expensive than desalinated water by the late 2020s. Currently, the region imports about 80 percent of its water.

After the 30-year purchasing agreement, the authority has the option to buy the plant for $1.

"Adding desalination to our portfolio is monumental in the same way that importing water from the Colorado River was in the 1940s," Thomas V. Wornham, chair of the water authority's board of directors, said in a statement.

The decision was being closely watched, especially in California, where the plant is the furthest along among about two dozen proposals in various stages of planning. Desalination has helped quench demand in Australia, Saudi Arabia and other countries lacking fresh water, but it has been slow to catch on in the U.S.

Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based group that studies environmental issues, said in a report this week that San Diego should consider lowering its minimum annual purchase of 48,000 acre-feet, or enough to supply about 96,000 homes. It said large plants built in Australia in recent years are unused in response to lower demand and cheaper alternatives. Likewise, a big plant in Tampa, Fla., that was planned during boom times in the 1990s was completed in 2007 after long delays and is operating well below capacity.

Poseidon proposed the plant in 1998 and began negotiating with potential customers shortly after the California Coastal Commission approved it in 2009, clearing the last major regulatory hurdle. The company overcame challenges from environmentalists concerned about the plant's massive electricity needs and harm to fish and other wildlife from intake filters and brine that is dumped back into the ocean.

Backers of the project averted a last-minute snag when the city of San Diego proposed shifting costs shift more costs to smaller agencies that don't have their own water treatment facilities. The board agreed to decide later on how the costs will be shared.

San Diego began to consider desalination in the early 1990s, when a drought led it to conclude that it needed a more diverse, reliable water supply. The agency is also considering giant desalination plants at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and Playas de Rosarito, Mexico, just south of the U.S. border.

An Associated Press report was used in this story.

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant


Huge California desalination plant faces key test
Las Vegas SUN
The Associated Press
Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 | 1:29 a.m.

An effort to build the Western Hemisphere's largest seawater desalination plant faces a key test as San Diego's regional water agency decides whether to buy all its output.

The San Diego County Water Authority board on Thursday will consider a 30-year contract to buy the water. Poseidon Resources needs the deal to finance the $984 million project.

The plant in Carlsbad would produce 50 million gallons of highly purified drinking water a day, enough to supply about 8 percent of the region in 2020. Critics have focused on the high costs.

Desalination has helped quench demand in Australia, Saudi Arabia and other countries lacking fresh water, but it has been slow to catch on in the United States.


Desalination Plant Is Approved
NYTIMES
May 14, 2009


SAN DIEGO (AP) — The water board here gave final approval for construction of the largest water desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere.

The $320 million project proposed by Poseidon Resources could be operational by 2012 in Carlsbad and produce 50 million gallons of drinking water a day, or 10 percent of the supply for San Diego County. The plant will take in 100 million gallons of sea water a day. The water would then be filtered. Half of it would be used by consumers, with the rest returned to the ocean.



Expert: World's water crisis will grow worse if action not taken 
DAY
By Judy Benson 
Published on 4/4/2009

New London - Friday's intermittent rain and dense fog suited the occasion: the first of two days of a conference featuring scholarly talks about water.
The conference, “Water Scarcity & Conflict,” focused on a commodity many Americans take for granted and often waste, but one that is increasingly the source of tensions and supply problems across the world.

”I think there is a water crisis, and it's getting worse, not better,” said Peter Gleick, a leading expert on the sustainable use of water, who gave the opening address. Gleick is co-founder and president of The Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan policy research group focusing on environment and development issues. He is also a member of the National Academy of Science and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Gleick noted there is good news about water - Americans consume less than 20 years ago, for example, thanks largely to water-conserving toilets and a shift away from industries that use large amounts.

It's not inevitable that water problems will get worse, if action is taken, said Gleick. There is ample water to fill human needs, he said, and the technology and wealth exist to solve sanitation, water-quality and distribution problems. But actually doing so requires directed political and social will that has too often been lacking, he said.

One billion of the world's people don't have access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion are without adequate sanitation, leading to the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera and chronic diarrhea that result in thousands of deaths each year.

”All of them are preventable, and most of the victims are under age five,” Gleick said.

The overuse and misuse of water also impacts ecosystems, causing wildlife declines and extinctions and the loss of natural system functions that benefit humans but are often unseen, Gleick said.

Another recent troubling trend, he said, is that pharmaceutical and chemical residues are increasingly being found in public water supplies as well as natural lakes, rivers, estuaries and groundwater.

”Water quality is deteriorating with industrial waste and pharmaceuticals in mixes we don't expect, and with consequences we don't understand,” he said.

Climate change is also affecting water supplies, he said. As the planet warms, hydrological cycles change, and with them, rainfall and storm patterns are disrupted. That could have direct impacts on agricuture and drinking water systems.

Population growth is also stressing water supplies, he said, noting that populations are growing fastest in the parts of the world with the biggest water problems. The present world population is estimated at 6.7 billion. In some areas, aquifers are being pumped faster than they can recharge.

Cutting wasteful water use with higher water and sewer rates is one way, he said. The rate structure, he added, should be tiered with lower rates for low-income households. He said he strongly believes that access to clean water is a basic human right, but that doesn't mean it should be free.

”Everything we do with water we can do with less water,” Gleick said.

Investment in aging water-supply, distribution and water-treatment systems is also needed to increase efficiency and remove more contaminants. To increase supply, he advocated more harvesting of rainwater and reusing wastewater for watering lawns, golf courses and industry to increase supply.

”Where we're heading is where we don't want to go,” he said. “But the good news is that there is a path to a sustainable system.”

The conference, held at Connecticut College, was organized by the college's Goodwin-Niering Center for Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies. 



Link to the Weston Water Resources Guide here, for more on TCE...
Exposed to Solvent, Worker Faces Hurdles
NYTIMES
By FELICITY BARRINGER
January 25, 2009

BEREA, Ky. — When the University of Kentucky published new research in 2008 suggesting that exposure to a common industrial solvent might increase the risk for Parkinson’s disease, the moment was a source of satisfaction to Ed Abney, a 53-year-old former tool-and-die worker.

Mr. Abney, now sidelined by Parkinson’s, had spent more than two decades up to his elbows in a drum of the solvent, trichloroethylene, while he cleaned metal piping at a now-shuttered Dresser Industries plant here.

The university study had focused on him and his factory co-workers who worked near the same 55-gallon drum of the vaguely sweet-smelling chemical. It found that 27 workers had either the anxiety, tremors, rigidity or other symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, or had motor skills that were significantly impaired, compared with a healthy peer group. The study, Mr. Abney thought, was the scientific evidence he needed to claim worker’s compensation benefits.

He was wrong. The medical researchers would not sign the form attesting that Mr. Abney’s disease was linked to his work.

Individuals like Mr. Abney are caught between the conflicting imperatives of science and law — and there is a huge gap between what researchers are discovering about environmental contaminants and what they can prove about their impact on disease. The gap has ensured that only a tiny fraction of worker’s compensation payments are received by those who were exposed to harmful substances at work.

“It’s awfully difficult for any doctor or researcher to say to an individual: ‘You have this disease because you were exposed at this time,’ “ said J. Paul Leigh, a professor of public health sciences at the University of California, Davis.

How many people are caught in the same bind as Mr. Abney, “nobody really knows,” said Rafael Metzger, a California lawyer who specializes in cases involving diseases contracted in the workplace.

“Most workers who have an occupational disease don’t think they have an occupational disease,” Mr. Metzger said, adding that “the few who might think it are mostly not successful” in getting compensation “because there isn’t a robust body of literature to support the claim.”

Mr. Abney’s wife, Anita Susan Abney, is frustrated by the high standard of proof required. “If you’re saying in your study, ‘Yes, the dots have been connected,’ you should be able to say it in a court of law,” Ms. Abney said. “You should be able to say it at all levels.” She added, “I don’t blame it on the doctors, but on the strictness of the research.”

Trichloroethylene was nearly ubiquitous in American industry in the latter part of the 20th century. Production grew from to 321 million pounds in 1991 from 260,000 pounds in 1981, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The National Toxicology Program has declared that the solvent, also known as TCE, can “reasonably be anticipated” to be a carcinogen. It is a contaminant in drinking water in some areas of the country and is found in more than half the 1,430 priority Superfund sites listed by the E.P.A.

There was no question in Mr. Abney’s mind what he was working with.

“It was a good cleaner,” he said in an interview, his cane at his side. His wife recalled, “When he came home at night, he would say, ‘The smell is killing me.’ ”

Mrs. Abney sat next to her husband, with the fat files she has accumulated documenting aspects of his case — communications with doctors and with lawyers (all of whom left after the doctors refused to sign the forms.)

Some of the paperwork documents the progression of Mr. Abney’s ailment: the day in 1996 when “on my left hand, a finger was twitching” or the day he could not enunciate the lesson to the Sunday school class he was teaching; and then, the day neither his hands nor his voice would perform his morning devotional rituals.

For five years, he received a series of diagnoses, including Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., correctly diagnosed his condition in 2001.

He left work and now receives federal disability payments of $1,200 a month. He was referred to Drs. Don M. Gash and John T. Slevin and joined a group of Parkinson’s patients involved in the testing of an experimental drug.

Mr. Abney mentioned that some of his co-workers also had neurological problems. Researchers mailed a questionnaire to 134 former Dresser workers; 65 responded.

Three, including Mr. Abney, had full-fledged Parkinson’s. The researchers found that of 27 others, 14 reported they had symptoms of the kind associated with the disease, and 13 others had significant slowing of motor responses or other symptoms of Parkinson’s.

A parallel study showed that feeding the solvent to rats resulted in injured neurons in the same area of the brain whose degeneration causes Parkinson’s in humans.

The conclusion, published in the Annals of Neurology in February 2008: “These results demonstrate a strong potential link between chronic TCE exposure and Parkinsonism.” But when it came to the specifics of Mr. Abney’s case, Dr. Gash said in an interview, “He started working at Dresser over 25 years ago, maybe 28 years ago. Trying to reconstruct what was going on then is just impossible.”

He added, “Certainly, we focused on one aspect of the toxins he was exposed to, but he was exposed to other toxins,” including agricultural pesticides or fumigants used to kill vermin at the plant.

“Was it the trichloroethylene?” Dr. Gash asked. “It could have been. But it could have been other things, too,” including a genetic predisposition to the disease.

Implicating TCE requires ruling out other potential causes, he said — something that could take years.

Which leaves few options for compensation. Dwight Lovan, Kentucky’s commissioner of worker’s compensation, said, “We are dependent on the scientific and medical communities for the element of causality.”

In other circumstances, proof of causality has been eased or waived. For instance, the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2001 added Lou Gehrig’s disease to the list of service-related disabilities for Persian Gulf war veterans; in September 2008 it agreed to consider any service member who served for at least 90 days eligible for disability benefits if they later contracted A.L.S.

A crucial element of this decision, according to a veterans affairs official, was that the agency made no link between the onset of A.L.S. and a service member’s experience — whether exposure to the anthrax vaccine or the fires Saddam Hussein set in the oil wells under his control.

Kentucky officials do not have that option. In the workplace, as John Burton, an emeritus professor at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, said, “You still have the underlying requirement to establish that the workplace was the cause.” Because the burden of proof is so high and the relative benefits are so low, lawyers have little financial incentive to take on a case like Mr. Abney’s.

And scientists like Dr. Gash have little enthusiasm for working with lawyers.

E. Donald Elliott, a Yale Law School professor specializing in these cases, said that simply being exposed to a risk in the workplace “should in itself be a compensable injury.”

“You don’t have to prove you got the Parkinson’s because of the exposure,” Professor Elliott said. “From a policy standpoint, does it make sense for the entire burden of uncertainty or unknown science to fall on the injured parties rather than falling on the business or industry involved?”

For Mr. Abney and his wife, the disappointment still rankles. “You read this study and you hear about it and it builds you up,” Mr. Abney said. “And then you get let down. You get to where you just don’t care.”


Latest news...water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink...not any more!


Question 1:  Where in CT is Willimantic?  Oh, there it is, at Interstate 84, on a railroad line.

ECSU Opens Eco-Friendly Science Building
The Hartford Courant
By GRACE E. MERRITT
December 15, 2008

WILLIMANTIC —

A wide sidewalk crosses a shallow pool filled with river rocks and leads into an oval-shaped lobby. A modern patchwork of natural wood squares panels one wall, while multicolored slate fills another. The air seems clean and the mood is calm.

Ahhhhh.

The visitor instinctively relaxes. The earthy, low-key entrance seems an appropriate welcome to the new Science Building at Eastern Connecticut State University, the latest addition to the university's ongoing makeover and one of the latest "green" buildings to spring up on Connecticut campuses.

The $46 million building exudes a green vibe, with soothing, earth-toned walls and floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby and corridors.

Inside the walls, pipes carry recycled water and sensors monitor air quality and gauge room occupancy to turn lights on and off. Offices and classrooms ring the building's outer rim to take advantage of natural light.

All of the furniture is locally made from recycled materials. Even the urinals are eco-friendly; they don't use water.

Eastern's Science Building is part of a national trend to go green in campus architecture. The new buildings are designed to have more healthful interiors, take advantage of natural light, use recycled materials and conserve energy and water.

Other recent examples of "sustainable" college buildings include the University of Connecticut's football and training center, which has turf made from ground-up sneakers and tires, and Yale University's Sculpture and Art Building, which features translucent panels filled with Nanogel, or "frozen smoke," to increase natural lighting while insulating walls.

The trend sprang up on campuses in early 2000, when one of the first sustainable buildings in the country opened at Oberlin College in Ohio. The Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin is packed with "sustainable" features, including a wetland-based ecosystem to treat and recycle wastewater.

The movement gained momentum in 2006 and 2007 as colleges used all kinds of new materials, including insulation made from recycled bluejeans, carpets woven from plastic soda bottles and walkways paved with crushed airplane windshields.

There are currently 260 college buildings nationwide, including laboratories and administration buildings, that meet the strict Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system set by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization.

Hundreds of other college leaders, including those at Eastern, are seeking certification for their green buildings.

"Colleges and universities tend to be innovators and see themselves as producing the next generation of leaders. Because they are early adapters of new technology, they tend to embrace things such as renewable energy on campus and want to build very efficient buildings," said Melissa GallagherRogers, who manages the government sector of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Eastern professors say they are pleased with the state-of-the-art facility, which replaces 1970s-era lab and office buildings scattered around campus.

"I don't have to carry distilled water across the campus to my office anymore," biology Professor Ross Koning said.

Not only are the roomy, new labs piped with running distilled water, but also all classrooms and labs, as well as the stadium seating-equipped lecture hall, are wired with overhead projectors connected to a document camera and a computer with Internet access.

"It's a big building at 174,000 square feet. But because there is natural light at the end of every corridor, it doesn't look institutional at all," said Nancy Tinker, director of facilities management and planning at Eastern.

"It really opens up this side of campus and makes it complete," said Katelyn Ercolani, 19, of Wethersfield.

Some college administrators say they feel morally compelled to build sustainable buildings.

"Certainly in terms of the environment and the future, it's the right thing to do," Tinker said. "It's a more efficient building, so it costs you less in the long run to operate it."

In fact, a flat-screen TV in the Science Building's lobby shows how much electricity the building is using in real time and compares it with other academic buildings on campus.

Sustainable design experts say going green has other benefits, such as recruiting students.

"Sustainability is an important criteria for prospective students for deciding where they are going to college," said Julian Dautremont-Smith, associate director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

It also can help keep students and faculty healthier, Dautremont-Smith said.

"Good indoor air quality and natural light both have an impact on student learning and productivity," he said.

Some professors predict that the imposing new building also will encourage more students to major in biology and will help attract faculty to Eastern.

"You can't help but recruit faculty when you have a nice space," Koning said.



Uranium found in Stamford well water
Kate King, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 1:00 am, Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Stamford -- Health officials are urging homeowners to test their drinking water after 70 percent of five dozen private wells sampled since the beginning of the year tested positive for uranium contamination.

Uranium is a naturally occurring element that can seep into drinking wells through nearby bedrock. People who are exposed to high levels of uranium for a sustained period of time are susceptible to kidney problems, said state Department of Public Health Epidemiologist Brian Toal.

"The primary health risk for uranium is potential damage to the kidney," Toal said. "It's really not a radioactive hazard, even though it's a radioactive element. Therefore, it's not considered a large cancer risk."

Stamford, which has offered subsidized well-water testing for carcinogenic pesticides since March 2012, recently added heavy metals contaminants to the list. The Health Department has tested 60 private wells for arsenic and uranium so far this year; 42 samples contained uranium.

Fourteen wells, or about 23 percent of the five dozen tested, contained uranium contamination in concentrations at or above the recommended federal health limit of 30 micrograms per liter.

"In Stamford, the percentage of wells that have been found over the (federal health) standard are quite high," Toal said. "At the levels we're seeing in well water, we would not expect to see people with overt kidney damage or problems. But if someone has a very high level, it's a good recommendation for them to go see a doctor."

Toal characterized "very high" uranium concentrations as 100 to 300 micrograms per liter. Several years ago, a private well in Newtown tested positive for uranium at levels exceeding 900 micrograms per liter.

The family of six had their kidney functions tested and one child demonstrated a "slight abnormality," which went away after several months of drinking clean water, Toal said.

"In most instances (uranium poisoning) is reversible," he said. "There's a fairly simple test that can be done to check your kidney function. But for most people, we'd say just stop drinking the water and you'll be fine."

It's not clear how widespread uranium contamination is statewide, Toal said. The state health department is coordinating water testing across 30 to 40 towns and expects to complete the study this fall.

"We get calls for isolated reports all over the state," he said. "We think it occurs in pockets, and that it's higher in some places than others, but we don't have a complete picture yet."

The Stamford Health Department has been sampling private drinking wells for two years, but only began offering arsenic and uranium testing Jan. 1.

"Even if you tested before for pesticides and volatile organic compounds, you need to test again," said Director Anne Fountain. "You don't know what you're going to find until you test."

So far arsenic, which was detected in the drinking water of 81 Weston homes last year, has only been found in one Stamford well, Health Laboratory Director Jim Federici said.

Stamford is the first municipality in the state to embark on widespread, subsidized testing of private well water. The program, which costs the city about $60,000 annually, is scheduled to run through the end of 2015.

Stamford began investigating well-water contamination in May 2009, when chlordane and dieldrin were discovered in North Stamford private drinking water. Originally, city officials thought a nearby polluted landfill was the source, but local and state health officials now believe the contamination, which has been found in private wells all over the city, is linked to historic pesticide use.

To date, the Health Department has tested 1,261 of Stamford's 5,000 private wells for pesticides, which were detected in about 13 percent, Federici said. Fewer than 2 percent of all wells tested contained chlordane in levels exceeding recommended health standards, while about 3 percent tested positive for high levels of dieldrin.

City Rep. Gail Okun urged residents to sign up for the city's testing program, but stressed that it's up to homeowners to pay for any necessary filtration systems.

"There's no reason to panic," said Okun, vice chairwoman of the Board of Representatives' Water Supply Committee. "If you find that the naturally occurring uranium is present, you do what you have to do to make sure it's remediated."

Treatment systems for pesticide and heavy metal contamination are different, Fountain said.

"Even if you have a filter for the pesticides, it's a totally different filtration system for uranium," she said.

Remediation for pesticide contamination involves installing a granular carbon-activated filter that costs about $1,600 and treats the entire house's water supply.

Uranium only poses a health risk when it is ingested, however, so homeowners can attach filters directly to their kitchen faucets to treat the water they cook with and drink.

"Uranium is not a risk for bathing, showering and inhalation," Toal said. "It's OK to brush your teeth with it."

Karen DeFalco, president of the neighborhood advocacy group North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment, said she tests her well water every year.

"We cannot take for granted what's in our water," DeFalco said. "It's important that we test and keep testing. You might have been fine one year and you might not be fine the next year. It's about being proactive."

Homeowners pay a flat $100 fee to participate in the city's well-water-testing program.


Wrestling With Uranium:  Heavy Metal Showing Up In Drinking Water, But Health Effects Uncertain
The Hartford Courant
By DAVID FUNKHOUSER
December 14, 2008

Uranium contamination poses a persistent problem in as many as 16 well water systems serving thousands of people around the state, according to a Courant analysis of test records from the state Department of Public Health.

The contaminated sites include Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford, a mobile home park in Killingworth and 10 condominium complexes in Brookfield. At those sites and in four other towns — Danbury, Kent, Madison and Newtown — well water systems exceeded federal limits for uranium in drinking water at some point in the past year.

Earlier this fall, contamination at a condominium complex in Madison prompted officials to test two nearby public schools, where they also found uranium. The discovery alarmed residents and prompted officials to turn off the taps, bring in bottled water and start a broad public education campaign.  Brian Toal of the state Department of Public Health's water section said the department sent out letters a few weeks ago to all the towns affected by uranium contamination, recommending that they look around the wells in question and alert nearby private well owners to make sure it isn't a more widespread problem.

Uranium, found as a trace metal in bedrock throughout the Northeast, is not highly radioactive, though it is a heavy metal known to damage the kidneys at high enough exposures. State health officials said they are unaware of any health problems directly linked to the contamination, and don't expect any at the levels that have been found.

But the federal Environmental Protection Agency has required testing for uranium in communal well water systems only in the past few years, and the state and communities involved are just beginning to understand the scope of the problem and how to cope with it.  Health officials consider a system to be out of compliance if the average of test results from the previous 12 months exceeds the federal standard of 30 parts per billion of uranium.

Still Running

The water supply at Johnson Memorial Hospital has contained an average of 38 to 42 parts per billion of uranium over the past year, tests show.

For now, the water is running as usual, and the hospital has posted notices of the test results in public areas, hospital officials said. The hospital, which is being bought by the Eastern Connecticut Health Network, has proposed a $500,000 plan to provide filtration and address the problem.

"I am aware of our levels and the limits set by the [EPA], and I am very comfortable drinking the water," said Peter J. Betts, the hospital's interim chief executive officer.

Bill Blitz, director of the North Central District Health Department in Enfield, said state health officials notified him about the contamination at the hospital a week or two ago. He said the DPH is working with the hospital to address the problem.

"We're planning now to do some testing of wells of housing around the site to see how far the pollution extends," he added.

Getting a handle on uranium contamination is tricky, and health officials say there is no sure way to know, when a well is dug, whether the water in it will be contaminated. Some areas are more susceptible because of the underlying bedrock that may contain uranium. Most of the contaminated sites are in the western part of the state.

"You came to the right place — the home of radionuclides," Brookfield First Selectman Bob Silvaggi joked when asked about his town's problem. He said the town has been dealing with the issue of radioactive elements in its water for two decades. Parts of town have been plagued by excessive radon and radium, both by-products of uranium decay.

In the most recent test results, for the third quarter of this year, six condominium groups in Brookfield with a combined 1,740 residents were found with uranium above the federal standard, according to the DPH. The amounts ranged from 41 to 257 parts per billion.  Most of the violations are clustered in two areas, Silvaggi said: on Silvermine Road and further south along Route 7 near the Danbury line. Brookfield is seeking millions of dollars in loans from the state to connect the affected areas to public water supplies. In the meantime, residents have largely been responding by drinking bottled water and installing filters.

All residential public water systems serving 25 or more people must test for uranium. That doesn't include non-residential schools, clinics, restaurants and other transient facilities where people are likely to drink less water than at home. Tests are done quarterly, and the results fluctuate.

As of the end of September, nine systems in four towns were out of compliance. Seven other systems that had violated the uranium standard earlier in the year were in compliance after the latest round of tests.

Health directors in the affected communities said they were considering how to respond. Most said they were likely to recommend more testing of private wells.

For individual homeowners, a test for uranium costs about $50, and special filters are available that can remove not only uranium but also radon and radium. Health officials consider radon and radium to be more dangerous. Radon, which poses a problem in the air in many parts of the state, can cause lung cancer. Radium poses a risk for bone cancer, Toal said.

Community systems face a more expensive problem: Treating large quantities of uranium-contaminated water wastes a lot of water and typically involves flushing contaminated water into the ground — something state environmental officials generally oppose.

"If high levels of uranium in drinking water are a cause for concern, you would not want to discharge water back into the ground that could contaminate unaffected or uncontaminated sources," said Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP is suggesting that communities first look into tying into alternate sources of water, Schain said. That can be expensive, too. In Madison, officials estimated that it would cost $1 million per mile to extend a water main up to the affected condos and schools.

Other Fallout

The other systems affected by uranium contamination include Candlewood Park in Danbury, which serves some 500 residents. Test results were slightly above the uranium standard earlier this year, but it is now in compliance.

In Killingworth, Jensen's Beechwood Mobile Home Park, with about 750 people, averaged 60 parts per billion over the past year. Town Health Director Edward Winokur said local officials have invited the DPH down to talk over the issue at a meeting Wednesda, 7 p.m., in town hall.  Uranium was found just above the standard in well water serving the Marvelwood School's faculty houses in Kent earlier this year, but the system is now in compliance, the DPH said.

Madison's Legend Hill Condominiums have been out of compliance for at least the past year. The problem prompted officials to look at the nearby Ryerson and Brown schools, where they found three times the allowable level of uranium. Town officials are talking to health officials and the DEP about possible long-term solutions.

Uranium was found in the well water at the Middle Gate School in Newtown, but the school has since been hooked up to the public water supply, according to health director Donna Culbert.  Also in Newtown, the Meadowbrook Terrace Mobile Home Park was above the uranium standard earlier this year but is now in compliance, according to DPH data.

Across the state there are at least 186 separate well water systems serving residential and non-residential schools, and they are all regularly tested for various contaminants, such as bacteria, lead and copper, pesticides and herbicides and various other chemicals. But only schools with 25 or more resident students and faculty must test for uranium and other radionuclides.  Two hospitals besides Johnson Memorial are served by wells and considered residential systems, and so must test for uranium: Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown and Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford.





Poor water quality results in prohibition on recreational shellfishing in Scott's Cove
Stamford ADVOCATE
Posted: 07/03/2009 09:18:56 PM EDT

Though much of the natural beauty of Scott's Cove remains just as noted landscape artist John Frederick Kensett portrayed it in the 1870s, a not-so-little dirty secret seems to be spreading just below the surface of the bay's placid waters.

Something is, ahem, rotting in Scott's Cove.

This spring, the state Bureau of Aquaculture prohibited shellfishing by recreational fisherman around much of Scott's Cove -- the watery backyard to the multimillion-dollar neighborhoods of Tokeneke, Salem Straits, Delafield Island and Contentment Island.

One reason for permanently prohibiting recreational shellfishing in the cove is deteriorating water quality in the form of high fecal bacteria counts collected in samples over the past several years, officials say.

The culprit appears to be leaking residential septic systems perched on the granite ledge of stone that supports many of the waterfront homes, said David Carey, director for the Bureau of Aquaculture. Shellfish are particularly sensitive to pollution and can, in turn, make people sick.

A mature oyster filters as much as 70 gallons of water every day, which concentrates pollutants in the bivalve for a number of days, when it should not be eaten, Carey said.

Darien Shellfish Commission Chairman Sandy McDonald said he and the commission were surprised the state was contemplating closing the shellfish beds when he began hearing about it one year ago. He has since fielded complaints from a few shellfishermen who have been barred from plying their hobby in the cove. About 60 people purchased recreational shellfishing licenses in Darien this year.

With the help of town health officials, the bureau conducted a two-year shoreline survey of Darien that included 543 parcels of private property. Initially, 52 property owners declined to allow the state onto their land for the physical inspection. With the help of officials in Darien, that number dwindled to eight. Of that survey, which was undertaken to locate pollution sources, about 50 septic systems around Scott's Cove were found to be failing, Carey said.

Darien Public Health Director David Knauf disputed Carey's numbers and challenged the bureau to come up with addresses and data that show so many septic systems are leaking raw sewage into the cove.

"I didn't see any failing systems and I went out with them on several days," Knauf said.

With the help of Harbormaster Bob Price, Knauf began collecting water samples in the cove himself on Thursday. "I am not under any illusion that our testing will change the mind of the state as far as Scott's Cove is concerned, but we as a community want to know what our water quality is," he said.

Carey admits the case against septic systems has not been entirely proven. The source of pollution, however, can only come from humans or animals such as geese. The bureau believes the large amount of home expansions allowed on properties with septic systems built for much smaller homes is causing the problem.

He is also troubled by the eight property owners who have so far shied away from the inspections.

"When someone doesn't allow you on the property you have to suspect that there is an ulterior reason," Carey said.


SEWERLINE BREAK
Robert Grierson of DPW for the Town of Greenwich, at the scene of a break in a sewer main on Sound Shore Drive in Cos Cob which an EPA administrator in Boston says spilled 28 million gallons of raw sewage into the Mianus River over the course of a 4 day period. (Bob Luckey/Staff Photo)


Shellfish test normal after Greenwich spill
Greenwich TIME
By Colleen Flaherty, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/20/2008, but we suspect that this is a mistake, since the article was close to the top of news for Jan. 2, 2009!

Seawater and shellfish meat samples show normal levels of bacteria following last month's sewer main break in Cos Cob, the state Bureau of Aquaculture & Laboratory Services said.

Water samples tested Wednesday and shellfish meat samples tested last week were the first and only samples to be tested following the Dec. 12 incident, which caused 28 million gallons of sewage to be diverted into the Long Island Sound via the Mianus River over four days, one of the largest spills in New England history. The samples showed normal levels of bacteria, said bureau Director David Carey.

"The samples are never clean but we have cutoffs," said Carey, at his office in Milford Wednesday. "The (bacteria) levels are significantly below the cutoff."

Carey said he would pass on the information to the town's Shellfish Commission, which shut down seven of eight Greenwich shellfish beds following the sewer main break.  The eighth bed was already closed, for other reasons.

Roger Bowgen, the town's shellfish commissioner, hadn't yet spoken with Carey Wednesday but said, "The beds will not open until we as a Shellfish Commission are completely satisfied that there is no danger to the general public."

Three weeks ago, a high-pressure sewer main carrying wastewater from eastern Greenwich ruptured near Sound Shore Avenue.

During the four days it took to repair the main, which was complicated by the discovery of a nearby gas line, wastewater was diverted to Long Island Sound via the Mianus River.  The cause of the break is still unknown, according to town and state officials.  The town's Health Department posted no signs around the sewer bypasses at Cos Cob Harbor and Juniper Lane, according to Director of Environmental Services Michael Long.

"September through May, any swimming is at your own risk because we don't do any weekly testing during the winter season," he said.

All of the town's shellfish beds, however, have remained closed due to shellfish feeding habits, said Carey.

"Shellfish are filter feeders," he said. "They can filter 70 gallons of water a day. So when you go to eat them on the second day (of a spill), they've got 140 times the bacteria. You're more at risk."

Some fish are filter feeders, also.  Bowgen said signs indicating the closure of the beds spanned the shoreline, and that the information also was available on the town's Web site and on the shellfish hotline, 622-7777.

Greenwich sewage spill one of largest in New England Sewer main break spilled 28 million gallons into Mianus River
Greenwich TIME
By Colleen Flaherty, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/30/2008 08:04:57 AM EST

The Dec. 12 sewer main break in Cos Cob sent 28 million gallons of untreated wastewater into the Mianus River, according to a report filed by the town of Greenwich with state and federal environmental officials.

The amount, diverted into the Long Island Sound via the river over four days, could have filled 42 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

"This is one of the larger spills," said Michael Fedak, senior enforcement coordinator for water programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England office in Boston.

Fedak, an EPA official for 30 years, said he could recall only two other spills of similar magnitude, one in Worcester, Mass., and one in Wethersfield.

The report, which was due on Dec. 17, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, was faxed to the EPA and DEP on Dec. 26, according to officials there.

Through last week, town officials said they did not know the amount of sewage that was diverted into the river. The report, prepared by Wastewater Division Manager Richard Feminella, said its estimate of 28 million gallons had finally been made based on the drop in the town's treatment plant flow combined with bypass pumping rates during repair work.

On the morning of Friday, Dec. 12, town workers responded to a sewer main break at Sound Shore Avenue in Cos Cob.

Wastewater from the high-pressure main, which transports effluent from eastern Greenwich to the Grass Island treatment facility, was temporarily diverted into the Mianus River , one at Cos Cob Harbor and one in Riverside on Juniper Lane.  Efforts to repair the main were complicated by the discovery of an adjacent gas line midday Saturday, which prevented contractors from installing shoring around the site to prevent a possible collapse.

Town officials have said they asked Connecticut Natural Gas to cut the line, which supplies the Cos Cob Power Plant, but it initially refused. The gas company finally agreed to remove the several-meter section of the pipe in question only after Commissioner of Public Works Amy Seibert issued an order that it do so Monday, Dec. 16.  The sewer main was not repaired until lunchtime Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Fedak, who had only looked at the report preliminarily Monday, said he expected he would be in contact with town and state officials in the near future to discuss the root causes of the incident, key to preventing such breaks in the future.

"The report basically talks about what the town did in response to the break," he said. "It's probably premature to figure out what the root cause of it was."

Feminalla said Monday he wasn't sure what had initially caused the 16-foot crack in the bottom of the main. That section of the pipe has been removed and will be studied by an outside firm, he said.

"There's a couple of things that could have contributed to the failure of that piece of pipe," he said, citing exterior pressure points caused by rocks as an example.

Feminella said the situation inside the pipe was exacerbated by the heavy rains and high tides the night before the incident.  Asked if he felt the town could have predicted the break in the aging main, which had a history of leaks, Feminella said, "I don't think so, no. This particular force main is three miles in length."

He added that the town was constantly monitoring known problem areas along the pipe, but, he said, "You don't just go out and install a brand new pipe. You do it in sections and everything costs money."

In the meantime, the shellfish beds throughout Greenwich are still closed. Shellfish Commission Director Roger Bowgen did not return a call for comment.

Michael Long, director of environmental services for the town's health department, said Monday he did not know the results of the commission's most recent water and shellfish tests.  Conservation Commission Director Denise Savageau said Monday that the Long Island Sound would suffer no long-term damage as a result of the spill.

"As a municipality," she said, "we're really in good shape."

Savageau continued, "Cities like New York and Bridgeport are dumping sewage right into the Long Island Sound every time there's a storm event. We just had a one-time event in Greenwich. We just have to fix in and move forward."

Jo Conboy, a Greenwich environmentalist and chairman of Save Our Shores, a local environmental group, however, called the break and the four days it took to fix it "unacceptable" Monday.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done on our sewer system here," she said. "We have to look into our infrastructure because we've neglected it."


A Tall, Cool Drink of ... Sewage?

NYTIMES
By ELIZABETH ROYTE
Published: August 8, 2008

Before I left New York for California, where I planned to visit a water-recycling plant, I mopped my kitchen floor. Afterward, I emptied the bucket of dirty water into the toilet and watched as the foamy mess swirled away. This was one of life’s more mundane moments, to be sure. But with water infrastructure on my mind, I took an extra moment to contemplate my water’s journey through city pipes to the wastewater-treatment plant, which separates solids and dumps the disinfected liquids into the ocean.

A day after mopping, I gazed balefully at my hotel toilet in Santa Ana, Calif., and contemplated an entirely new cycle. When you flush in Santa Ana, the waste makes its way to the sewage-treatment plant nearby in Fountain Valley, then sluices not to the ocean but to a plant that superfilters the liquid until it is cleaner than rainwater. The “new” water is then pumped 13 miles north and discharged into a small lake, where it percolates into the earth. Local utilities pump water from this aquifer and deliver it to the sinks and showers of 2.3 million customers. It is now drinking water. If you like the idea, you call it indirect potable reuse. If the idea revolts you, you call it toilet to tap.

Opened in January, the Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System is the largest of its type in the world. It cost $480 million to build, will cost $29 million a year to run and took more than a decade to get off the ground. The stumbling block was psychological, not architectural. An aversion to feces is nearly universal, and as critics of the process are keen to point out, getting sewage out of drinking water was one of the most important public health advances of the last 150 years.

Still, Orange County forged ahead. It didn’t appear to have a choice. Saltwater from the Pacific Ocean was entering the county’s water supply, drawn in by overpumping from the groundwater basin, says Ron Wildermuth, who at the time we talked was the water district’s spokesman. Moreover, population growth meant more wastewater, which meant building a second sewage pipe, five miles into the Pacific — a $200 million proposition. Recycling the effluent solved the disposal problem and the saltwater problem in one fell swoop. A portion of the plant’s filtered output is now injected into the ground near the coast, to act as a pressurized barrier against saltwater from the ocean. Factor in Southern California’s near chronic drought, the county’s projected growth (another 300,000 to 500,000 thirsty people by 2020) and the rising cost of importing water from the Colorado River and from Northern California (the county pays $530 per acre-foot of imported water, versus $520 per acre-foot of reclaimed water), and rebranding sewage as a valuable resource became a no-brainer.

With the demand for water growing, some aquifers dropping faster than they’re replenished, snowpacks thinning and climate change predicted to make dry places even drier, water managers around the country, and the world, are contemplating similar schemes. Los Angeles and San Diego, which both rejected potable reuse, have raised the idea once again, as have, for the first time, DeKalb County, Ga., and Miami-Dade County, Fla.

While Orange County planned and secured permits, public-relations experts went into overdrive, distributing slick educational brochures and videos and giving pizza parties. “If there was a group, we talked to them,” says Wildermuth, who recently left Orange County to help sell Los Angelenos on drinking purified waste. “Historical societies, chambers of commerce, flower committees.” The central message was health and safety, but the persuaders didn’t skimp on buzz phrases like “local control” and “independence from imported water.” Last winter, the valve between the sewage plant and the drinking-water plant whooshed open, and a new era in California’s water history began.

When I visited the plant, a sprawl of modern buildings behind a concrete wall, in March, Wildermuth, in a blue sport coat and bright tie, acted as my guide. “Quick!” he shouted at one point, mounting a ledge and clinging to the rail over a microfiltration bay. “Over here!” I clambered up just as its contents finished draining from the scum-crusted tank. The sudsy water, direct from the sewage-treatment plant, was the color of Guinness. “This is the most exciting thing you’ll see here, and I didn’t want you to miss it,” he said.

Wildermuth went on to explain what we were looking at: inside each of 16 concrete bays hangs a rack of vertical tubes stuffed with 15,000 polypropylene fibers the thickness of dental floss. The fibers are stippled with holes 1/300th the size of a human hair. Pumps pull water into the fibers, leaving behind anything larger than 0.2 microns, stuff like bacteria, protozoa and the dread “suspended solids.”

The excitement and the bubbles were backwash: every 21 minutes, air is injected into the microfibers to blast them clean. The schmutz goes back to the sewage-treatment plant, and the cleaner water, now the color of chamomile tea, is pumped toward reverse-osmosis filters in another building. Before we saw that process, Wildermuth led me underground to inspect several enormous pumps and pipes large enough to crawl through. I noted that everything was clearly labeled and scrupulously clean. Then it dawned on me: reassurance was the reason we’d taken the detour.

We followed the pipes up to a sunlit, metal-clad building where the water, now dosed with an antiscalant and sulfuric acid to lower its pH, was forced at high pressure through hundreds of white tubes filled with tightly spiraled sheets of plastic membranes. Reverse osmosis, Wildermuth says, stops cold almost all nonwater molecules (things like salts, viruses and pharmaceuticals). The stuff that’s removed is washed back to a pipe that discharges into the ocean. The filtered water, now known as permeate, moves one building over, where it’s spiked with hydrogen peroxide, a disinfectant, and then circulated past 144 lamps emitting ultraviolet light. “Destruction of compounds through photolysis,” Wildermuth said, nodding. Anything that’s alive in this water can no longer reproduce.

Strolling back through the campus, Wildermuth took me to a three-part demonstration sink with faucets streaming. The basin on the right contained reverse-osmosis backwash: it was molasses black, topped with a rainbow slick of oil. “Don’t touch,” Wildermuth warned as I leaned in for a better look at the ocean-bound rejectamenta. The middle basin contained the chamomile water from microfiltration. And on the left was the stuff Orange County would eventually drink. It was clear and had no smell.

But even this suctioned, sieved and irradiated water wasn’t quite set for sipping; it still needed to be decarbonized and dosed with lime, to raise its pH. Finally it would enter a massive purple pipe, which dives into the ground inside a nearby pump house and reappears 13 miles to the north, in Anaheim. There, the water would pour into Kraemer Basin, a man-made reservoir, where it would mix with the lake water and filter for six months through layers of sand and gravel hundreds of feet deep before utilities throughout the county pumped it into taps.

The reservoir is a prosaic ending for a substance that’s been through the glitziest of technological wringers, transformed from sewage to drinking water only to be humbly redeposited into the earth. This final filtering step isn’t necessary, strictly speaking, but our psyches seem to demand it.

To understand the basics of contemporary water infrastructure is to acknowledge that most American tap water has had some contact with treated sewage. Our wastewater-treatment plants discharge into streams that feed rivers from which other cities suck water for drinking. By the time New Orleans residents drink the Mississippi, the water has been in and out of more than a dozen cities; more than 200 communities, including Las Vegas, discharge treated wastewater into the Colorado River. That’s the good news. After heavy rains, many cities discharge untreated sewage directly into waterways — more than 860 billion gallons of it a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However — and this is where we can take solace — the sewage is massively diluted, time and sunlight help to break down its components and drinking-water plants filter and disinfect the water before it reaches our taps. The E.P.A. requires utilities to monitor pathogens, and there hasn’t been a major waterborne-disease outbreak in this country since 1993. (Though there have been 85 smaller outbreaks between 2001 and 2006.)

So confident are engineers of so-called advanced treatment technologies that several communities have been discharging highly treated wastewater directly into reservoirs for years. Singapore mixes 1 percent treated wastewater with 99 percent fresh water in its reservoirs. (In Orange County, the final product will contain 17 percent recycled water.) Residents of Windhoek, Namibia, one of the driest places on earth, drink 100 percent treated wastewater. For 30 years, the Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority, in Virginia, has been mixing recycled wastewater with fresh water in a reservoir and serving it to more than a million people. Still, no system produces as much recycled water as Orange County (currently 70 million gallons a day, going up to 85 million by 2011), and none inserts as many physical and chemical barriers between toilet and tap.


Environmentalists, river advocates and California surfers — the sort of people who harbor few illusions about the purity of our rivers and oceans — generally favor water recycling. It beats importing water on both economic and environmental grounds (about a fifth of California’s energy is used to move water from north to south). “The days are over when we can consider wastewater a liability,” says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, an environmental research group in Oakland. “It’s an asset. And that means figuring out how best to use it.”

As we deplete the earth’s nonrenewable resources, like oil and metals, the one-way trip from raw material to disposed and forgotten waste makes less and less sense. Already we recycle aluminum to avoid mining, compost organic material to avoid generating methane in landfills and turn plastic into lumber. As it becomes more valuable, water will be no different.

“We have to treat all waste as a resource,” Conner Everts, executive director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance, says. “Our water source, hundreds of miles away, is drying up. If the population is growing, what are our options?”

Water conservation could take us a long way, as would lower water subsidies for farmers. But sooner or later, stressed-out utility managers come back to the same idea: returning wastewater to the tap.

The process isn’t risk-free. Some scientists are concerned that dangerous compounds or undetectable viruses will escape the multiple physical and chemical filters at the plant. And others suggest that the potential for human error or mechanical failure — clogged filters or torn membranes that let pathogens through, for example — is too great to risk something as basic to public health as drinking water.

Recycled water should be used only as nondrinking water, says Philip Singer, the Daniel Okun Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of North Carolina. “It may contain trace amounts of contaminants. Reverse osmosis and UV disinfection are very good, but there are still uncertainties.”

And then there are those whose first, and final, reaction is “yuck.”

“Why the hell do we have to drink our own sewage?” asks Muriel Watson, a retired schoolteacher who sat on a California water-reuse task force and founded the Revolting Grandmas to fight potable reuse. She toured the Orange County plant but came away unsatisfied. “It’s not the sun and the sky and a roaring river crashing into rocks” — nature’s way of purifying water. “It’s just equipment.”

The Santa Ana River forms in the San Bernardino Mountains and flows southwest through Riverside and then Orange counties to the sea, the largest coastal stream in Southern California. But that’s not saying much: in the summer, the Santa Ana’s flow is nearly 100 percent wastewater. The river’s base flow — what enters the channel from runoff, rain and wastewater-treatment plants — is increasing. Not only is more effluent entering the river, a consequence of population growth, but as the county develops and paves more surfaces, rainwater runs off the earth faster, sluicing into the river channel before it can sink into the earth and replenish aquifers.

To capture and clean that water, the Orange County Water District has gone into hyper-beaver mode on the river. Twenty miles upstream from Anaheim, the water district has created the Prado Wetlands. It’s a lovely place, lush with willow and mule fat, busy with butterflies and, over the course of the year, 250 species of birds. Moving through a series of rectangular ponds, river water filters slowly through thickets of cattails and bulrushes meant to extract excess nitrate from upstream dairy farms and sewage-treatment plants. Returned to the main channel, the water wends around T- and L-shaped berms that slow the water and maximize its contact with the river bottom. Gates and sluiceways then shunt the water into nine man-made ponds and pits. The goal is to get more water into the county’s groundwater basin, a 350-square-mile, 1,500-foot-deep bathtub of sand and gravel layers, which act as natural scrubbers. The system upriver — using gravity and gravel — and the system in Fountain Valley — in tanks and tubes — both achieve the same goal. Sort of.


It’s one of the many pardoxes of indirect potable reuse that the water leaving the plant in Fountain Valley is far cleaner than the water that it mingles with. Yes, the water entering the sewage-treatment plant in Fountain Valley is 100 percent wastewater and has a T.D.S. — a measure of water purity, T.D.S. stands for total dissolved solids and refers to the amount of trace elements in the water — of 1,000 parts per million. But after microfiltration and reverse osmosis, the T.D.S. is down to 30. (Poland Spring water has a T.D.S. of between 35 and 46.) By contrast, the “raw” water in the Anaheim basins has a T.D.S. of 600.

If everything in the Fountain Valley plant is in perfect working order, its finished water will contain no detectable levels of bacteria, pharmaceuticals or agricultural and industrial chemicals. The same can be said of very few water sources in this country. But once the Fountain Valley water mingles with the county’s other sources, its purity goes downhill. Filtering it through sand and gravel removes some contaminants, but it also adds bacteria (not necessarily harmful, and local utilities will eventually knock them out them with chlorine) and possibly pharmaceuticals.

In other words, nature messes up the expensively reclaimed water. So why stick it back into the ground? “We do it for psychological reasons,” says Adam Hutchinson, director of recharge operations for the water district. “In the future, people will laugh at us for putting it back in, instead of just drinking it.”

Psychologists and marketers have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what makes a product, or a process, seem natural. Obviously, framing the issue properly is the key to acceptance. “If people connect the history of their water to contamination, you’ll get a disgust response no matter how you treat that water in between,” says Brent Haddad, an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. “But if you enable people to frame out that history by telling them, for example, that ‘the clean water has been separated from the polluted water,’ they no longer make that connection.” We abridge history all the time, Haddad adds. “Think of the restaurant fork that was in the mouth of someone with a contagious disease, the pillow that was underneath people doing private adult things in a hotel bedroom. If you think of it that way, the intermediate steps, like washing with hot water, don’t matter.”

All water on earth is recycled: the same drops that misted Devonian ferns and dripped from the fur of woolly mammoths are watering us today. From evaporation to condensation and precipitation, the cycle goes on and on. But in the planet’s drier regions, where the population continues to rise, we can expect the time between use and reuse to grow ever shorter, with purification, pipes and pumps standing in for natural processes. Instead of sand and gravel filtering our drinking water, microfibers and membranes will do the job; instead of sunlight knocking out parasites, we’ll plug in the UV lamps.

You could argue that in coming to terms with wastewater as a resource, we’ll take better care of our water. At long last, the “everything is connected” message, the bedrock of the environmental movement, will hit home. In this view, once a community is forced to process and drink its toilet water, those who must drink it will rise up and change their ways. Floor moppers will switch to biodegradable cleaning products. Industry will use nontoxic material. Factory farms will cut their use of antibiotics. Maybe we’ll even stop building homes in the desert.

But these situations are not very likely. No one wants to think too hard about where our water comes from. It’s more likely that the virtuosity of water technology will let polluters off the hook: why bother to reduce noxious discharges if the treatment plant can remove just about anything? The technology, far from making us aware of the consequences of our behavior, may give us license to continue doing what we’ve always done.

The recycled water coming out of the sink at the Fountain Valley plant looked good enough to drink. Wildermuth didn’t press me to taste it, but I was eager for a sample — to satisfy my curiosity, and to be polite. I filled a plastic cup and took a sip. The water tasted fine, if a little dry; I’m used to something with more minerals. It did cross my mind that any potential health issues from drinking so-far undetectable levels of contaminants would be cumulative and take decades to manifest.

Then I reminded myself: no naturally occurring water on earth is absolutely pure. And most everything that’s in Orange County’s reclaimed water is in most cities’ drinking water anyway.

It was hot, my throat was parched, and I asked for a refill.




Saturday is the day for St. Louis to receive the crest.  Upriver, Gulfport, Illinois intersection at right.  Click here for Hurricane Katrina reports.
Mississippi Surges Over Nearly a Dozen Levees
NYTIMES
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR and MONICA DAVEY
Published: June 20, 2008

The swollen Mississippi River continued to spread destruction on Thursday, surging over nearly a dozen levees in the St. Louis area and flooding vast areas of farmland, as the region’s growing crisis pushed corn and soy prices toward record levels.

The runaway river claimed its latest Missouri town late Wednesday night when it broke a levee in Winfield, just outside of St. Louis, leaving a 150-foot hole, deluging the small community and sending a surge of water downstream toward the next levee. Crews of firefighters spent the night evacuating residents, in some cases by boat, as workers fought to contain the river further south.

With weather forecasters calling for as many as two inches of rain in some parts of Missouri on Thursday, crews of emergency responders, sandbags in hand, were preparing for the worst.

St. Louis is the next major town in the path of the surging river, which is expected to crest at 40 feet there on Saturday. Because the river widens in St. Louis and connects with several tributaries, the damage is expected to be minimal. Still, the threat was great enough to prompt the city to relocate its annual Independence Day fair and festival for the first time.

President Bush was expected on Thursday to visit several communities, including Cedar Rapids, where the waters have receded but 25,000 people are homeless, according to the White House.

Since the flooding began, 20 levees have been breached — 11 of them in the St. Louis area — and as many as 30 more were in peril. Estimates of the damage to farmland throughout the Midwest ranged from 2 million to 5 million acres of crops, pushing corn prices close to a record price of $8 a bushel. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is said to be planning a thorough review of the damage later this month.

On Wednesday, the surging river was gruesome news for the farmers and residents — about 100, the authorities said — near the tiny hamlet of Meyer in western Illinois. Around the small community, part of a region of endless fields of soybeans, corn and cattle, state conservation police officers rode door to door in boats to ensure that everyone had left, and flew over in a helicopter, scanning for anyone stranded.

So it went all along the Mississippi this week, through Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, north of St. Louis: People marching along levees and flood walls, scanning for the slightest puddle or hint of pressure in the sand, waiting for what might come. In Quincy, Ill., local officials raced to reinforce a levee they were worried about south of town; at stake were 100,000 acres of farmland and access to the Mark Twain Bridge. And federal authorities said they were closely monitoring more than 20 other levees they view as vulnerable, as the waters continue to rise downstream in the coming days.

Around Meyer, farmers were devastated. “That’s all been lost, and it’s not going to be replanted this season,” said Gerald Jenkins, general manager of Ursa Farmers Cooperative, not far from Meyer. One of the cooperative’s grain elevators, in Meyer, was swamped, Mr. Jenkins said, another at risk.

Worse, Mr. Jenkins said he feared that so many fields under water would mean not much grain for the cooperative to sell come the fall harvest. “It’s a very sickening feeling,” he said.

Still, the breached levees were a guilty relief for others, here in Canton and in the other towns on the Missouri side of the river or downstream, who had watched the water rise and rise, and hoped that a breach somewhere else might mean less flooding where they were.

“It’s too bad for them, but that’s the way it is,” Joe Clark, the mayor of Canton, said on Wednesday. Throughout the town, hundreds of workers scrambled to raise a three-mile-long levee still higher, with two-foot-tall wooden boards and piles upon piles of sandbags. So far, the levee here was winning, but the river’s crest — only inches short of the highest ever here — was not expected until early Thursday. Mr. Clark said he was hopeful that the town’s levee would hold, and its empty, shuttered downtown would be spared. “Now it’s a matter of waiting,” he said.

A few miles south, the waters crept waist high in some parts of LaGrange, Mo. Still, the levee failures elsewhere might lessen the blow, even in LaGrange. “Everything that’s broken other places is helping us,” said Pat Ryan, who continued to pile sandbags around his house, despite the rising waters.

In towns throughout the area, roads closed, train cars sat empty on flooded tracks, and bridges over the river were barricaded. Everywhere, sore, sweaty volunteers filled sandbags — more than 12.8 million of them have been issued so far during this flooding, by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Despite several days of mostly dry weather here, the sheer volume of water already in the tributaries of the Mississippi had led, inevitably, to flooding along the Mississippi itself. More rain, though, may be on the way: a storm system was forecast to roll over some of the flooded areas on Thursday and Friday, bringing scattered thunderstorms, up to an inch of rain and even the possibility of large hail in parts. The storms were not expected to raise flood levels significantly, though.

South of here, in Clarksville, the water that had already swamped some homes rose nine more inches by Wednesday.

“You just see it creeping up,” Tommy Beauchamp, a volunteer firefighter, said on Wednesday.

There was one piece of good news, though: the water was expected to crest about three inches lower than had been predicted, perhaps, in part, because of upstream levee breaks. To Mr. Beauchamp, the difference did not seem measly. “We celebrate every inch that we can get,” he said.



Link above (r) to another part of this website that tracks developments in Pakistan.

Water Dispute Increases India-Pakistan Tension
NYTIMES
By LYDIA POLGREEN and SABRINA TAVERNISE
July 20, 2010

BANDIPORE, Kashmir — In this high Himalayan valley on the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir, the latest battle line between India and Pakistan has been drawn.

This time it is not the ground underfoot, which has been disputed since the bloody partition of British India in 1947, but the water hurtling from mountain glaciers to parched farmers’ fields in Pakistan’s agricultural heartland.

Indian workers here are racing to build an expensive hydroelectric dam in a remote valley near here, one of several India plans to build over the next decade to feed its rapidly growing but power-starved economy.

In Pakistan, the project raises fears that India, its archrival and the upriver nation, would have the power to manipulate the water flowing to its agriculture industry — a quarter of its economy and employer of half its population. In May it filed a case with the international arbitration court to stop it.

Water has become a growing source of tension in many parts of the world between nations striving for growth. Several African countries are arguing over water rights to the Nile. Israel and Jordan have competing claims to the Jordan River. Across the Himalayas, China’s own dam projects have piqued India, a rival for regional, and even global, power.

But the fight here is adding a new layer of volatility at a critical moment to one of the most fraught relationships anywhere, one between deeply distrustful, nuclear-armed nations who have already fought three wars.

The dispute threatens to upset delicate negotiations to renew peace talks, on hold since Pakistani militants killed at least 163 people in attacks in Mumbai, India, in November 2008. The United States has been particularly keen to ease tensions so that Pakistan can divert troops and matériel from its border with India to its frontier with Afghanistan to fight Taliban insurgents.

Anti-India nationalists and militant networks in Pakistan, already dangerously potent, have seized on the issue as a new source of rage to perpetuate 60 years of antagonism.

Jamaat-u-Dawa, the charity wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group behind the Mumbai attacks, has retooled its public relations effort around the water dispute, where it was once focused almost entirely on land claims to Kashmir. Hafiz Saeed, Jamaat’s leader, now uses the dispute in his Friday sermons to whip up fresh hatreds.

With their populations rapidly expanding, water is critical to both nations. Pakistan contains the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system, water experts say. It has also become an increasingly fertile recruiting ground for militant groups, who play on a lack of opportunity and abundant anti-India sentiment. The rivers that traverse Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province and the heart of its agriculture industry, are the country’s lifeline, and the dispute over their use goes to the heart of its fears about its larger, stronger neighbor.

For India, the hydroprojects are vital to harnessing Himalayan water to fill in the serious energy shortfalls that crimp its economy. About 40 percent of India’s population is off the power grid, and lack of electricity has hampered industry. The Kishenganga project is a crucial part of India’s plans to close that gap.

The Indian project has been on the drawing board for decades, and it falls under a 50-year-old treaty that divides the Indus River and its tributaries between both countries. “The treaty worked well in the past, mostly because the Indians weren’t building anything,” said John Briscoe, an expert on South Asia’s water issues at Harvard University. “This is a completely different ballgame. Now there’s a whole battery of these hydroprojects.”

The treaty, the result of a decade of painstaking negotiation that ended in 1960, gave Pakistan 80 percent of the waters in the Indus River system, a ratio that nationalists in Pakistan often forget. India, the upriver nation, is permitted to use some of the water for farming, drinking and power generation, as long as it does not store too much.

While the Kishenganga dam is allowed under the treaty, the dispute is over how it should be built and the timely release of water. Pakistan contends that having the drainage at the very base of the dam will allow India to manipulate the water flow when it wants, for example, during a crucial period of a planting season.

“It makes Pakistan very vulnerable,” said a lawyer who has worked on past water cases for Pakistan. “You can’t just tell us, ‘Hey, you should trust us.’ We don’t. That’s why we have a treaty.”

India has rejected any suggestion that it has violated the treaty or tried to steal water. In a speech on June 13, India’s foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, called such allegations “breast-beating propaganda,” adding “the myth of water theft does not stand the test of rational scrutiny or reason.”

Water experts concur, but say Pakistan does have a legitimate cause for concern. The real issue is timing. If India chooses to fill its dams at a crucial time for Pakistan, it has the potential to ruin a crop. Mr. Briscoe estimates that if India builds all its planned projects, it could have the capacity of holding up about a month’s worth of river flow during Pakistan’s critical dry season, enough to wreck an entire planting season.

Here in Bandipore, where engineers and laborers work long shifts to build the powerhouse and tunnel for the long-awaited dam, the work is not merely a matter of electricity. National pride is at stake, they said.

“This dam is a matter of our national prestige,” one of the engineers on the project said. “It is our right to build this dam, and our future depends on it.”

Pakistanis say they have reason to be worried. In 1948, a year after Pakistan and India were established as states, an administrator in India shut off the water supply to a number of canals in Pakistani Punjab. Indian authorities later said it was a bureaucratic mix-up, but in Pakistan, the memory lingers.

“Once you’ve had a gun put to your head and it’s been cocked, you don’t forget it,” said the Pakistani lawyer, who asked that his name not be used because he was not part of the current legal team.

A genuine water shortage in Pakistan, and the country’s inability to store large quantities of water, has only made matters worse, exposing it to any small variation in rainfall or river flow. Pakistan is about to slip into a category of country the United Nations defines as “water scarce.”

“They are confronting a very serious water issue,” said a senior American official in Islamabad. “There’s a high amount of anxiety, and it’s not misplaced.”

The design of the dam requires that much of the water in the Kishenganga River be diverted for much of the year. That will kill off fish and harm the livelihoods of the people living in the Pakistan-administered side of Kashmir, Pakistani officials say.

Kaiser Bengali, an economist, argues that Pakistan’s water crisis has little to do with India, and says that the real way to ease it is to introduce water conservation methods and modern farming techniques. In a country where summer temperatures reach 120 degrees, as much as 40 percent of Pakistan’s water is lost before even reaching the roots of the plants, experts say.

The water dispute would not be nearly as acute, experts said, if India and Pakistan talked and shared data on water. Instead, the distrust and antagonism is such that bureaucrats have hoarded information, and are secretly gunning to finish projects on either side of the line of control in order to be the first to have an established fact on the ground.

“It’s like a bad marriage in which we have proscribed roles,” the Pakistani lawyer said. “Would it be better if we were communicating openly? Yes. But in the present circumstances we are not.”




When we say "world" we mean "other than Connecticut" - talk about a myopic view!  More than that, "other than Weston, Connecticut."



Its Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Confronts Crisis of Water Supply
NYTIMES
By THOMAS ERDBRINK
JAN. 30, 2014


LAKE URMIA, Iran — After driving for 15 minutes over the bottom of what was once Iran’s largest lake, a local environmental official stepped out of his truck, pushed his hands deep into his pockets and silently wandered into the great dry plain, as if searching for water he knew he would never find.

Just an hour earlier, on a cold winter day here in western Iran, the official, Hamid Ranaghadr, had recalled how as recently as a decade ago, cruise ships filled with tourists plied the lake’s waters in search of flocks of migrating flamingos.

Now, the ships are rusting in the mud and the flamingos fly over the remains of the lake on their way to more hospitable locales. According to figures compiled by the local environmental office, only 5 percent of the water remains...long story in full here.




Without Water, Revolution
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, NYTIMES
May 18, 2013

TEL ABYAD, Syria — I just spent a day in this northeast Syrian town. It was terrifying — much more so than I anticipated — but not because we were threatened in any way by the Free Syrian Army soldiers who took us around or by the Islamist Jabhet al-Nusra fighters who stayed hidden in the shadows. It was the local school that shook me up.

As we were driving back to the Turkish border, I noticed a school and asked the driver to turn around so I could explore it. It was empty — of students. But war refugees had occupied the classrooms and little kids’ shirts and pants were drying on a line strung across the playground. The basketball backboard was rusted, and a local parent volunteered to give me a tour of the bathrooms, which he described as disgusting. Classes had not been held in two years. And that is what terrified me. Men with guns I’m used to. But kids without books, teachers or classes for a long time — that’s trouble. Big trouble.

They grow up to be teenagers with too many guns and too much free time, and I saw a lot of them in Tel Abyad. They are the law of the land here now, but no two of them wear the same uniform, and many are just in jeans. These boys bravely joined the adults of their town to liberate it from the murderous tyranny of Bashar al-Assad, but now the war has ground to a stalemate, so here, as in so many towns across Syria, life is frozen in a no-man’s land between order and chaos. There is just enough patched-up order for people to live — some families have even rigged up bootleg stills that refine crude oil into gasoline to keep cars running — but not enough order to really rebuild, to send kids to school or to start businesses.

So Syria as a whole is slowly bleeding to death of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. You can’t help but ask whether it will ever be a unified country again and what kind of human disaster will play out here if a whole generation grows up without school.

“Syria is becoming Somalia,” said Zakaria Zakaria, a 28-year-old Syrian who graduated from college with a major in English and who acted as our guide. “Students have now lost two years of school, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and if this goes on for two more years it will be like Somalia, a failed country. But Somalia is off somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Syria is the heart of the Middle East. I don’t want this to happen to my country. But the more it goes on, the worse it will be.”

This is the agony of Syria today. You can’t imagine the war here continuing for another year, let alone five. But when you feel the depth of the rage against the Assad government and contemplate the sporadic but barbaric sect-on-sect violence, you can’t imagine any peace deal happening or holding — not without international peacekeepers on the ground to enforce it. Eventually, we will all have to have that conversation, because this is no ordinary war.

THIS Syrian disaster is like a superstorm. It’s what happens when an extreme weather event, the worst drought in Syria’s modern history, combines with a fast-growing population and a repressive and corrupt regime and unleashes extreme sectarian and religious passions, fueled by money from rival outside powers — Iran and Hezbollah on one side, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar on the other, each of which have an extreme interest in its Syrian allies’ defeating the other’s allies — all at a time when America, in its post-Iraq/Afghanistan phase, is extremely wary of getting involved.

I came here to write my column and work on a film for the Showtime series, “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the “Jafaf,” or drought, one of the key drivers of the Syrian war. In an age of climate change, we’re likely to see many more such conflicts.

“The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war,” said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work.

Because of the population explosion that started here in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to better health care, those leaving the countryside came with huge families and settled in towns around cities like Aleppo. Some of those small towns swelled from 2,000 people to 400,000 in a decade or so. The government failed to provide proper schools, jobs or services for this youth bulge, which hit its teens and 20s right when the revolution erupted.

Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported. “Half the population in Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers left the land” for urban areas during the last decade, said Aita. And with Assad doing nothing to help the drought refugees, a lot of very simple farmers and their kids got politicized. “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”

Young people and farmers starved for jobs — and land starved for water — were a prescription for revolution. Just ask those who were here, starting with Faten, whom I met in her simple flat in Sanliurfa, a Turkish city near the Syrian border. Faten, 38, a Sunni, fled there with her son Mohammed, 19, a member of the Free Syrian Army, who was badly wounded in a firefight a few months ago. Raised in the northeastern Syrian farming village of Mohasen, Faten, who asked me not to use her last name, told me her story.

She and her husband “used to own farmland,” said Faten. “We tended annual crops. We had wheat, barley and everyday food — vegetables, cucumbers, anything we could plant instead of buying in the market. Thank God there were rains, and the harvests were very good before. And then suddenly, the drought happened.”

What did it look like? “To see the land made us very sad,” she said. “The land became like a desert, like salt.” Everything turned yellow.

Did Assad’s government help? “They didn’t do anything,” she said. “We asked for help, but they didn’t care. They didn’t care about this subject. Never, never. We had to solve our problems ourselves.”

So what did you do? “When the drought happened, we could handle it for two years, and then we said, ‘It’s enough.’ So we decided to move to the city. I got a government job as a nurse, and my husband opened a shop. It was hard. The majority of people left the village and went to the city to find jobs, anything to make a living to eat.” The drought was particularly hard on young men who wanted to study or marry but could no longer afford either, she added. Families married off daughters at earlier ages because they couldn’t support them.

Faten, her head conservatively covered in a black scarf, said the drought and the government’s total lack of response radicalized her. So when the first spark of revolutionary protest was ignited in the small southern Syrian town of Dara’a, in March 2011, Faten and other drought refugees couldn’t wait to sign on. “Since the first cry of ‘Allahu akbar,’ we all joined the revolution. Right away.” Was this about the drought? “Of course,” she said, “the drought and unemployment were important in pushing people toward revolution.”

ZAKARIA ZAKARIA was a teenager in nearby Hasakah Province when the drought hit and he recalled the way it turned proud farmers, masters of their own little plots of land, into humiliated day laborers, working for meager wages in the towns “just to get some money to eat.” What was most galling to many, said Zakaria, was that if you wanted a steady government job you had to bribe a bureaucrat or know someone in the state intelligence agency.

The best jobs in Hasakah Province, Syria’s oil-producing region, were with the oil companies. But drought refugees, virtually all of whom were Sunni Muslims, could only dream of getting hired there. “Most of those jobs went to Alawites from Tartous and Latakia,” said Zakaria, referring to the minority sect to which President Assad belongs and which is concentrated in these coastal cities. “It made people even more angry. The best jobs on our lands in our province were not for us, but for people who come from outside.”

Only in the spring of 2011, after the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, did the Assad government start to worry about the drought refugees, said Zakaria, because on March 11 — a few days before the Syrian uprising would start in Dara’a — Assad visited Hasakah, a very rare event. “So I posted on my Facebook page, ‘Let him see how people are living,’ ” recalled Zakaria. “My friends said I should delete it right away, because it was dangerous. I wouldn’t. They didn’t care how people lived.”

Abu Khalil, 48, is one of those who didn’t just protest. A former cotton farmer who had to become a smuggler to make ends meet for his 16 children after the drought wiped out their farm, he is now the Free Syrian Army commander in the Tel Abyad area. We met at a crushed Syrian Army checkpoint. After being introduced by our Syrian go-between, Abu Khalil, who was built like a tough little boxer, introduced me to his fighting unit. He did not introduce them by rank but by blood, pointing to each of the armed men around him and saying: “My nephew, my cousin, my brother, my cousin, my nephew, my son, my cousin ...”

Free Syrian Army units are often family affairs. In a country where the government for decades wanted no one to trust anyone else, it’s no surprise.

“We could accept the drought because it was from Allah,” said Abu Khalil, “but we could not accept that the government would do nothing.” Before we parted, he pulled me aside to say that all that his men needed were anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons and they could finish Assad off. “Couldn’t Obama just let the Mafia send them to us?” he asked. “Don’t worry, we won’t use them against Israel.”

As part of our film we’ve been following a Syrian woman who is a political activist, Farah Nasif, a 27-year-old Damascus University graduate from Deir-az-Zour, whose family’s farm was also wiped out in the drought. Nasif typifies the secular, connected, newly urbanized young people who spearheaded the democracy uprisings here and in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. They all have two things in common: they no longer fear their governments or their parents, and they want to live like citizens, with equal rights — not as sects with equal fears. If this new generation had a motto, noted Aita, the Syrian economist, it would actually be the same one Syrians used in their 1925 war of independence from France: “Religion is for God, and the country is for everyone.”

But Nasif is torn right now. She wants Assad gone and all political prisoners released, but she knows that more war “will only destroy the rest of the country.” And her gut tells her that even once Assad is gone, there is no agreement on who or what should come next. So every option worries her — more war, a cease-fire, the present and the future. This is the agony of Syria today — and why the closer you get to it, the less certain you are how to fix it.


The Food Chain:  Mideast Facing Choice Between Crops and Water
NYTIMES 
By ANDREW MARTIN
Published: July 21, 2008

CAIRO — Global food shortages have placed the Middle East and North Africa in a quandary, as they are forced to choose between growing more crops to feed an expanding population or preserving their already scant supply of water.

For decades nations in this region have drained aquifers, sucked the salt from seawater and diverted the mighty Nile to make the deserts bloom. But those projects were so costly and used so much water that it remained far more practical to import food than to produce it. Today, some countries import 90 percent or more of their staples.

Now, the worldwide food crisis is making many countries in this politically volatile region rethink that math.

The population of the region has more than quadrupled since 1950, to 364 million, and is expected to reach nearly 600 million by 2050. By that time, the amount of fresh water available for each person, already scarce, will be cut in half, and declining resources could inflame political tensions further.

“The countries of the region are caught between the hammer of rising food prices and the anvil of steadily declining water availability per capita,” Alan R. Richards, a professor of economics and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said via e-mail. “There is no simple solution.”

Losing confidence in world markets, these nations are turning anew to expensive schemes to maintain their food supply.

Djibouti is growing rice in solar-powered greenhouses, fed by groundwater and cooled with seawater, in a project that produces what the World Bank economist Ruslan Yemtsov calls “probably the most expensive rice on earth.”

Several oil-rich nations, including Saudi Arabia, have started searching for farmland in fertile but politically unstable countries like Pakistan and Sudan, with the goal of growing crops to be shipped home.

“These countries have the land and the water,” said Hassan S. Sharaf Al Hussaini, an official in Bahrain’s agriculture ministry. “We have the money.”

In Egypt, where a shortage of subsidized bread led to rioting in April, government officials say they are looking into growing wheat on two million acres straddling the border with Sudan.

Economists and development experts say that nutritional self-sufficiency in this part of the world presents challenges that are not easily overcome. Saudi Arabia tapped aquifers to become self-sufficient in wheat production in the 1980s. By the early 1990s, the kingdom had become a major exporter. This year, however, the Saudis said they would phase out the program because it used too much water.

“You can bring in money and water and you can make the desert green until either the water runs out or the money,” said Elie Elhadj, a Syrian-born author who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the topic.

Egypt, too, has for decades dreamed of converting huge swaths of desert into lush farmland. The most ambitious of these projects is in Toshka, a Sahara Desert oasis in a scorched lunar landscape of sand and rock outcroppings.

When the Toshka farm was started in 1997, the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, compared its ambitions to building the pyramids, involving roughly 500,000 acres of farmland and tens of thousands of residents. But no one has moved there, and only 30,000 acres or so have been planted.

The farm’s manager, Mohamed Nagi Mohamed, says the Sahara is perfect for farming, as long as there is plenty of fertilizer and water. For one thing, the bugs cannot handle the summer heat, so pesticides are not needed.

“You can grow anything on this land,” he said, showing off fields of alfalfa and rows of tomatoes and grapes, shielded from the sun by gauzy white netting. “It’s a very nice project, but it needs a lot of money.”

Mr. Mubarak calls his country’s growing population an “urgent” problem that has exacerbated the food crisis. The population grows about 1.7 percent annually, considerably slower than a generation ago but still fast enough that it is on pace to double by 2050.

Adding 1.3 million Egyptians each year to the 77 million squeezed into an inhabited area roughly the size of Taiwan is a daunting prospect for a country in which 20 percent of citizens already live in poverty

One recent morning in the Cairo slum of Imbaba, people crammed in front of a weathered green bakery shack for their daily rations of subsidized bread, a pita-like loaf called baladi that sells for less than a penny, so cheap that some Egyptians feed it to their livestock.

The bakery shares the end of a dead-end street with a mountain of garbage, 25 feet by 5 feet, that looks as if it is moving because so many flies swarm over it.

“Most people are really suffering, but what can they do?” asked Mohamed Faruk, a 38-year-old grocery worker who moonlights as a bus inspector, as he carried nine loaves of baladi in newspaper.

Awatef Mahmud, a 53-year-old mother of five who sat on a nearby stoop waiting for her bread to cool, said higher prices had led to dietary changes for her family. “Instead of buying one kilo of meat every week, we buy a half a kilo,” she said. “People used to buy pasta to make for their kids. But now that it’s four and a half pounds,” she said, referring to the currency, “they give them bread instead.”

Economists say that rather than seeking to become self-sufficient with food, countries in this region should grow crops for which they have a competitive advantage, like produce or flowers, which do not require much water and can be exported for top dollar.

For example, Doron Ovits, a confident 39-year-old with sunglasses pushed over his forehead and a deep tan, runs a 150-acre tomato and pepper empire in the Negev Desert of Israel. His plants, grown in greenhouses with elaborate trellises and then exported to Europe, are irrigated with treated sewer water that he says is so pure he has to add minerals back. The water is pumped through drip irrigation lines covered tightly with black plastic to prevent evaporation.

A pumping station outside each greenhouse is equipped with a computer that tracks how much water and fertilizer is used; Mr. Ovits keeps tabs from his desktop computer.

“With drip irrigation, you save money. It’s more precise,” he said. “You can’t run it like a peasant, a farmer. You have to run it like a businessman.”

Israel is as obsessed with water as Mr. Ovits is. It was there, in the 1950s, that an engineer invented modern drip irrigation, which saves water and fertilizer by feeding it, drop by drop, to a plant’s roots. Since then, Israel has become the world’s leader in maximizing agricultural output per drop of water, and many believe that it serves as a viable model for other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Already, Tunisia has reinvigorated its agriculture sector by adopting some of the desert farming advances pioneered in Israel, and Egypt’s new desert farms now grow mostly water-sipping plants with drip irrigation.

The Israeli government strictly regulates how much water farmers can use and requires many of them to irrigate with treated sewer water, pumped to farms in purple pipes. It has also begun using a desalination plant to cleanse brackish water for irrigation.

“In the future, another 200 million cubic meters of marginal water are to be recycled, in addition to promoting the establishment of desalination plants,” Shalom Simhon, Israel’s agriculture minister, wrote via e-mail.

Still, four years of drought have created what Mr. Simhon calls “a deep water crisis,” forcing the country to cut farmers’ quotas.

Egypt, at least, has the Nile. Under a 1959 treaty, the country is entitled to a disproportionate share of the river’s water, a point that rankles some of its neighbors. It has built canals to bring Nile water to the Sinai Desert, to desert lands between Cairo and Alexandria and to the vast emptiness of Toshka.

For Saad Nassar, a top adviser in Egypt’s ministry of agriculture and land reclamation, the country has little choice but to try to make the desert bloom, even in unlikely places like Toshka, which it says will eventually succeed: all of Egypt’s farms and population are now crowded onto just 4 percent of its land.

“We don’t have the luxury of choosing this or that,” he said. “We have to work on every acre that is cultivatable.”

Egypt is establishing an estimated 200,000 acres of farmland in the desert each year, even as it loses 60,000 acres of its best farmland to urbanization, said Richard Tutwiler, director of the Desert Development Center at the American University in Cairo. “It’s sand,” he said, referring to the reclaimed desert land. “It’s not the world’s most fertile soil.”

As Cairo’s population has grown — to an estimated 12 million today — hastily constructed apartment buildings have sprouted among the fields. “They sow apartment buildings instead of wheat,” said Gideon Kruseman, a Dutch agriculture economist working with the government to improve farming there.

For more than 5,000 years, farmers have worked the land along the Nile and in the Nile Delta, the lotus-shaped plain north of Cairo where centuries of accumulated silt have produced a deep, rich layer of topsoil. They have endured drought, flood, locust and pestilence.

Now the scourge is development. For farmers like Magdy Abdel-Rahman, the new buildings not only ruin the rural tranquillity of his ancient fields, with the constant hammering and commotion, but they also reduce his yields.

“The shade is not good for the plants,” said Mr. Abdel-Rahman, who farms corn and clover on a half-acre lot 20 miles from downtown Cairo.

Five miles farther out, Talaat Mohamed’s three acres of sweet potatoes are squeezed between four-, five- and seven-story apartment buildings like a jigsaw puzzle. A building recently went up a dozen feet from his field, with steel bars jutting from the foundation and piles of gravel alongside.

Mr. Mohamed, 60, routinely turns down eager land speculators because, he says, he loves working outdoors. But he complains about all the time spent removing urban detritus from his field, which on this day included a maroon brassiere, soda cans, food wrappers, wads of indistinguishable plastic, a Signal toothpaste box and a black flip-flop.

“The Egyptians invented farming,” he said, peering despairingly at a landscape of electric wires and buildings, traffic and trash. “And this is what it has become.”




How dry is it in Catalonia? You’re looking at the bottom of the Sau reservoir near Barcelona. The ruins of the medieval stone church were deeply submerged when the reservoir was first filled in the 1960’s and did not reappear until late last fall. This photo was taken in early April. (Gustau Nacarino/Reuters)

Water Woes From Florida to Spain to Orbit
NYTIMES
By Patrick J. Lyons
May 16, 2008,  12:24 pm

You need water more urgently than anything other than breathable air, yet the difficulty of securing a clean, reliable supply seems to be making headlines all over, and not just in desert areas or in the ravaged wake of disasters like the Sichuan earthquake or the Irrawaddy Delta cyclone.
 
The latest this morning from all-too-soggy South Florida is that the place has not shaken its Ancient Mariner problem after all. (You know: “…nor any drop to drink….”) Temporary restrictions on water use that were lifted in April will have to go back on, and may become permanent, The Miami Herald reports,because Lake Okeechobee, the heart of the region’s supply, started dropping precipitously again as soon as they were relaxed. The water level in the lake is now only six inches above historic lows, The Herald says, and the start of the rainy season is still a couple of weeks away.
Relief is even further off for the drought-seared Catalonia region of Spain, where the city of Barcelona has had to resort to chartering ships to bring in fresh water from abroad; the first one reached the city on Thursday. Barring miraculously atypical weather, the ships will have to keep coming until October, the city says.

The drought afflicting Australia has gone on for seven years now, and the government has moved far past short-term contingencies like tanker ships; its new $13 billion national water plan includes building desalination plants and buying back irrigation-water rights from farmers in the vast drainage area of the Darling and Murray rivers, which, like the Colorado, are so heavily tapped now that they would silt up and peter out before reaching the sea if not for constant dredging. About $1 billion of the money, the government said Wednesday, will go to help cities turn waste water, salt water and storm runoff into potable supplies.
Recycling sewage into drinking water is a concept that has long been more feasible technically than politically.

No matter what the scientific tests say about the purity of the results, the very idea just skeeves a lot of people. Out in Los Angeles, though, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa broke with the nose-wrinklers on Thursday, proposing a package of supply and conservation measures that conspicuously included plans for reprocessing sewage effluent into drinking water, Randall Archibold reports in The New York Times today. The mayor opposed the idea a decade ago on safety grounds, but he says the technology has improved since then and the city needs the water too badly to forego it.

Neighboring Orange County has been doing it since November, and San Diego and San Jose are wrestling with it too, as are a host of other cities around the country. NASA said this week that a system for recycling astronauts’ urine in space will be flown up to the International Space Station on the next shuttle mission.

Back on earth, many municipalities are taking it one step less far, recycling sewage into “gray water” that can be used for industrial or irrigation purposes, to spare the limited supplies of the purer stuff for uses that really require it, like drinking, cooking and bathing.

That irrigation (rather than, say, long showers or half-filled dishwashers) is the principal culprit in many an urban and suburban water drama can be seen in how, when supplies start to get tight, the first thing officials do is tell people to cut back on how often they water their lawns. In South Florida, the limit looks headed back to two days a week, The Herald says; in Barcelona, forget it completely.


Warming Leads To 'Africanization' Of Spain 
DAY
By Elisabeth Rosenthal , New York Times News Service    
Published on 6/3/2008 


Fortuna, Spain - Lush fields of lettuce and hothouses of tomatoes line the roads. Verdant new developments of plush pastel vacation homes beckon buyers from Britain and Germany. Golf courses - dozens of them, all recently built - give way to the beach. At last, this hardscrabble corner of southeast Spain is thriving.

There is only one problem with the picture of bounty: This province, Murcia, is running out of water. Spurred on by global warming and poorly planned development, swaths of southeast Spain are steadily turning into desert.

Murcia, traditionally a poor farming region, has undergone a resort-building boom in recent years, even as many of its farmers have switched to more thirsty crops, encouraged by water transfer plans, which have become increasingly untenable. The combination has put new pressures on the land and its dwindling supply of water.

This year, farmers are fighting developers over water rights. They are fighting one another over who gets to water their crops. They are buying and selling water like gold on a burgeoning black market, mostly from illegal wells.

Southern Spain has long been plagued by cyclical drought, but the current crisis, scientists say, probably reflects a more permanent climate change brought on by global warming. And it is a harbinger of a new kind of conflict.

The battles of yesterday were fought over land. Those of the present center on oil. But those of the future - a future made hotter and drier by climate change in much of the world - seem likely to focus on water, they say.

Dozens of world leaders will be meeting at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome starting Tuesday to address a global food crisis caused part by water shortages in Africa, Australia and here in southern Spain.

Climate change means that creeping deserts may eventually drive 135 mill88ion people off their land, the United Nations estimates. Most of them are in the developing world. But Southern Europe is experiencing the problem now, its climate drying to the point that it is becoming more like Africa's, scientists say.

For Murcia, the water crisis has come already. And its arrival has been accelerated by developers and farmers who have hewed to water-hungry ventures highly unsuited to a drier, warmer climate: crops like lettuce that need ample irrigation, resorts that promise a swimming pool in the backyard, acres of freshly sodded golf courses that sop up millions of gallons a day.


FROM THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, January 29, 2008:

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) — Warnings of a water and food crisis seemed incongruous among the lavish hospitality of Davos this year, but the danger was stressed repeatedly to the assembled world elite. 
Scarcity of water was named by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a top priority at the World Economic Forum and he warned that conflicts lay ahead if the provision of the vital resource could not be assured.

"Population growth will make the problem worse. So will climate change. As the global economy grows, so will its thirst. Many more conflicts lie just over the horizon," he said in a speech on Thursday.

Ban reminded the gathering of the world's wealthy powerbrokers in Davos that the conflict in Darfur in Sudan was touched off by a drought. "Too often where we need water, we find guns," he said.

Rising food prices are also causing problems in emerging countries, with demonstrations and violence witnessed in a host of countries including Mexico and African nations Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal.  Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath warned earlier in the week that prices of some foodstuffs had doubled in his country at a time when 25 million people in India were estimated to have moved from taking one to two meals a day.

"What does 25 million people moving from one to two meals a day do for prices?" he asked a room of corporate bigwigs and policymakers who pay thousands of dollars to attend the exclusive get-together here.

Referring to the challenge of providing food at affordable prices, he said: "Next year in Davos we'll be discussing this..."






Fees and Anger Rise in California Water War
NYTIMES
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and FELICITY BARRINGER
April 23, 2012

SAN DIEGO — There are accusations of conspiracies, illegal secret meetings and double-dealing. Embarrassing documents and e-mails have been posted on an official Web site emblazoned with the words “Fact vs. Fiction.” Animosities have grown so deep that the players have resorted to exchanging lengthy, caustic letters, packed with charges of lying and distortion.

And it is all about water.

Water is a perennial source of conflict and anxiety throughout the arid West, but it has a particular resonance here in the deserts of Southern California. This is a place where major thoroughfares are named after water engineers (Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles) and literary essays (“Holy Water” by Joan Didion, for instance) and films (“Chinatown”) have been devoted to its power and mystique.

Yet in the nearly 80 years since the Arizona National Guard was called out to defend state waters against dam-building Californians, there has been little to rival the feud now under way between San Diego’s water agency and the consortium of municipalities that provides water to 19 million customers in Southern California. This contentious and convoluted battle seems more akin to a tough political campaign than a fight between bureaucrats, albeit one with costly consequences.

At issue is San Diego’s longstanding contention that it has been bullied by a gang of its neighbors in the consortium, able by virtue of their number to force the county to pay exorbitant fees for water. The consortium two weeks ago imposed two back-to-back 5 percent annual water rate increases on San Diego — scaled down, after strong protests, from what were originally set to be back-to-back increases of 7.5 percent a year.

The battle is being fought in the courts — a judge in San Francisco is struggling to untangle a welter of conflicting claims from the two sides — but also on the Internet. San Diego officials have created a sleek Web site to carry their argument to the public, posting 500 pages of documents they obtained through public records requests to discredit the other side.

And they might have struck oil, as it were, unearthing documents and e-mails replete with references to the “anti-San Diego coalition” and “a Secret Society,” and no matter that the purported conspirators contend that they were just being jocular.

“There is a lot of frustration,” said Jerry Sanders, the mayor of San Diego, who has watched from the sidelines as the independent San Diego Water Authority waged its wars. “It’s been building over the years.”

Asked about the tactics, Mr. Sanders demurred. “Whether they are effective or not, I’ll leave that to other people to judge.”

If nothing else, the fight is an entertaining diversion from the kind of bland bureaucratic infighting that usually characterizes these kinds of disputes.

Dennis A. Cushman, the assistant general manager of the San Diego authority, said it posted the documents — and asked a judge to force the disclosure of a ream of other private e-mails and documents — so beleaguered water consumers “could see how the business of water in California is actually done.”

“We had suspicions about what was going on,” Mr. Cushman said. “We were shocked by the depth and scope and the level of sophistication of what was going on.”

“It’s not done in public,” he said. “It’s done out of public view. The meetings aren’t open. They are designed to expressly exclude the agency they are discriminating against.”

Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the regional water consortium, described the charges as “nonsense,” saying that the meetings that Mr. Cushman had deemed illegal did not fall under the state’s open meetings laws. He described the campaign against his organization — the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, also known by the acronym M.W.D. — as unlike anything he had seen.

“It sounds like a political campaign, and hiring political consultants to run it for them strikes me as a new level of activity I haven’t seen before in public service,” he said.

“It just seems to me to have a different tenor and tone than before,” he said. “The idea of bandying about secret-society issues, talking about ‘the truth about M.W.D.’ strikes me as unprofessional and does a disservice to the public.”

Kevin P. Hunt, the general manager of the water district of Orange County, said he was taken aback at the suggestion that some kind of plot was afoot. “It would be funny if it hadn’t created such a furor,” he said. “It was a bunch of guys and gals getting together to do their work. It’s all in the spin you put on it — calling it a ‘secret society’ and making it sound like a cabal. I didn’t even know what a cabal was.”

The case ultimately will be determined in a state court in San Francisco. At issue is how much the district should be charging San Diego to use the district’s pipes to transport water the county bought elsewhere. (San Diego officials have made a concerted effort to expand the sources of their water over the years — including a long-contested, substantial transfer of Colorado River water from inland farmers — so they are not as reliant on the district as they once were).

San Diego has four seats on the district’s 37-member board, and there is little incentive for other communities to entertain San Diego’s argument: When San Diego pays less, everyone else pays more.

Mr. Cushman said that the district had come to view San Diego as “its golden egg.”

Still, even supporters of San Diego’s actions suggest that all accusations may ultimately be little more than a sideshow.

“It just doesn’t feel right,” said Lani Lutar, the president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. “They are already pursuing the lawsuit. Those are ratepayer dollars being spent and all of the advertising. Is that necessary? The lawsuit is going to resolve the matter. The P.R. stunt has taken it too far.”

San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the country, and this part of California gets 10 inches of rain a year, on average. And this city is at the end of two long water transport systems.

“We’ve always had end-of-pipeline paranoia,” said Lester Snow, the executive director of the California Water Foundation and a former head of both the San Diego and state water agencies. “It is often just physical — the pipeline crosses earthquake faults and anything that happens bad anywhere can affect us.”

The long history has left San Diego with what seems to be a permanent sense of grievance. But Mr. Snow said that this represented a new level of animosity. “The current dispute has gone way beyond a rate-increase dispute,” he said.





A Super Study on water use (quantity as well as quality) in Las Vegas (2007-2008) here!  Great graphics! .

Troubled waters: Las Vegas’ perpetual quest to quench itself
Las Vegas SUN
By Richard N. Velotta
Monday 1 August 2011 3 a.m.

In Las Vegas’ quest to quench its thirst, the city has a champion in Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Pat Mulroy. And she’s worried about our water, we all should be, too. As you watch the Colorado River blasting through Glenwood Canyon, just east of Glenwood Springs, 150 miles west of Denver, it’s hard to imagine water-shortage problems downstream. For about a half mile, the river churns violently over boulders and downed tree branches. It’s a whitewater enthusiast’s dream—or nightmare. The violence of the flow makes it far too dangerous for rafters and kayakers. You’re more likely to see kayakers a few miles downstream where the river mellows. There, the lazy flow produces a waterway that’s within 15 feet of the Denver-to-Salt Lake City rail line and next to busy Interstate 70.

It’s all the byproduct of one of the greatest spring runoff seasons the Colorado has ever seen.

Upriver, there’s more evidence. The Dillon Reservoir, one of the most accessible storage lakes of suburban Denver’s water supply, is filled to the brim.

It’s still taking in so much snowmelt that the water pours into a spillway that diverts to the Blue River, eventually finding its way to the mighty Colorado. At Arapahoe Basin, a ski resort on the Continental Divide, there was so much snow that people were still snowboarding on the Fourth of July—crazy, right? And eventually, all that water flows downstream to quench the collective thirst of the states of the Colorado River Basin, which includes the part of Nevada we call home. Several major rivers flow into the Colorado—the Green, the San Juan, the Virgin and the Gila among them—and the seven basin states siphon water out to meet their needs for drinking water and irrigating crops. The two largest reservoirs along the Colorado, Lake Powell and, right on our doorstep, Lake Mead, are gradually filling.

So with all this good news about near-record snowpack and raging rivers in the high country rapidly refilling lakes, we can all breathe a little sigh of relief, right? In a word: No.

Pat Mulroy, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Las Vegas Water District, has no intention of letting off the gas on a major construction project to build a third intake to draw water from Lake Mead, a controversial proposal to pipe water from eastern Nevada’s Snake Valley area. Or, for that matter, an in-your-face conservation message that includes images of little old ladies kneeing negligent water wasters in the groin. Mulroy, who has lived in Southern Nevada for more than three decades and was the primary architect of the water authority that began operations in 1991, is not only pressing to complete the third intake on schedule—completion is expected by 2014—she’s also negotiating to transport groundwater from beneath central- and eastern-Nevada ranch land, much to the chagrin of those residents. She’s continuing to press a massive public works proposal that would divert water from flood-stricken regions of the Midwest to replenish aquifers and could be used by people currently drawing water from the Colorado River Basin.

“Our sole objective is to protect this community,” Mulroy says at the authority’s headquarters, a campus that’s also home to the Springs Preserve, a celebration of the early inhabitants of the Las Vegas Valley and their environment, and to a groundwater wellfield. Mulroy explains that the authority wants to be prepared for any scary eventuality, and the decade-old drought is Exhibit A for the need to plan for the worst.

“It has to be in our planning,” Mulroy says. “In the ’90s, we were told this drought wasn’t possible. We have to remember that this one year doesn’t solve the Colorado River problem. It took us 11 years to get as low as we got last year. We’re coming back slightly, but we’re still going to have an enormous bathtub ring around Lake Mead. If next year is another dry year, we’re right back where we started.”

Considering 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s drinking water comes from Lake Mead, developing a third intake to the lake is a great drought insurance policy, she says. Intake No. 3 is the biggest public works program on the authority’s agenda. Approved by the authority’s board of directors in 2005, the $700 million project will enable the authority to continue to pump water if the lake level ever plunges to 1,000 feet above sea level.

Currently, it’s at 1,105.8 feet and the lake’s capacity is at 1,219.6 feet. At its low point during the drought, in November 2010, it was at 1,081.9 feet.

Although the lake level is going up, the authority won’t shut down the third straw project because it would cost too much to close it down and restart it.

“We’re past the point of no return,” Mulroy says. “It’s like the decision MGM Resorts had to make when they were considering shutting down construction on CityCenter. Just to shut it (the third straw) down would cost $100 million and we’d have a $42 million boring machine just sitting there. Why do you stop now? The cost to demobilize is so enormous that it’s simply not cost effective to do it.”

Mulroy also says the authority won’t back off on plans to apply for groundwater rights in northern Clark, Lincoln and White Pine counties. As part of those plans, the authority is attempting to get rights-of-way from the Bureau of Land Management to build and operate production and treatment facilities, as well as a pipeline.

“The only reason we’re pursuing the instate project is to preserve an option in case things get so bad there’s no other alternative,” Mulroy says. “We have to have it as an option, ready to go to construction if, and when, conditions dictate.”

Mulroy says the instate groundwater plan is a water portfolio diversification strategy. The authority once looked at desalting ocean water from Southern California and pumping it to Nevada.

“We penciled it out,” Mulroy says, “but the power bill alone for pumping the water from the ocean to Southern Nevada would be about $400 million, which would just about take our annual budget.”

Not surprisingly, ranchers who live in the affected areas of Snake Valley northeast of Las Vegas aren’t happy about the authority’s plans to drill for groundwater. They fear the pumping would deplete the water table and turn the valley into a wasteland. Residents of the area who share the aquifer with neighbors across the state’s border to the east have enlisted the help of Utah legislators in an attempt to block the authority’s efforts. It could take years for the issue to be resolved.

Another strategy the authority will continue is its heavy emphasis on conservation—a plan that has yielded amazing results.

“The community has, quite frankly, blown me away in their response to conservation,” Mulroy says. “We’ve reduced our demand for water to 229,000 acre feet, down from 325,000 acre feet. We’ve cut our water usage by one-third.”

The authority says Southern Nevada’s annual water consumption decreased by nearly 32 billion gallons between 2002 and 2010, despite a population increase of 420,000 during that time period.

The savings came as a result of an aggressive public awareness campaign that includes turf limitations, rebate programs for converting grassy areas to desert landscaping, seasonal watering restrictions and instruction on tracking down hidden leaks, in-home water audits and retrofitting faucets and shower heads. Watering restrictions have been punctuated by in-your-face public service announcements and television commercials.

It all raises the question: How much of the decline in water use is conservation, and how much of it is the effects of the down economy?

“We can’t disaggregate at this point, but I know that conservation is an enormous part of it,” Mulroy says. “How much of the conservation it is, we’ll know when the economy starts coming back.”

Over the years, the authority has teamed with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada, the state’s advocate in the Bureau of Reclamation’s management of the Colorado River Basin.

The seven states of the river basin agreed in 1921 to allocate the resources of the Colorado. The end result was the Colorado River Compact of 1922. The document allocates 7.5 million acre-feet for the lower basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada. According to the agreement, 4.4 million acre-feet per year goes to California, 2.8 million to Arizona and 300,000 to Nevada. Despite shifting demographics, the allocation has never changed, but commission officials say representatives of each state are collegial and agreed long ago that it would be better for everybody to resolve disputes among themselves, rather than take them to court.

“They’ve found, especially in the last decade, that working collectively is better than working adversarily,” says McClain Peterson, manager of the natural resources group for Colorado River Commission of Nevada.

Peterson says during the drought years, the states came up with creative ideas to make sure everybody gets their fair share of water. In 2007, they came up with coordinated operating guidelines for the management of Lakes Powell and Mead to balance water storage.

Basin states have also developed water-banking agreements among themselves so that states like Nevada can send water downstream when supplies are high and not release as much later when supplies are down. California, Arizona and Nevada also worked toward the development and management of the Warren Brock Reservoir in California’s Imperial Valley, which is in capacity testing. That reservoir can capture water released from Hoover Dam when conditions change rapidly.

It takes about three days for water released from Lake Mead to reach the Imperial Valley. If a sudden downpour eliminates the need for the release while it’s in transit, the Warren Brock Reservoir can capture the release for future use instead of allowing it to go downstream to Mexico, which could use the water without counting it toward its legislated allotment.

If innovative thinking is the key to solving Southern Nevada’s complex water puzzle, then Mulroy has a doozy of an idea. She suggests a massive public works project that not only could help relieve Colorado River Basin users but help solve the recurring problem of flooding in the Midwest.

“To me, it’s just counterintuitive,” she says. “One man’s flood-control project is another man’s water supply. You’ve got to remember that Hoover Dam was built as a flood-control project. That was its fundamental purpose: To prevent further flooding of the Imperial Valley down in Southern California.”

The idea is to build diversion dams for flood control and move the water to aquifers beneath the farmlands of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. If Colorado farmers don’t have to use Colorado River Basin water for their crops, it makes more water available to downstream users, like us.

“It makes no difference to the corn and the alfalfa whether it gets Colorado River water or Mississippi water or Missouri water,” she says.

“You could improve the transportation and cargo transports on the Mississippi River, which have been severely impaired this year by flood conditions, and at the same time provide some security for those communities that have lost everything by pulling some of that water off and moving it. My friends in New Orleans say, ‘Take it tomorrow, please!’ Their wetlands are being destroyed. It’s more water than the system down there can handle. Let’s use it. Let’s recharge the Ogalala aquifer, let’s replace some Colorado River users. Let them use some of this and leave the other water in the Colorado River for those states that are west of the Colorado. Let’s start thinking about this the way we thought about our national highway system.”

If a Missouri-Mississippi flood control project were implemented, Mulroy says she’d stop pressing the Snake Valley project. After this year’s floods in North Dakota, she says, people are starting to talk about it again.

“Every flood makes people start thinking about it,” she says. “And from an economic standpoint… building the national highway network was an enormous economic boon to the country, post-Depression. You build this kind of network and you could effectuate a number of jobs in the short term and provide economic opportunities.

“The instate project wouldn’t be needed because at that point what you’ve done is securitize the Colorado River. You’ve made the Colorado River much more resilient and you’ve augmented the entire river system to the benefit of seven states and two countries.”

Now that’s something to wet our whistle.


Agency opposes water recycling at homes
Return less to Lake Mead, it says, and we’ll get less out
Las Vegas Sun
By Alexandra Berzon
Mon, Apr 13, 2009 (2 a.m.)

In Las Vegas, water used indoors travels a continuous loop.


From homes, water flows to a treatment plant, which sends it back to Lake Mead. Then an equivalent amount is pumped from the lake, and the 12-mile journey to treatment plants and Southern Nevada’s taps begins again.  The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants that system preserved because it allows Las Vegas to consume more than its annual 300,000-acre-foot allotment from the Colorado River. Water returned to the lake converts to credits that the Water Authority can use to pump more water from the lake.

But some homeowners, builders and environmentalists watching this continuous loop wonder: Why not shorten the distance water travels by allowing homes to keep and recycle the water they use — what’s known as graywater? Water from sinks, showers and washing machines could be reused to more efficiently and cheaply water lawns or other landscaping, they say.  Building codes in Clark County don’t allow household graywater recycling.

The water authority, after studying the idea, decided this year to make it official policy to oppose it.

The debate over how and where water recycling should occur, in a region with a diminishing supply, flared up last week in Carson City during debate on Assembly Bill 363, which would allow household graywater recycling. Beyond questions of energy efficiency and water conservation, the debate came down to the concept of property: Once a household uses water, who owns it?

“People paid for that water and I think they should be allowed to do with it what they wish,” said Launce Rake, spokesman for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Rake said he supports on-site graywater recycling because it would cut down on considerable energy use for treatment plants and pumping, and save the water that gets lost in the journey to and from Lake Mead. It’s wasteful to use drinking water — a precious resource — on lawns and landscaping, he said.  Such views are part of a nationwide trend toward graywater use.

“Potable water is really highly valued water,” said Peter Gleik, president of the Pacific Institute. “You’ve spent a lot of money cleaning it up and you should use it for high-value things.”

Such a view also has a populist appeal.

As an experiment a couple of years ago, Southwest Homes President Todd Slusher reworked the pipes beneath a trailer in Pahrump and rerouted the graywater tank so that it watered a 2,000-square-foot plot of plants and grass. The trailer’s resident rarely had to pick up a hose.  Slusher figured a similar system could be a popular feature on the new homes he builds. An investment of a couple of hundred dollars could cut water bills by 60 percent to 70 percent, he estimated. It would also protect home buyers if water were to become a lot more expensive than it is now, the homebuilder said.

But the water authority contends that’s the problem. What’s the incentive for residents to curb consumption if their water bills drop? water officials argue. Even more water would be drawn from Lake Mead, without returning.

“It doesn’t help us stretch the existing allocation out of the river,” water authority spokesman Bronson Mack said.

In addition, the cleanliness of graywater is questionable, he said.

“The quality of graywater is very, very, very low,” Mack said. “Just look at the back of your shampoo bottle or what’s in laundry detergent.”

Graywater recycling proponents insist the water has been proven to be safe.  Graywater recycling is popular in some places that don’t have municipal recycling systems for potable water. Tucson, for example, will by 2010 require that new developments be plumbed to allow graywater use.

And the water authority supports residential graywater recycling in rural areas outside of Las Vegas where water doesn’t flow back to Lake Mead.  Policy in Las Vegas has moved in the opposite direction. In December the water authority board voted to approve a recycling policy that prohibits graywater systems in the Las Vegas Valley. That proposal was recommended by the Clean Water Coalition after the organization studied graywater policy in other states.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani’s vote against that policy was her last as a member of the water authority board. She then promoted a state bill to allow graywater recycling.  Drafted by Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, AB363 requires the state Health Board to adopt regulations allowing residential graywater recycling.  Testifying last Monday in Carson City before the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee, Giunchigliani said the bill would save water and energy, and create green jobs.

Environmentalists testified in support of the bill. Water authority representatives opposed it.

The bill wasn’t voted out of committee last week, a deadline for bills to advance, and the idea appears unlikely to proceed.  At the hearing, Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, asked Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, a co-sponsor of the bill, if the use of graywater would decrease water returned to Lake Mead.  Care replied that he was interested in helping Las Vegans reduce their water bills, which is their right.



Is world's wettest place getting drier? 
By Alastair Lawson
BBC News, Meghalaya 
21 July 2008

The town of Cherrapunjee, in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya, is reputed to be the wettest place in the world.

But there are signs that its weather patterns may be being hit by global climate change.

"Not without reason has Cherrapunjee achieved fame as being the place with the heaviest rainfall on earth," wrote German missionary Christopher Becker more than 100 years ago.

"One must experience it to have an idea of the immense quantity of rain which comes down from the skies, at times day and night without a stop. It is enough to go a few steps from the house to be drenched from head to foot. An umbrella serves no purpose."


Late monsoon

But according to Cherrapunjee's most renowned weather-watcher, Denis Rayen, the climate of the town is changing fast.  

"In the days of the Raj, the British used to come here to the the Khasi hills to escape the heat - we are 4,823ft (1,484m) above sea level," he says.

"But today I am not sure they would be able to do that, because it is getting a lot hotter here and the monsoon is arriving later."

Official figures compiled by the Indian Meteorological Office in the nearby city of Guwahati back up Mr Rayen's arguments that north-east India as a whole is getting hotter.

"The average temperature for Guwahati at this time of the year should be around 32C - but this year the temperature has been as high as 38C," said weather expert Harendas Das.

"It's too early yet to say precisely what is happening, but the evidence suggests that higher temperatures mean the whole area is experiencing less rainfall."

Figures compiled by Mr Rayen show that Cherrapunjee may struggle to maintain its position as the world's wettest place. Rainfall figures for 2005 and 2006 were below average.

"The average rainfall at Cherrapunjee during the last 35 years has been 11,952mm (470ins) and there were several years when it was substantially more than this," he says.

In 1974 it rained 24,555mm (967ins) - which Mr Rayen says is "the highest recorded rainfall in any one place in any one year".

On 16 June, 1995, it rained a record-breaking 1,563mm (61.53ins) over a 24 hour period.

"But in 2005 and 2006 our yearly rainfall was well below the average. We could well be witnessing a severe change in our climatic conditions because of global warming."

While the annual rainfall for 2007 was back to normal, Mr Rayen argues that the "pattern of delivery" of Cherrapunjee's rainfall is changing. In previous years, 98% of the area's rainfall was between March to October.

This year the rains did not arrive until June, and the reason for that he says could be man-made.

"During the last few years, I have seen the forests vanish in front of my eyes," said Mr Rayen.

"A combination of global warming and intensive deforestation is taking a heavy toll in this, one of the most beautiful areas of India.

"Because it now rains heavily over a shorter time period, crops are destroyed and there is intensive soil erosion. The lack of woodland means that the water flows faster from Meghalaya into the Bangladesh delta, only 400km (249 miles) away."

Mr Das says that parts of Meghalaya are "at risk from desertification" because of a combination of increasing urbanisation and industrialisation on the one hand and deforestation and shortages of ground water on the other.

"Because the capacity of the soil to hold water is lost, there is a real possibility that the wettest place in the earth may soon be facing water shortages," he says. 


In drought, water war in Calif. fought underground
DAY
By GOSIA WOZNIACKA, Associated Press
Sep 7, 7:12 PM EDT

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- For decades, this city in California's agricultural heartland relied exclusively on cheap, plentiful groundwater and pumped increasingly larger amounts from an aquifer as its population grew.  But eventually, the water table dropped by more than 100 feet, causing some of Fresno's wells to cave in and others to slow to a trickle. The cost of replacing those wells and extracting groundwater ballooned by 400 percent.

"We became the largest energy demand in the region - $11 million a year for electricity just to run the pumps," said Martin Querin, manager of the city's water division, which supplies 550,000 residents.

Fresno is just one player in a water war that's quietly being fought underground. Throughout the Central Valley - one of the world's most productive agricultural regions - farmers, residents and cities have seen their wells go dry. Those who can afford it have drilled deeper wells that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Experts say water supplies have been strained by growing city populations and massive tracts of newly planted orchards and vineyards.

"Water levels are dropping dramatically in some areas. It's never been this bad," said Steve Arthur, vice president of Arthur and Orum Well Drilling.

The drops create concerns that groundwater is becoming unaffordable and that overuse could cause serious land subsidence, which can damage infrastructure such as roads.

"We can't keep over-pumping groundwater," said Peter Gleick, president of Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Oakland. "It's simply unsustainable and not economically viable in the long run."

California has few rules governing groundwater. While some basins limit pumping through management plans or court rulings, anyone can build a well and pump unlimited amounts in most of the state.  The U.S. Geological Survey has found in much of California - the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast and Southern California - more water has historically been pulled out of the ground than was replenished.  Climate change and droughts are putting additional pressure on aquifers, said USGS hydrologist Claudia C. Faunt. There also is a recent shift among California farmers to replace row crops such as tomatoes with orchards, which can't be scaled back in dry times.

On the west side of the Valley, massive farms whose surface water deliveries have been severely curtailed to protect fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are increasingly relying on groundwater and digging deeper wells.  Farmers have also seen wells go dry east of Modesto in the Sierra foothills, where they've planted hundreds of thousands of acres of new orchards. They've been forced to drill new wells as deep as 800 feet.

"There are more straws taking water out of the basin," said Al Rossini, a third generation farmer from Oakdale.

And whoever has the longest straw - and the deepest pockets - is winning.  Some small farmers can't afford to drill deeper. Rural residents who rely on smaller wells for drinking, cooking and bathing are also feeling the brunt.

"Our well went dry, and we had to redrill," said Gerald Vieira, a retired Denair resident. Vieira paid $13,000 this summer for a new well - drilled 200 feet deeper than it had been before. A dozen of his neighbors also bought new wells.

Some farmers and urban districts are now trying to find solutions to prevent groundwater overuse.  Fresno plans to use a combination of surface, ground and treated wastewater and to greatly expand the city's program to replenish groundwater, and farmers in the Sierra foothills also plan to dig recharging ponds.  Meanwhile, many farmers and other water users say the state must build more storage, especially groundwater banks, to hold water during wet years.

"Water is like blood to the body," said Rossini. "Without water, California won't be the same state."




Slide show

California Water Law Curtailing New Development
NYTIMES
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
Published: June 7, 2008

PERRIS, Calif. — As California faces one of its worst droughts in two decades, building projects are being curtailed for the first time under state law by the inability of developers to find long-term water supplies.

Water authorities and other government agencies scattered throughout the state, including here in sprawling Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, have begun denying, delaying or challenging authorization for dozens of housing tracts and other developments under a state law that requires a 20-year water supply as a condition for building.

California officials suggested that the actions were only the beginning, and they worry about the impact on a state that has grown into an economic powerhouse over the last several decades.

The state law was enacted in 2001, but until statewide water shortages, it had not been invoked to hold up projects.

While previous droughts and supply problems have led to severe water cutbacks and rationing, water officials said the outright refusal to sign off on projects over water scarcity had until now been virtually unheard of on a statewide scale.

“Businesses are telling us that they can’t get things done because of water,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said in a telephone interview.

On Wednesday, Mr. Schwarzenegger declared an official statewide drought, the first such designation since 1991. As the governor was making his drought announcement, the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County — one of the fastest-growing counties in the state in recent years — gave a provisional nod to nine projects that it had held up for months because of water concerns. The approval came with the caveat that the water district could revisit its decision, and only after adjustments had been made to the plans to reduce water demand.

“The statement that we’re making is that this isn’t business as usual,” said Randy A. Record, a water district board member, at the meeting here in Perris.

Shawn Jenkins, a developer who had two projects caught up in the delays, said he was accustomed to piles of paperwork and reams of red tape in getting projects approved. But he was not prepared to have the water district hold up the projects he was planning. He changed the projects’ landscaping, to make it less water dependent, as the board pondered their fate.

“I think this is a warning for everyone,” Mr. Jenkins said.

Also in Riverside County, a superior court judge recently stopped a 1,500-home development project, citing, among others things, a failure to provide substantial evidence of adequate water supply.

In San Luis Obispo County, north of Los Angeles, the City of Pismo Beach was recently denied the right to annex unincorporated land to build a large multipurpose project because, “the city didn’t have enough water to adequately serve the development,” said Paul Hood, the executive officer of the commission that approves the annexations and incorporations of cities.

In agriculturally rich Kern County, north of Los Angeles, at least three developers scrapped plans recently to apply for permits, realizing water was going to be an issue. An official from the county’s planning department said the developers were the first ever in the county to be stymied by water concerns. Large-scale housing developments in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties have met a similar fate, officials in those counties said.

Throughout the state, other projects have been suspended or are being revised to accommodate water shortages, and water authorities and cities have increasingly begun to consider holding off on “will-serve” letters — promises to developers to provide water — for new projects.

“The water in our state is not sufficient to add more demand,” said Lester Snow, the director of the California Department of Water Resources. “And that now means that some large development can’t go forward. If we don’t make changes with water, we are going to have a major economic problem in this state.”

The words “crisis” and “water” have gone together in this state since the 49ers traded flecks of gold for food. But several factors have combined to make the current water crisis more acute than those of recent years.



An eight-year drought in the Colorado River basin has greatly impinged on water supply to Southern California. Of the roughly 1.25 million acre-feet of water that the region normally imports from that river toward the 4.5 million acre-feet it uses each year, 500,000 has been lost to drought, said Jeff Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Even more significant, a judge in federal district court last year issued a curtailment in pumping from the California Delta — where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers meet and provide water to roughly 25 million Californians — to protect a species of endangered smelt that were becoming trapped in the pumps. Those reductions, from December to June, cut back the state’s water reserves this winter by about one third, according to a consortium of state water boards.

The smelt problem was a powerful indicator of the environmental fallout from the delta’s water system, which was constructed over 50 years ago for a far smaller population.

“We have bad hydrology, compromised infrastructure and our management tools are broken,” said Timothy Quinn, the executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. “All that paints a fairly grim picture for Californians trying to manage water in the 21st century.”

The 2001 state water law, which took effect in 2002, requires developers to prove that new projects have a plan for providing at least 20 years’ worth of water before local water authorities can sign off on them. With the recent problems, more and more local governments are unable to simply approve projects.

“Water is one of our most difficult issues when we are evaluating large-scale projects,” said Lorelei Oviatt, the division chief for the Kern County Planning Department. In cases where developers are unable to present a long-term water plan, “then certainly I can’t recommend they approve” those developments, Ms. Oviatt said.

As the denied building permits indicate, the lack of sufficient water sources could become a serious threat to economic development in California, where the population in 2020 is projected to reach roughly 45 million people, economists say, from its current 38 million. In the end, as water becomes increasingly scarce, its price will have to rise, bringing with it a host of economic consequences, the economists said.

“Water has been seriously under-priced in California,” said Edward E. Leamer, a professor at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles. “When you ration it or increase its price, it will have an impact on economic growth.”

The water authority for Southern California recently issued a rate increase of 14.3 percent, when including surcharges, which was the highest rate increase in the last 15 years. In Northern California, rates in Marin County increased recently by nearly 10 percent, in part to pay an 11 percent increase in the cost of water bought from neighboring Sonoma County.

Interest groups that oppose development have found that raising water issues is among the many bats in their bags available to beat back projects they find distasteful.

“Certainly from Newhall Ranch’s standpoint, water was a key point that our opponents were focused on,” said Marlee Lauffer, a spokeswoman for Newhall Ranch, a large-scale residential development in the works is Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles. The City of Los Angeles, among others, has opposed the development.

To get around the problem, Newhall Ranch’s planners decided to forgo water supplied through the state and turn instead to supplies from an extensive water reclamation plant as well as water bought privately. Other developers, like Mr. Jenkins, have changed their landscaping plans to reduce water needs and planned for low-flow plumbing to placate water boards.

Mr. Schwarzenegger sees addressing the state’s water problem as one of his key goals, and he is hoping against the odds to get a proposed $11.9 billion bond for water management investments through the Legislature and before voters in November.

The plans calls for water conservation and quality improvement programs, as well as a resource management plan for the delta. Among its most controversial components is $3.5 billion earmarked for new water storage, something that environmentalists have vehemently opposed, in part because they find dams and storage facilities environmentally unsound and not cost effective.

The critics also point out that the state’s agriculture industry, which uses far more water than urban areas, is being asked to contribute little to conservation under the governor’s plans. As more building projects are derailed by water requirements, the pressure on farmers to share more of their water is expected to grow.


Schwarzenegger declares drought in California 
DAY
By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer 
Posted on Jun 5, 2008? 6:52 AM EDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a statewide drought after two years of below-average rainfall, low snowmelt runoff and a court-ordered restriction on water transfers.

Schwarzenegger warned that residents and water managers must immediately cut their water use or face the possibility of rationing next year if there is another dry winter.

"We must recognize the severity of the crisis that we face," the Republican governor said Wednesday at a news conference.

He signed an executive order directing the state's response to unusually dry conditions that are damaging crops, harming water quality and causing extreme fire danger across California. Many communities already require water conservation or rationing.

The statewide drought declaration is the first since 1991, when Gov. Pete Wilson acted in the fifth year of a drought that lasted into 1992.

Schwarzenegger directed the state Department of Water Resources to help speed water transfers to areas with the worst shortages, to help local water districts with conservation efforts and to assist farmers suffering losses from the drought.

California depends on winter snow accumulating in the Sierra Nevada for much of its summer water supply. But March, April and May were the driest winter months on record, forcing water use cutbacks by farmers and urban residents alike.

The Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nev., reported that precipitation in California during that period was 1.2 inches, or 22 percent of the average for the 114 years since record-keeping began.

Snow measurements last month found that the Sierra held just 69 percent of an average winter. Runoff into California rivers was at 55 percent of a normal year. The state's major reservoirs are at 50 percent to 63 percent of their capacity at a time when they ideally would be full.

Conditions could be even worse next year if there is another dry winter, Water Resources Director Lester Snow said.

"We need at least above normal in terms of our snowpack, and then we're still going to be tight," Snow said. "The idea is to put programs in place now to soften the impact in 2008 and to prepare for a potential third year of drought in 2009."

California's population has mushroomed since the last drought, while the water supply has dwindled, he said.

An eight-year drought in the Southwest means California can't depend on Colorado River water to help supply Southern California. And a federal judge's order last year requires that more Northern California water be left in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to aid declining fish populations.

"We're suffering the perfect storm, if you will," said Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. "The purpose of the governor's declaration is to send a wake-up call."

California has never resorted to statewide rationing during droughts, Quinn said.

Worst-hit so far is the San Joaquin Valley, which could soon merit an emergency declaration because of crop damage, Snow said.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said this week it would cut water supplied to Central Valley farms to 40 percent of the amount growers contract for with the federal government. Water deliveries from state reservoirs could drop to 35 percent, Snow said.

That could mean hundreds of acres of crops won't be planted this year, according to the giant Westlands Water District, which supplies growers who produce about $1 billion worth of crops annually.

The state is exploring ways to send scarce water to farmers for the growing season now while cutting deliveries later, Snow said.

"Giving water to the farmers in September doesn't help the fact that they need it on their tomato crop in June," Snow said. "It's not just the tomato crop that you lose. It's the employment that's associated with the tomato crop."

Schwarzenegger used the drought declaration to push a nearly $12 billion bond to fund delta, river and groundwater improvements, conservation and recycling efforts, and reservoirs. Legislators have not agreed to his plan.

"It is easy for Sacramento to put off dealing with the water infrastructure," Schwarzenegger said. "But as we now see, there is no more time to waste, because nothing is more vital than to protect our economy, to protect our environment, and to protect of quality of life."



Western States Agree to Water-Sharing Pact
NYTIMES
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
Published: December 10, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9 — Facing the worst drought in a century and the prospect that climate change could yield long-term changes on the Colorado River, the lifeline for several Western states, federal officials have reached a new pact with the states on how to allocate water if the river runs short.

State and federal officials praised the agreement as a landmark akin to the Colorado River Compact of 1922, which first outlined how much water the seven states served by the river — California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming — would receive annually.

The new accord, outlined by federal officials in a telephone news conference Friday, spells out how three downriver states — California, Arizona and Nevada — will share the impact of water shortages. It puts in place new measures to encourage conservation and manage the two primary reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which have gone from nearly full to just about half-empty since 1999.

The accord is expected to forestall litigation that was likely to have arisen as fast-growing states jockey for the best way to keep the water flowing to their residents and businesses in increasingly dry times. It would be in effect through 2026 and could be revised during that time.

Some environmental groups said the pact did not go far enough to encourage conservation and discourage growth. But federal officials said they took the best of several proposals by the states, environmental organizations and others and emphasized the importance of all seven states agreeing with the result.

“I think for the first time in 85 years we are on the same page,” said Herb Guenther, the director of water resources in Arizona, which had initially balked at some terms of the agreement and was threatening legal action over it.

But with water levels in reservoirs dropping, a record eight-year drought, the prospect that climate change could bring more dry spells and new scientific analyses suggesting the West could be drier than has been traditionally believed, the states were pushed to act.

These factors “forced the issue to the head and we decided to do something unique and different,” Mr. Guenther said.

The agreement, the product of two-and-a-half years of negotiation and study, establishes criteria for the Interior Department to declare a shortage on the river, which would occur when the system is unable to produce the 7.5 million acre-feet of water, enough to supply 15 million homes for a year, that the three downriver states are entitled to.

Water deliveries would be decreased based on how far water levels drop in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the river system, predicts about a 5 percent chance of such a shortage being declared by 2010, but it all depends on how much the states are able to conserve and, of course, the weather.

The probability projection “does not imply it can’t happen,” said Terry Fulp, a bureau official involved in managing the river.

Water districts, anticipating an eventual cutback of Colorado River water, have been storing large amounts of water and the accord encourages them to continue to do so.

The pact, which Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is expected to sign Thursday, includes a bundle of agreements with the states. One is approval for water managers in the Las Vegas area, which gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado, to get a greater share of Lake Mead water in exchange for financing a reservoir in California to capture large amounts of river water destined for Mexico but beyond that country’s entitlement by treaty.

“It’s hugely important for us,” said Scott Huntley, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “This really does provide the bridge for us to get into the next decade.”

But John Weisheit, conservation director for Living Rivers, a Utah-based environmental group, said the agreement sends the message to the states that growth trumps sensible water management. Mr. Weisheit said the conservation should have been emphasized and the government’s computer modeling was overly optimistic about future water supply.

“There is more water on paper than there actually is on the landscape,” he said. “They are looking at this in a way that will allow more development even though the water is not theoretically there.”



From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking:
This Orange County, Calif., Water District plant will purify sewer water to feed drinking water supplies, but not directly to the tap.
NYTIMES
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
Published: November 27, 2007

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. — It used to be so final: flush the toilet, and waste be gone.  After a process of microfiltration, chemicals, ultraviolet light and reverse osmosis, the treated sewer water will be injected underground to refill aquifers.
 
But on Nov. 30, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water — after a hard scrubbing with filters, screens, chemicals and ultraviolet light and the passage of time underground.

On that Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world’s largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth.

The process, called by proponents “indirect potable water reuse” and “toilet to tap” by the wary, is getting a close look in several cities.

The San Diego City Council approved a pilot plan in October to bolster a drinking water reservoir with recycled sewer water. The mayor vetoed the proposal as costly and unlikely to win public acceptance, but the Council will consider overriding it in early December.

Water officials in the San Jose area announced a study of the issue in September, water managers in South Florida approved a plan in November calling for abundant use of recycled wastewater in the coming years in part to help restock drinking water supplies, and planners in Texas are giving it serious consideration.

“These types of projects you will see springing up all over the place where there are severe water shortages,” said Michael R. Markus, the general manager of the Orange County district, whose plant, which will process 70 million gallons a day, has already been visited by water managers from across the globe.

The finished product, which district managers say exceeds drinking water standards, will not flow directly into kitchen and bathroom taps; state regulations forbid that.

Instead it will be injected underground, with half of it helping to form a barrier against seawater intruding on groundwater sources and the other half gradually filtering into aquifers that supply 2.3 million people, about three-quarters of the county. The recycling project will produce much more potable water and at a higher quality than did the mid-1970s-era plant it replaces.

The Groundwater Replenishment System, as the $481 million plant here is known, is a labyrinth of tubing and tanks that sucks in treated sewer water the color of dark beer from a sanitation plant next door, and first runs it through microfilters to remove solids. The water then undergoes reverse osmosis, forcing it through thin, porous membranes at high pressure, before it is further cleansed with peroxide and ultraviolet light to break down any remaining pharmaceuticals and carcinogens.

The result, Mr. Markus said, “is as pure as distilled water” and about the same cost as buying water from wholesalers.

Recycled water, also called reclaimed or gray water, has been used for decades in agriculture, landscaping and by industrial plants.

And for years, treated sewage, known as effluent, has been discharged into oceans and rivers, including the Mississippi and the Colorado, which supply drinking water for millions.

But only about a dozen water agencies in the United States, and several more abroad, recycle treated sewage to replenish drinking water supplies, though none here steer the water directly into household taps. They typically spray or inject the water into the ground and allow it to percolate down to aquifers.

Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, among the most arid places in Africa, is believed to be the only place in the world that practices “direct potable reuse” on a large-scale, with recycled water going directly into the tap water distribution system, said James Crook, a water industry consultant who has studied the issue.

The projects are costly and often face health concerns from opponents.

Such was the case on Nov. 6 in Tucson, where a wide-ranging ballot measure that would have barred the city from using purified water in drinking water supplies failed overwhelmingly. The water department there said it had no such plans but the idea has been discussed in the past.

John Kromko, a former Arizona state legislator who advocated for the prohibition, said he was skeptical about claims that the recycling process cleanses all contaminants from the water and he suggested that Tucson limit growth rather than find new ways to feed it.

“We really don’t know how safe it is,” he said. “And if we controlled growth we would never have to worry about drinking it.”

Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, in vetoing the City Council plan there, said it “is not a silver bullet for the region’s water needs” and the public has never taken to the idea in the 15 years it has been discussed off and on.

Although originally estimated at $10 million for the pilot study in San Diego, water department officials said the figure would be refined, and the total cost of the project might be hundreds of millions of dollars. Although the Council wants to offset the cost with government grants and other sources, Mr. Sanders predicted it would add to already escalating water bills.

“It is one of the most expensive kinds of water you can create,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the mayor. “It is a large investment for a very small return.”

San Diego, which imports about 85 percent of its water because of a lack of aquifers, asked residents this year to curtail water use.

Here in Orange County, the project, a collaboration between the water and sanitation districts, has not faced serious opposition, in part because of a public awareness and marketing campaign.

Early on, officials secured the backing of environmental groups, elected leaders and civic groups, helped in part by the fact the project eliminated the need for the sanitation district to build a new pipe spewing effluent into the ocean.

Orange County began purifying sewer water in 1976 with its Water Factory 21, which dispensed the cleansed water into the ground to protect groundwater from encroaching seawater.

That plant has been replaced by the new one, with more advanced technology, and is intended to cope with not only current water needs but also expectations that the county’s population will grow by 500,000 by 2020.

Still, said Stephen Coonan, a water industry consultant in Texas, such projects proceed slowly.

“Nobody is jumping out to do it,” he said. “They want to make sure the science is where it should be. I think the public is accepting we are investigating it.”




Bottled water: Really better?
Everett Herald, WA
By David Chircop
Published: Monday, August 20, 2007

Everett sells millions of gallons of water every year to companies that pour it into bottles and jugs, slap on brand names, and then sell it to consumers.

So it didn't surprise Mark Christensen to learn that PepsiCo's Aquafina - the nation's most popular bottled water brand - gets its water from the tap.

For two decades, the owner of A & W Bottling Co., located along the bustling industrial belt west of Paine Field, has filtered and sold tens of millions of gallons of water and soft drinks using city tap water.

Three other companies in Snohomish County also bottle water from municipal sources, according to the Washington Department of Agriculture, which regulates the bottled-water industry in the state.

A & W Bottling and other companies do additional filtering and treatment before selling the water.

"It finally caught up with them," said Christensen about Aquafina. Labels on his Cascade Ice brand say it is made of purified water from "A Municipal Source," in accordance with Food and Drug Administration labeling rules. Aquafina had been using "P.W.S.," which stands for "public water source."

That change has ignited a debate on whether bottled water is actually worth the extra price to consumers and the environment.

It has also highlighted an open secret. Much of the bottled water sold in stores, 25 percent to 40 percent, according to government and industry sources, is tap water - sometimes further treated, sometimes not.

"The propaganda of the industry leads people to believe they shouldn't drink tap water, but I don't do that," said Jon Gergen, owner of Crystal Mountain Pure Drinking Water in Arlington.

His company sells three- and five-gallon jugs of water to about 250 residential and commercial customers in Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom and San Juan counties. He buys the water from Marysville, which gets its water from Edward Springs, the Stillaguamish River and Spada Lake. Gergen's company removes chlorine from the water and disinfects it before shipping it out.

Many of his customers order his water because their homes are on wells that pump out foul-tasting water with heavy minerals or they are at construction sites without access to running water.

Not all are so tolerant of the tap. Dan Harbeck, owner of Get Distilled Water Services Inc. of Mukilteo, says tap water is often unhealthy. His company's marketing material says water-borne-diseases pollute tap water, and minerals in tap water are harmful.

The company uses Everett tap water but filters out various compounds and disinfects the water using either ultraviolet light or ozone.

Steve Hatch, who owns Allwater Corporation in Lynnwood, a fourth business that bottles tap water in the county, declined an interview request.

Government health experts question claims that tap water is unhealthy.

While tap water does contain impurities, it's strictly monitored for safety, said Leslie Gates, a manager with the state Department of Health's office of drinking water. She added that both tap water and bottled water contain impurities.

City water providers are required to monitor water quality around the clock to make sure that it is safe to drink. If it becomes unsafe, they must shut down the water system.

"We have some of the best water in the world and people pay taxes, water fees and bills to make it that way," she said. "We want people to understand they can trust their tap water. It's as clean as bottled water, it's frequently tested for safety and it's a heck of a lot cheaper."

And most public water providers have to publish annual consumer confidence reports. Those reports include where water comes from, how it's treated and the results of water quality tests. They also list concentrations of potentially harmful substances, such as lead and arsenic.

Water bottlers are subject to regular government health inspections but aren't required to publish specific sources of their water, although the FDA has talked about the possibility of similar disclosure requirements.

"It's really not clear to consumers where their (bottled) water is coming from and what the quality of the water is," said Deborah Lapidus, a national organizer with Corporate Accountability International, which is taking credit for forcing Aquafina to label that its water is coming from public water sources.

The Aquafina revelation also coincides with a backlash against the bottled-water industry. Environmentalists say that transporting, refrigerating and manufacturing the plastic bottles is damaging the environment and that the discarded bottles are clogging landfills.

San Francisco and Los Angeles have banned spending city money to buy bottled water and some high-end restaurants in New York and elsewhere are dumping bottled water and opening the tap.

While the debate over bottled water continues to boil, there is one thing most agree with in Snohomish County: Everett's water, which comes from rain and snowmelt from the Cascade Mountains, is considered pristine.

The city's water is considered the "gold standard" by some bottlers, said Tom Thetford, Everett's utilities manager. He oversees the city's water system, which serves about 80 percent of the county, including people in Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Lynnwood and Marysville.

Christensen, the owner of A & W, whose family has been bottling beverages in Everett since 1962, agreed.

In 2006, his company purchased more than 7.6 million gallons of the water, according to public records.

"We're fortunate," he said, standing by a conveyer that moved an endless row of plastic bottles into a contraption that placed labels on them. "We've got good water to begin with."





Late for School After a Long Journey for a Drop to Drink

By ADAM NOSSITER, NYTIMES
May 21, 2012

ZINDER, Niger — Wars keep children out of school. So does sickness. But in Niger, a sun-baked land where drought occurs with alarming frequency, a major impediment to education is thirst and the long trek required to quench it.

The school day had already begun on a recent morning as a procession of small children on donkeys, school-age all, made their way over a sandy field, joining other youths gathered with their animals around deep holes in the ground.

As low rainfall has dried up the countryside, the search for water has become ever more difficult. The job of securing water frequently falls to Niger’s children, some as young as 10 or 11. They ride donkeyback as much as five miles out of town, with giant plastic jerrycans, half as high as the children themselves, strapped to the animals’ sides. The more they work, the emptier become the classrooms of eastern Niger.

“It is my parents who send me,” said Sani Abdu, 11, a boy in a blue T-shirt, squinting through one eye in the bright morning sun. Swelling had closed the other. It would be 10 a.m. before he made it from the muddy wells in Baban Tapki, at the edge of Zinder, to his rural school, two hours late. He envied those not burdened with “water duty,” or “corvée de l’eau,” as it is referred to here — the trek, and then the lowering of bowls or buckets, by rope, into the deep wells. It is laborious and treacherous, with children sometimes losing their footing and falling in.

“The others are more advanced than me, but I have to get the water,” Sani said of his classmates who escape the chore and get to school on time.

Niger is next to last on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, and is subject to droughts and near famines. In the last decade alone, there have been three serious food shortages related to low rainfall and insect attacks, and this year perhaps a third of the population is facing hunger.

A rainfall deficit last year — the short rainy season ended early, and rains were rare and irregular — left the land without the surface ponds that many of Niger’s 17 million people, most subsistence farmers, depend on. Nearly a third of the population now faces a food deficit. But more immediately, the people must have water, and with good wells ever harder to find, the quest for it falls to the next generation.

In rural districts around Zinder, Niger’s second-largest city, officials say, a third to one-half of students have abandoned classrooms, which are no more than simple huts of dried reeds planted in the sand. “It’s the water that is keeping them out of school,” said Salissou Sahirou, an education official in Baban Tapki.

“All the schools here are paralyzed,” said Sylvain Musafiri, a top United Nations official in Zinder.

In makeshift classrooms sticking up from desert scrub in Garin Gona, nearly all the children raised their hands when their teacher asked how many had come in late because of water duty.

Oumaraou Lawali, 11, drawing his eyes wide open, explained how he had awakened at 4:30 a.m. to walk three miles for water; later, after class, he would repeat the trip. “In the evenings, I’m tired,” he said. “Worn out.”

Often, said the teacher, Maman Boukari, the children fall asleep before his eyes.

The search for water is a constant, in good years and bad, since 80 percent of the population has no running water. But this year, “it’s worse, and it’s not getting any better,” said another teacher, Barki Hima. “It’s the sun, always the sun. This year, really, it’s difficult. The children are coming in two hours late.”

In Zinder, a dusty metropolis of around 350,000 near the Nigerian border, there were riots this spring over the lack of water. Angry residents have burned tires and erected barricades of rocks in the sandy streets of this historic city, once the capital of both a powerful Hausa sultanate and later of the French colony that became Niger. In late March, the offices of the state water company were attacked.

At street corners with public fountains, the water is bottled and sold, causing the fountains to run as dry as everyplace else. On a recent afternoon, men and boys were collecting water from a filthy rainwater lake at the edge of the city.

Everybody worries about the lack of water, but it is the children, principally girls, tasked with searching for it. The poorest of the poor send their children out. So do their leaders, who are thirsty too and desperate every day for water.

“It’s my children who get the water,” said Titi Malla Adamou, the village chief of Tsoungounia, where camels bearing jerrycans roam the village’s edge amid packs of donkeys ridden by children. “This is a problem for everybody, from the smallest to the biggest.”

Few question this system in a country with one of the world’s highest birthrates and one of the fastest rates of population growth, where women have around seven children on average.

With so much scarcity in Niger, two-thirds of which sits in the Sahara, there is an abundance of children. “I had to send my own children out to look for water,” said Ado Louché, a top school official for the Zinder region.

With more and more children on the hunt for water, their futures grow more precarious. After one year of schooling in a village outside Zinder, Zuero Mutari, 13, had to quit nine years ago during a previous drought to fetch water. School “interests me, because I see others go,” said Zuero, who drives a cattle cart loaded with jerrycans and spends her day hunting for water.

At the Baban Tapki wells, three little girls, sisters, said none of them had ever attended school. “We are signed up, but we don’t go,” said Maria Bugagi, 12, next to her younger sisters Balik and Rahila. “We have to look for water.” The long searches for water bring on the fear of sexual assault.

“To have water, we must mobilize our children,” Yunfa Adaga said, lamenting the practice. “Our children are late for school. So, they are not learning.” Mr. Adaga used to manage a public fountain in Zinder. But it has run dry.

“We live and sleep with this problem of water,” he said. “We are racked by it.”



Over 99 pct in Southern Sudan vote for secession
YAHOO
By MAGGIE FICK, Associated Press


JUBA, Sudan – Southern Sudan's referendum commission said Sunday that more than 99 percent of voters in the south opted to secede from the country's north in a vote held earlier this month.  The announcement drew cheers from a crowd of thousands that gathered in Juba, the dusty capital of what may become the world's newest country.

The weeklong vote, held in early January and widely praised for being peaceful and for meeting international standards, was a condition of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a north-south civil war that lasted two decades and killed 2 million people.  The head of the commission's southern bureau, Justice Chan Reec Madut, said Sunday that voter turnout in the 10 states in the south was also 99 percent. He said only some 16,000 voters in the south chose to remain united with northern Sudan, while 3.7 million chose to separate.

In northern Sudan, 58 percent of voters chose secession, said Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, chairman of the referendum commission. He said some 60 percent of eligible voters participated.

Southern Sudanese voters in eight foreign countries overwhelmingly supported secession, he said, with 99 percent support for secession among the 97 percent of voters who participated.  In the United States, he said, more than 99 percent of the 8,500 southerners who cast votes chose secession.

"These results lead to a change of situation," said Khalil after he read the results. "That change relates only to the constitutional form of relationship between north and south. North and south are drawn together in indissoluble geographic and historic bonds."

Referendum commission officials did not announce an overall percentage total for all votes cast. The commission's website said Sunday that 98.8 percent of voters chose secession, but noted that the figure may change.  If the process stays on track, Southern Sudan will become the world's newest country in July. Border demarcation, oil rights and the status of the contested region of Abyei still have to be negotiated.

Southern Sudanese president Salva Kiir also gave remarks at the results ceremony, speaking mostly in Arabic.

"We are still moving forward," Kiir said in English. "The struggle continues."

Kiir thanked Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for his leadership and for "making peace possible."

Kiir said the south will declare independence on July 9, but not before.

"We are not going to put down the flag of Sudan until July 9," he said.

The event marked the release of the first official primary results from the self-determination vote. The results will not be finalized until February.

But Sunday's announcement did not stop people from celebrating.

"I'm very happy because today we have determined our destiny," said Anna Kaku, 42, who dressed up for the ceremony and joined the spontaneous dancing that followed Kiir's address. "We fought for so many years, and now we have done this peacefully."


Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 15:30 UK

US offers 'incentives' to Sudan

US President Barack Obama has offered Sudan "incentives" if it acts to improve situation on the ground, unveiling a new policy on Khartoum.

But Mr Obama threatened "increased pressure" if Sudan failed to make progress towards achieving peace.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US remained focused on reversing the "ongoing dire human consequences of genocide" in the Darfur region.

The UN estimates that 300,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003.

In a statement, Mr Obama said: "If the government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives.

"If it does not, there will be increased pressures imposed by the United States and the international community."

The US has sanctions in place against Khartoum, and President Omar al-Bashir is wanted on an international arrest warrant for crimes against humanity in Darfur.

On Monday, Mr Obama said he would renew tough measures against Khartoum later this week.



Study Finds a Pattern of Severe Droughts in Africa

NYTIMES
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
April 17, 2009

For at least 3,000 years, a regular drumbeat of potent droughts, far longer and more severe than any experienced recently, have seared a belt of sub-Saharan Africa that is now home to tens of millions of the world’s poorest people, climate researchers reported in a new study.

That sobering finding, published in the April 17th issue of Science, emerged from the first study of year-by-year climate conditions in the region over the millenniums, based on layered mud and dead trees in a crater lake in Ghana. Although the evidence was drawn from a single water body, Lake Bosumtwi, the researchers said there was evidence that the drought patterns etched in the lakebed extended across a broad swath of West Africa.

More such mega-droughts are inevitable, the research team that studied the patterns said, although there is no way to predict when the next may unfold.

The lead authors of the report, Timothy M. Shanahan of the University of Texas at Austin and Jonathan T. Overpeck of the University of Arizona, warned that global warming resulting from human-generated greenhouse gases was likely to exacerbate those droughts and that there was an urgent need to bolster the resilience of African countries in harm’s way.  The study said that some of the past major droughts appeared to be linked to a distinctive pattern of increases and reductions in surface temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean, known as the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.

Typically over the last 3,000 years, a severe drought developed every 30 to 65 years, the researchers said. But several centuries-long droughts in the climate record, the most recent persisting from 1400 to around 1750, are harder to explain, they said.  While that extraordinary drought occurred during a cool spell in the Northern Hemisphere called the “little ice age,” other extreme droughts appear to have hit West Africa at points when the world was relatively warm over all.

In interviews, a range of independent experts on African climate and poverty said that the study underlined that it was important for developed countries to curb greenhouse gases to keep climate shifts around the globe in as manageable a range as possible. But many stressed that the most urgent concern arising from the study was for the welfare of tens of millions of people with little capacity to endure today’s vagaries in rainfall, let alone epic dry spells.

“It’s a critical report,” said Kevin Watkins, the director of the Human Development Report office of the United Nations.

“Many of the 390 million people in Africa living on less than $1.25 a day are smallholder farmers that depend on two things: rain and land,” he said. “Even small climate blips such as a delay in rains, a modest shortening of the drought cycle, can have catastrophic effects.”

Given the sub-Saharan region’s persistent vulnerability, Mr. Watkins added, the new findings and the prospect of further global warming could be “early warning signs for an unprecedented and catastrophic reversal in human development.”

To gather the data, the research team extracted cylinders of mud from the lakebed. The bottom of the circular lake, formed when a crater was blasted into the region one million years ago, has unusually fine layers of mud. Each layer represents a year’s accumulation, yielding a trove of chemical and physical clues to past temperatures and other conditions.  The team also studied wood samples from ancient dead trees that still poke from the lake’s surface, in areas that were exposed and forested during dry spells several centuries ago but are now under 45 to 60 feet of water.

Recent climate data from the lake analysis were compared with weather records from across the region, providing confidence that the lake record was a reasonable reflection of conditions elsewhere, according to the paper.

Richard Seager, a climate scientist at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University who has studied past extreme droughts in other dry areas, including the American Southwest, described the century-scale droughts revealed in the lake mud as “startling.”

He said the study showed that much more work needed to be done to refine computer simulations of climate so they could replicate such phenomena. Only then is there a chance that scientists can move toward predicting climate shifts reliably in particular regions and within specific time frames, he noted.

“The most pressing problem we now face is to predict climate in the near-term future — years to decades,” Dr. Seager said.

Mr. Watkins of the United Nations said that the urgency was multiplied by high population growth rates in West Africa. Just in the last century, when its populations were far smaller, periodic droughts in sub-Saharan African claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

In an interview, Dr. Shanahan of the University of Texas said that the growing population density around Lake Bosumtwi itself, which is 20 miles southeast of Ghana’s second-biggest city, Kumasi, suggested the potential human impact of a seismic drought. (From 1972 to 1974, when Ethiopia’s population was around 31 million people, one million died in a severe drought, for example. Today Ethiopia has more than 70 million residents.)

“There was nothing between the lake and Kumasi when we first went there,” he said. “But three years later it’s a traffic jam.”


Water find 'may end Darfur war'
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK

A huge underground lake has been found in Sudan's Darfur region, scientists say, which they believe could help end the conflict in the arid region.
Some 1,000 wells will be drilled in the region, with the agreement of Sudan's government, the Boston University researchers say.

Analysts say competition for resources between Darfur's Arab nomads and black African farmers is behind the conflict.

More than 200,000 Darfuris have died and 2m fled their homes since 2003.

"Much of the unrest in Darfur and the misery is due to water shortages," said geologist Farouk El-Baz, director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing, according to the AP news agency.

"Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, will help the peace process, and provides the necessary resources for the much needed economic development in Darfur," he said.

'Significant'

The team used radar data to find the ancient lake, which was 30,750 km2 - the size of Lake Erie in North America - the 10th largest lake in the world.  A similar discovery was made in Sudan's neighbour Egypt, where wells have been used to irrigate 150,000 acres of farmland, the researchers say.

The discovery is "very significant", Hafiz Muhamad from the lobby group Justice Africa told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"The root cause of the conflict is resources - drought and desertification in North Darfur."

He says this led the Arab nomads to move into South Darfur, where they came into conflict with black African farmers.  He also said that it has long been known there was water in the area but the government had not paid for it to be exploited.  French researcher Alain Gachet has also been using satellite images to look for new water resources in Darfur.

Last month, the UN Environmental Programme (Unep) said there was little prospect of peace in Darfur unless the issues of environmental destruction were addressed. It said deserts had increased by an average of 100 km in the last 40 years, while almost 12% of forest cover had been lost in 15 years.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said climate change was partly to blame for the conflict in Darfur in an editorial for US newspaper The Washington Post in June.


Radar finds water for Sudan refugees 
By Martin Plaut, BBC News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July 2005, 03:24 GMT 04:24 UK 

A new technique using satellite radar images may hold the key to providing the water needs of 200,000 Sudanese living in sweltering heat in camps along the Chadian border.  

Alain Gachet, a geologist who spent most of his working life exploring for oil and mining companies, has developed a system that uses satellites orbiting 800km above the earth to search for water.

A good deal of geological exploration now uses the visual images produced by Nasa shuttle missions.

But this only sees the surface features of the earth. Dr Gachet uses two forms of radar to look deep below the soil.

"C Band Radar penetrates to a depth of 50cm, while L band goes down to a maximum of 20m," says Mr Gachet.

By using all three systems, it is possible to plot likely areas for drilling across vast areas. The watersheds in the region can be mapped, the slope of the land and - most importantly - the best sites for drilling.

Dramatic

This work is carried out from an office in the town of Tarascon, in the French region of Provence, where Mr Gachet works surrounded by the objects he has collected over many years of work in Africa.

The results have been dramatic.  Although Mr Gachet is cautious about his findings, he believes that this technique can double the success rate of water exploration in the region.  In March 2004 the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, asked Dr Gachet to carry out a pilot survey of eastern Chad.

"By July 2004 we supplied water target maps covering over 22,500 sq km of territory around the refugee camps of Oure Cassoni, Touloum and Iridimi," says Mr Gachet.


Potential

Comparing the optical and the radar images of the area around Iridimi refugee camp in Chad illustrates the potential.  The photograph shows the wadi, or dry river bed, on the left of the picture, with red dots showing dry wells and blue dots the productive wells.

Red lines are the fractures, which could hold water.  There is no real way of knowing why some wells provide water while others are dry. But the radar image is clear.

The black areas are dry, while the bright areas have the potential to hold water. 
The three red dots, indicating dry wells are in the black and therefore dry area, while the blue dots are on the bright areas or on a fracture.

'Unique technology'

Firoz Verjee, from Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University, says that while some of these applications have been developed in laboratory and scientific conditions, this is the first time Dr Gachet's approach has been applied in a large-scale, humanitarian crisis.

"This is a promising example of how space technologies can have a practical and critical role in humanitarian assistance and international development," said Mr Verjee.

Craig Sanders, head of operations in Chad and Darfur for the UNHCR, says the technique is unique: "It has saved us a lot of time and energy searching for water in an area twice the size of Switzerland.

"This tool allow us to focus on the best areas to drill. It is not a panacea - we still have to prove the results on the ground. But it has helped us a lot."

Rationing

Water is one of the UN's most serious problems in eastern Chad. The area is not only extremely remote it is also sandy, with almost no surface water.  The refugee camps are row after row of tents, pitched on flat, desolate areas.

Finding water is a top priority, but such is the difficulty that in some camps water supplies have had to be rationed. Instead of receiving 15 litres a day, each person is limited to just five litres for all the refugees needs, including washing, cooking and drinking.

With the heat rising to 50C, this is a tiny quantity. There have been intermittent clashes with local people over wood and water, which underlines the importance of finding fresh supplies.

When the conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region finally ends, the new wells discovered using these techniques will continue to serve the people of eastern Chad.

UNHCR's Jennifer Pagonis says Dr Gachet's study "paves the way towards sustainable water management in the region".

 

Reaping Consequences Of Technology

Hartford Courant
Robert Thorson
May 10, 2007

`The largest poisoning of a population in history." That's how an epidemiologist from the University of California, Berkeley, Alan Smith, describes arsenic groundwater contamination in India. In the Indian state of West Bengal, more than 40 million people live in the poison zone. In Bangladesh, more than 82 million are threatened.

Why? Because even the most promising environmental technologies often have unseen dark sides, to which governments are sluggish to respond. Here is a cautionary tale for those waiting for the magic bullets of better engineering to solve our environmental problems.

At center stage is the delta built by the Ganges River in India and the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh. The flat rich soils make agriculture productive, allowing the land to teem with people and farm animals. Before the mid-1960s, surface drinking water supplies such as streams, pools and open wells were often contaminated with water-borne pathogens, especially cholera. Thousands of people perished due to contaminated water, especially near Kolkata (Calcutta) where the concentration of poverty and population peaked.

Then, tube wells came to the rescue. These were little more than pipes with a porous tip that could be pressed, hammered and (or) augered into the sandy alluvium below the soil. A simple hand pump attached to the top of the pipe could raise an endless supply of germ-free groundwater. Problem solved.

But beware the Trojan horse of aqueous geochemistry. Inside the gift of germ-free groundwater was a high concentration of arsenic. It didn't kill with the quick, painful march of cholera, which would have made the poisoning easy to identify. Instead, it killed slowly, over years, usually by pre-conditioning the body for skin cancer.

Brown spots on the palms of the hands were often the first symptoms. These developed into calluses, which in turn developed into cancerous tissue leading to almost certain death. Though reliable epidemiological statistics aren't available, more than 14,000 cases of arsenicosis have been documented in the West Bengal alone. And the problem is spreading to other Indian states of Bihar, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh and throughout Bangaledesh.

There's nothing artificial about arsenic, which is element No.33 on the periodic table. The most common natural source of arsenic is from specks of metallic minerals, especially pyrite (FeS2; also known as "fools gold") and a related mineral called arsenopyrite (FeAsS; which could be mistaken for silver).

Both of these minerals are widely present in rocks made from abyssal marine sediments, which are abundant in the Himalayan Mountains. Hence, sediments eroded from the mountains and deposited as deltas contain countless specks of arsenic-bearing minerals. Slowly, and often with the aid of otherwise harmless bacteria, the metal dissolves invisibly into groundwater, frequently in dangerous concentrations. As with radon, it's a completely natural, yet very stealthy killer.

Like iron, arsenic travels readily in groundwater low in dissolved oxygen, but precipitates quickly from oxygenated surface water. Thus, the onset of arsenic poisoning coincided with the switch from oxygenated surface to un-oxygenated shallow groundwater sources, which traded one problem (cholera) for another (arsenicosis).

The link between tube wells, groundwater arsenic and skin problems was made convincingly in 1982 by Kshitish Saha, a dermatologist from the School of Tropical Medicine in Kolkata. Yet only in the past few years - and due largely to pressure from a crusading environmental scientist named Dipankar Chakraborti - has the Indian government finally begun to respond seriously ($500 million) with water treatment facilities and alternative sources of potable water.

This same script has been playing with different actors throughout the history of environmental policy. Technology viewed as a panacea for one problem creates another.

For example, the magic bullets of synthetic pesticides, nuclear power, cheap electricity from coal and antidepressant drugs have ricocheted back with species die-offs, radioactive anxiety, climate change and "happy" clams in drug-polluted water, respectively. Governments demur when new, unfunded problems appear on their watch, paying little attention until crusaders reach the ear of the electorate and become impossible to ignore. Bureaucracies then respond, but ponderously.

Meanwhile, people in India are dying, especially poor ones who can't afford the $1 a month hookup fee to public, arsenic-free water supplies. Can we put a price on a human life? Can we put a price on scientific ignorance?




In China, food scares put Mao's self-sufficiency goal at risk

Reuters
Wed, May 22 2013

By David Stanway and Niu Shuping

BEIJING (Reuters) - The discovery of dangerous levels of toxic cadmium in rice sold in the southern city of Guangzhou, the latest in a series of food scandals, has piled more pressure on China to clean up its food chain - possibly at the expense of Mao Zedong's cherished goal of self-sufficiency.

The ruling Communist Party has long staked its legitimacy on its ability to guarantee domestic staple food supplies, and has pledged to be at least 95 percent self-sufficient even as demand increases and the fastest and biggest urbanization process in history swallows up arable land.

That has led to a drive for quantity rather than quality - securing bumper harvests even from land contaminated by high levels of industrial waste and irrigated with water unfit for human consumption. "China has a big population and we used to face food shortages so the government has focused on quantity," said Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the state-backed Rural Development Institute of the China Academy of Social Sciences.

But food safety is becoming a bigger worry than food security after a series of scandals ranging from melamine-tainted milk to toxic heavy metals in rice and vegetables - and raising the share of imports may be the least-worst option.

The government, under increasing public pressure and facing anti-pollution protests, has promised to reverse some of the damage done to the environment by three decades of breakneck industrial expansion. But the scale of the problem is huge, especially as China looks to maintain its economic growth, find jobs for millions of new urban residents and ensure that just 9 percent of the world's land can feed a fifth of the global population.

"Quantity is still a precondition, but the government is now putting lots of effort into safety, and high-quality food imports will definitely increase," said Li. "People will realize there are more advantages than disadvantages regarding rising food imports and things are turning in that direction."

China is already the world's biggest soybean importer after making a strategic decision to outsource production, mostly to the United States. Some predict Beijing might have to do the same with other land-intensive farm products like beef - a move that would benefit big producers like Australia.

While it has vowed to remain self-sufficient in major staples, imports of rice and corn are expected to hit record levels this year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts. [ID:nUIDAGE93Y] Wheat imports, too, are seen at a near record.

LAND STRAINS

Inspectors in Guangzhou collected samples from 18 locations in the city and found cadmium levels in eight exceeded the national standard of 0.2 micrograms per kilogram, with some as high as 0.4 mg/kg, the local government said late last week.

Though experts insisted the health risks were very low and China's standards for rice, its staple food, are far higher than the rest of the world, authorities swiftly came under attack from users of China's popular microblogging service Weibo. Guangzhou was eventually compelled to reveal the tainted rice originated from central China's Hunan province, the country's biggest rice-producing region.

Hunan produces 30 million metric tonnes (33.06 million tons) of rice a year, 15 percent of the national crop, but it is also a big miner of nonferrous metals and toxic elements such as arsenic and cadmium. In many cases, wastewater run-offs from the mines are used directly to irrigate farmland, and tailings also tend to be badly managed.

Yin Lihui, an official with the provincial environmental protection administration, told state media that nonferrous metals mining in Hunan has caused heavy pollution in a region dubbed the "home of rice and fish".

"We call it 'integrated food and mining complexes' - basically food production and mining happening at the same place together, and this isn't rational," said Chen Nengchang, a researcher at the Guangdong Institute of Environmental and Soil Sciences who works on projects to rehabilitate land damaged by mining and heavy metal pollution. "The problem is that China has a big population and scarce land and soil, so we need to figure out another way of dealing with this."

To ensure food supplies, China has said it will limit the amount of land given to development. This will not only require the government to declare farmland out of bounds to industry, but also require ruined wasteland to be returned to life. Some researchers say as much as 70 percent of China's farmland is affected by pollution. After decades of contamination, land must be restored if it's to return to agriculture.

That takes time and money. High real estate prices in urban areas make it relatively easy to find the money to clean up land contaminated by chemical or heavy metal waste, but cleaning up the countryside is a greater challenge, said Richard Fuller, president of the Blacksmith Institute, a New York-based non-profit group that helps clean up polluted sites in China and elsewhere. "There are solutions for the majority of damaged sites but it's going to take time, technology and money."

RURAL POLLUTION

An official at China's environmental ministry said last month that a nationwide soil survey revealed traces of toxic heavy metals that were deposited as long as a century ago. It also revealed extensive use of banned pesticides - a sign that farmers, under pressure to produce more, may be as culpable as heavy industry.

"Sea and river pollution, heavy metal pollution of the soil and atmospheric pollution are very serious causes of environmental damage, but we should say that the biggest contributor is agriculture," said Wen Tiejun, dean at the School of Agricultural Economics at China's Renmin University.

Experts say 60 percent of the pesticides used on China's severely overworked farms are used improperly, further contaminating the food chain. Chinese farmers are also known to use arsenic in animal feed to help fight disease and speed growth, raising levels of the toxin in rice to dangerous levels in some regions.

With all this pressure on China's farmland and water supplies, senior agricultural officials are beginning to question the long-held goal of self-sufficiency.

"An appropriate increase in imports, if it doesn't affect our country's security, will be of benefit in easing domestic resource and environmental pressures," Chen Xiwen, head of the Communist Party's top working group on rural policy, told a forum this month.

"We do need to consider a more positive strategy towards going overseas, and make full use of the global market."

(Additional reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

© Thomson Reuters 2011.


300 Million Chinese Drink Unsafe Water
By ELAINE KURTENBACH, Associated Press Writer
December 29, 2005

SHANGHAI, China - About 300 million people living in China's vast countryside drink unsafe water tainted by chemicals and other contaminants, the government said Thursday in its latest acknowledgment of mounting risks from widespread pollution. The most common threat to water, after drought, is chemical pollutants and other harmful substances that contaminate drinking supplies for 190 million people, state media quoted E Jingping, a vice minister for water resources, as saying.

The report follows recent chemical spills in the northeast and south of the country that temporarily spoiled water supplies for millions of people and highlighted the severity of the pollution crisis.  The problems are not limited to the countryside. About 90 percent of China's cities have polluted ground water, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a recent nationwide survey.

In Shanghai, the country's biggest and wealthiest city, fetid, stinky canals bubble with pollution. The city's tap water, drawn partly from the heavily polluted Yangtze River, is yellowish and smelly, despite efforts to clean up local waterways.  Some 136 Chinese cities report severe water shortages, adding to the problem, Xinhua said.

"The top priority of our drought relief work is to ensure safe drinking water and safeguard people's health," Xinhua quoted E as telling a conference this week in the western city of Chengdu.  Heavily polluting paper and chemical plants have long been cited as key sources of degradation of most of China's waterways. In some areas, the problems have prompted riots by local residents outraged by chronic health problems and the destruction of their fields and fish farms.

Millions of other Chinese face risks from naturally occurring contaminants, such as excess fluorine, which affects water supplies for 63 million people, and arsenic, which taints water supplies for 2 million. Another 38 million have only brackish water to drink, the report said.  Earlier this week, authorities reported that toxins in the Bei River, in southern China's Guangdong province, had nearly returned to safe levels after a Dec. 15 spill of more than 1,000 tons of cadmium-laced water from a smelter in the city of Shaoguan.

Cities along the Bei temporarily stopped drawing water from the river and dams were closed to keep the spill away from the provincial capital, Guangzhou.

Residents in Russia's Far East have been warned against eating fish after a 110-mile-long slick from a chemical spill in northeastern China crossed the border earlier this week. That spill, from a Nov. 13 chemical plant explosion in the city of Jilin, forced Chinese cities along the Songhua River to shut off water for days.



Water fight: Blumenthal to challenge price hike
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Published May 22 2007


Three years after helping to defeat a rate increase sought by the Aquarion Water Co., Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is preparing to fight another proposed rate hike that would have Greenwich customers paying 24 percent more for water and Stamford residents shelling out 55 percent more.

"There will be undoubtedly arguments made by the company for a rate increase, but we'll give them critical scrutiny and certainly oppose this rate increase because its magnitude seems excessive," Blumenthal said. "A rate increase of this magnitude seems unjustifiable and insupportable."


Aquarion announced last week that it wants to increase its water service revenue by an average of 28 percent statewide to offset the more than $129 million the company said it has spent in Connecticut since 2004 to improve water quality and service delivery.

"These improvements in large part are required so that we can continue to meet the requirements that have been set forth by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act," spokeswoman Adrienne Vaughan said.

The proposed revenue increase requires the approval of the state Department of Public Utility Control, which also would scrutinize the proposed rate hikes for Aquarion's service area. In Connecticut, Aquarion serves 179,000 business, residential and other customers in three dozen municipalities.

Under the proposal, Aquarion would charge Greenwich and Darien residential customers 26 cents more for every 200 gallons of water they use a day, increasing the price to $1.34. In Stamford, residents, who now pay 65 cents for 200 gallons of water, would be charged $1.01. In Wilton, Westport and Weston, an extra 32 cents would bring the price to $1.36.


That means the monthly bill for an average family of four in Greenwich would increase from about $33 to $41. In Wilton, Westport and Weston the average bill would increase from $32 to $41 and in Stamford, it would go from $20 to $31 a month.

Greenwich's and Darien's fire departments also would be hit with a 7.5 percent increase to the rate they pay to rent and use water from fire hydrants. Stamford, Wilton, Westport and Wilton would escape those increase, primarily because cost-of-service studies show those areas already pay high hydrant rates, Vaughan said.

Reaction to the proposed rate hikes yesterday ranged from municipal leaders who believed Aquarion was due for some sort of increase to those who believed the proposed hikes were bloated.

"If I were to try to do that in property taxes or sewer taxes, I would be run out of town," Stamford Operations Director Ben Barnes said of Aquarion's proposed 55 percent increase for that city. "I honestly think it's ridiculous for them to ask for that."

Aquarion had tried to increase rates three years ago but were denied by DPUC, which ordered rates in Stamford to stay the same and lowered them for Greenwich and Darien residents. That means Stamford hasn't seen rates increase in eight years, those in Westport, Wilton and Weston haven't seen one in a decade and Greenwich and Darien have gone without one for seven years.

"You have to ask yourself what entity can you think of that hasn't had its cost go up in the last seven years," First Selectman Jim Lash said. "I don't know whether 24 percent after seven years is appropriate or not but I don't think zero would be the right number."

Assistant Fire Chief Peter Siecienski, who will head the department in August, said the town had put more money in the coming year's budget as part of a plan to rent more fire hydrants from Aquarion, but those plans may be in jeopardy if DPUC approves the rate hike.

"We're going to have to monitor and participate in that process," he said.

Darien Town Administrator John Crary said what is vexing about the proposal was that a few months ago when he was preparing the town's budget, he called Aquarion to ask whether the utility had plans to raise rates. That appears to have changed and if the utility gets its way, the hikes would take effect in December.

"A 7.5 increase would be noticeable," Crary said.




Aquarion works to build bridge over troubled waters
By Hoa Nguyen, Greenwich TIME Staff Writer
Article Launched: 04/17/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

Several months after encountering fierce neighborhood opposition to their ambitious expansion plans, Aquarion Water Co. officials are working to repair the discord with neighbors.

The water company, which expects to submit the plans to the town for land use review next month, will meet with neighbors today to discuss proposed landscaping improvements and unveil more details of their plans to persuade neighbors to drop their opposition.

At issue is a plan to triple the size of a water storage tank and build a new 6,800-square-foot chemical storage structure at the Putnam Water Treatment Plant on DeKraft Road. The upgrades and additions are necessary because the 1926 plant is antiquated, officials said.

"It's in a sorry state of repairs," Carolyn Giampe, Aquarion's project manager, said yesterday. "Emergency repairs will no longer cut it."

The water storage tank, which has weathered nearly a century of use, also is too small to meet Greenwich's water needs, officials said. At the moment, it has a capacity to hold only a million gallons of water.

Under modern engineering standards, Greenwich should be served by a tank with a capacity of 4.4 million gallons of water, Giampe said. But because that size tank won't fit on Aquarion's property, officials propose building a smaller 3.5 million gallon tank.

"We're not willing to design anything smaller." Giampe said.

Although the tank is designed to be buried 6-feet deeper than the existing tank, it is so mammoth that the top of it will rise 21 feet high from the ground and be set back 40 feet from the property line. That means the new tank will be more than three times as high and sit about half as close to the property line as the existing one.

Additionally, the water company also proposes building a new storage structure on the property. The new structure would have enough space for officials to centralize the chemicals used at the plant. At the moment, the hazardous materials are scattered to different corners of a building that also serves as the plant's administrative offices.

"The way the chemicals are stored here is hazardous," Giampe said. "This facility will be infinitely safer."

The additional storage space also would allow officials to discontinue use of chlorine gas and switch to sodium hypochlorite, a liquid form of bleach.

"Hypochlorite is a little more expensive but infinitely safer," said David Medd, Aquarion's operations manager.

Several residents who plan on attending today's meeting declined to comment on the project, saying they want to reserve their judgments until after they receive more information.

One neighbor, Isabel Maddux, said she is open to the project if the water company promises to plant trees and other landscaping measures to help screen the structures. She said the company also must commit to upkeep in the future.

"This whole project can be camouflaged," she said. "If they do it for the sake of getting a permit and not maintain the trees and the foliage of the plantings, there's no point. I continue to have an open mind. My issue with them is they have made promises (in the past) that haven't been kept."

Medd said Aquarion will have to consider reserving a bigger budget for landscape maintenance.

"We're going to try and do a better job of landscaping," he said. "We're willing to commit to that in the future."


Water demand heats up
Greenwich TIME
By David Hutter
Published August 13, 2005

The weather in southwestern Connecticut has been hotter and drier than normal this summer, and residents are using water at an unparalleled rate.

With rainfall totals about 3 inches below average for the summer and 90-degree temperatures a common occurrence, water is being used at a record pace, according to Adrienne Vaughan, corporate communications director for the Bridgeport-based Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut.  Bridgeport has received 5.71 inches of precipitation since June 1, compared with an average of 8.69 inches, according to the National Weather Service. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 11, Bridgeport had received 23.05 inches of precipitation, more than 4 inches below its historical average of 27.51 inches.

Since June 1, Bridgeport has had 10 days in which the temperature reached at least 90 degrees, according to the agency. Since the agency began keeping records in 1948, the average number of 90-degree days in Bridgeport from June 1 to Aug. 31 is six.  Vaughan said the company's clients are collectively using as much as 130 million gallons of water per day. In 2002, the last year of especially high water usage, the company's clients used 118 million gallons of water per day, she said.

"It's the highest recorded water usage" ever for the company, which began in 1857, Vaughan said. The company has about 600,000 clients, including 16,000 homes and businesses in Greenwich.

This summer, the amount of water used by Aquarion customers in Greenwich exceeded 18 million gallons per day at its peak. On a typical day in past summers, the company's clients used 12 million to 14 million gallons of water per day, said Dave Medd, manager of supply operations for Aquarion.  Historically, the summer, with lawn and garden watering, is the busiest season for water consumption. The reason for this year's record water usage stems from an increase in the number of construction projects and home irrigation systems, Vaughan said.

Greenwich has not instituted any water restrictions, said Denise Savageau, director of the Conservation Commission. If the dry weather pattern were to continue into the fall and winter, then the town would first ask residents to voluntarily reduce their water consumption before it enacted a restriction.

"If we start getting excessive demands, we'll ask people to cut back on water usage," said Savageau, who works with Aquarion officials to determine when to enact a water-use restriction based on the town reservoir's levels.

Greenwich has five reservoirs that were cumulatively 84.8 percent full as of Tuesday, said Medd. This figure falls in the middle range of the 20-year average of the reservoir levels, he said.

"From a reservoir standpoint, we're in pretty good shape," Medd said.

The five-day forecast for Greenwich calls for high temperatures in the upper-80s to mid-90s and a 30 percent chance of showers most days. The heat index, a figure derived from the combination of temperature and humidity, could reach 100 degrees today.

"It's not a drought, but we definitely could use some rain," said Brian Ciemnecki, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Upton, N.Y.


Water use outpaces Connecticut average

By Hoa Nguyen, Greenwich TIME Staff Writer
March 20, 2004
Greenwich households not only use more water than other households in the state, they also are using more water than they have in past decades, said researchers and conservation officials who have tracked water usage since the 2002 drought.  Greenwich's growing water needs conflict with U.S. Geological Survey figures released last week, which show that nationally, water use has remained relatively stable, even declining from highs of 25 years ago.

"Nationwide there have been a lot of conservation measures put in place," Greenwich Conservation Commissioner Denise Savageau said.  The USGS report, which is released every five years, showed that in 2000, Americans used 408 billion gallons of water a day, about 32 billion gallons less     than in 1980.

"Now we're having it replaced by irrigation for lawns," Savageau said.  Town residents, especially those who live on several acres of property, use more water than the typical household in the state, according to the soon-to-be published report from the USGS.  A typical household in Connecticut uses 200 gallons of water a day, said John Mullaney, an East Hartford-based USGS hydrologist who worked on the report.

In Greenwich, the median water use among people who live on half-acre or smaller lots is 219 gallons a day per household, Mullaney said, adding
that the data came from the Aquarion Water Co. Those who live on a 4-acre or larger lot have a median use of 1,082 gallons a day per household.

"In more affluent areas, although you have a high number of water-saving devices, you have more water uses," said David Medd, Aquarion's
operations manager.  Much of Greenwich's water use is for external purposes, such as for pools and lawns, he said.



Water use surges on large lots
By Michael Dinan, Greenwich TIME Special Correspondent
December 15, 2003
People who live on large properties average five times the water consumption of those living in homes on properties smaller than 4 acres, according to a study that will be presented next month to the Conservation Commission.  The Connecticut District of the U.S. Geological Survey's Greenwich Groundwater Study found that residents who live in homes on more than 4 acres use about 400 gallons of water daily, compared with 80 gallons for those living on a half-acre. Greenwich households, like those nationwide, average fewer than three members per household.

That difference is probably due to those residents' use of water for aesthetic and recreational purposes, USGS hydrologist John Mullaney said.  "I think the reason you see differences is, as you get to bigger lot sizes you tend to have more landscaping," said Mullaney, who examined public water supply data, measured stream flow, and tracked water consumption and well-completion reports for about 3,000 Greenwich homes betwen 2000 and 2002.

"It does appear that there is more water use by lot," Mullaney said. "Maybe those residences are more likely to have a larger lawn or swimming pool. Outdoor water use could typically be a large part of the trend."  Water consumption became a problem in Greenwich during a four-month drought
that started in October 2001. During a second drought late in the summer of 2002, the town declared a state of emergency and only recently lifted a yearlong moratorium on the drilling of new irrigation wells.

Although Northeast Regional Climate Center statistics show that the area has had greater than average precipitation since May, it is important to develop a town emergency drought plan, said Aleksandra Moch, an environmental analyst for the Conservation Commission.  "We've had a lot of rain, but you have to understand that rain is a very limited resource," Moch said. "The demand for water in Greenwich has grown drastically and this is something we're very concerned about because we have very limited resources to plan for the future."

Mullaney said the purpose of his study was to compare how different watershed areas in town consume water. That was largely accomplished by tracking the height of the water table, which is the point below the surface where the ground becomes saturated with water, he said.  The data Mullaney's team collected will be used to develop an emergency plan, Moch said.

"It is a very interesting discovery," she said, "that larger lots -- though they maintain more vegetation -- are not necessarily good for the environment."  Though he was intrigued by how much more water was consumed on larger residential properties, Mullaney said he lacked sufficient information to judge how unusual the results are.  "It's hard to say because I really have nothing to compare it against," he said.  "Certainly, though, I found it very interesting that there was such a difference." 




Abigail Pheiffer The Day
Robert Mosley, an operator at the Town of Groton Water Pollution Control Facility, pulls probes from water in the facility's aeration tank. He uses the probes to monitor the temperature, pH level and amount of oxygen in the water.

Millions of gallons of wastewater is not what you think
By Judy Benson Day Staff Writer
September 6, 2010

Sewage treatment plants send water into Thames that's actually pretty clean

For most of southeastern Connecticut, every flush of the toilet, drain of the shower and final rinse of the laundry is destined for the Thames River.

Between its beginnings in Norwich and its mouth in New London, the 16-mile estuary serves as the bottomless sink at the end of the plumbing systems for all or part of 13 communities. The five sewage treatment plants that serve these communities empty about 21 million gallons a day of wastewater into the river.

That might seem like reason to pause for anyone considering a dip in one of the riverfront beaches along Pequot Avenue in New London. But a tour of the treatment plant that serves the town of Groton and the Naval Submarine Base, considered by state environmental regulators to be a good example of the kinds of operations found along the river, would likely allay many of those reservations.

For starters, visit the plant's laboratory. On the counter are two beakers, one filled with cloudy, grayish water and the other with water as clear as any coming out of the tap. The first contains a sample of wastewater when it enters the plant, and the other is a sample of the water that pours into the river after treatment.

Marked by an orange and white buoy, the submerged discharge pipe empties in the river off Thames Street in Groton, between an Electric Boat parking lot and the Hess fuel tank farm. The outfall is tested daily, and most days, said plant manager Carl Almquist, it exceeds the quality standards set by the state.

"Everybody's trying their best to help the river," he said.

The effluent isn't drinking-water quality, he said, but it would be clean enough to be used to water golf courses, for example, or injected into the earth to recharge aquifers.

With the exception of the Norwich plant, which is in the process of a major overhaul, the plants that empty into the Thames are releasing water that's "cleaner than the river water it's going into," said Dennis J. Greci, supervising sanitary engineer for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"The people who work in these plants take tremendous pride in their work, that they're helping to clean up the environment," he said. "For a river the size of the Thames, we're nowhere near what it can handle" in treatment plant discharges.

For the next part of the Groton tour, take a look around the plant. This is a place that handles 3 million gallons a day of some pretty nasty stuff, yet it looks remarkably clean, and odors are for the most part contained to the area immediately around the primary treatment tanks. Twice a day the plant sends truckloads of sludge strained, settled and skimmed out of the wastewater to an out-of-town incinerator.
"There's some areas where we have to get down to the nitty gritty, but for the most part, we keep it pretty clean," Almquist said.

He began his career at the plant in 1973 at age 22, a year after the enactment of the federal Clean Water Act. Over the years, the act and its enforcement by the state Department of Environmental Protection has been the engine driving the gradual improvements to treatment plants nationwide, although implementation has varied widely.

When Almquist began, much of the town was not yet sewered and the plant, by today's standards, was fairly basic, rated one step above the simplest type. Now it is a class 4 plant, one notch below the most advanced, and serves two-thirds of the town.

"It used to be that the margin of error was pretty wide," Almquist said, "but now, everybody's watching you."
Microorganisms do the work

Over the years, Almquist has watched the plant expand, modernize and become more sophisticated and complex, with many of its operations automated as it meets ever-increasing state requirements for the cleanliness of its discharge. The plant's most recent upgrade enables it to remove excess nitrogen from the wastewater, part of an effort to improve the health of Long Island Sound, where the Thames and other major state rivers flow.

Just 18 employees keep the aeration tanks flowing, the solids settling in the clarifiers, the underground labyrinth of pipes and sludge pumps working, the bacteria busy breaking down the wastes around the clock.
"The microorganisms are our workers," said Almquist, pausing over a tank crammed with little black plastic discs where the bacteria cluster. Nearby were tanks that drip chlorine at the final treatment stage, and huge bubbling cauldrons where oxygen levels of the wastewater are adjusted.

Greci said that even the best of treatment plants are still facing future upgrades so that pollutants not even considered a few years ago will be removed. Phosphorous is one target, along with the residues of all the medicines, other pharmacy products and even some foods people consume every day that end up getting passed through the human excretory system or dumped down the sink or toilet. Even caffeine is showing up in wastewater.
Some of these residues are being shown to be endocrine disrupters that can have harmful effects on developing marine life.

"We're just starting to study this," Greci said. "We've gotten all the really gross pollutants out, and now we're finding this other stuff. But we don't understand yet how much is too much. We don't really know yet which ones to worry about, or which ones are settling out in the sludge or being broken down."

-------------

Thames River sewage plants:  Sewage treatment plants that empty into the Thames River:

New London plant:  Communities served: New London, Waterford, East Lyme, and portions of Old Lyme

Flow: 8.28 million gallons per day
Upgrades needed: $8.2 million to improve sewer system

Montville plant:  Communities served: Montville and Mohegan

Flow: 4.5 million gallons per day
Upgrades needed: $2 million in sewer extensions

Norwich plant:  Communities served: Norwich and portions of Franklin, Sprague, Lisbon and Preston

Flow: 5.34 million gallons per day
Upgrades needed: $89.89 million in projects, the largest to improve the treatment process and create separate wastewater and stormwater systems

Groton City plant:  Community served: Groton City

Flow: 2.11 million gallons per day
Upgrades needed: no current identified needs

Groton Town plant:  Communities served: Town of Groton and Naval Submarine Base

Flow: 2.99 million gallons per day
Upgrades needed: $3.92 million to improve pump stations

Source: Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Flows from 2009
.



Seeking A New Level;  Mohegan-backed project taps water from ample Groton supply to quench the needs of a growing, thirsty region
DAY
By Paul Choiniere
Published on 8/20/2006

New London County has an abundance of fresh water — the legacy of the last great glaciers that reached their southern-most advance 24,000 years ago then melted, leaving a landscape dotted with lakes.  Despite this geological blessing, the region has remained vulnerable to droughts. Although the region has water, it hasn't always been able to move the liquid to where it was needed.

Sometime late this year, or early next, that should all change.

The $13.5 million “Thames Basin Regional Water Interconnection Project,” begun in the spring of 2004, is nearing completion. It will tap the ample reservoirs controlled by Groton Utilities and make them available throughout the region.

The 102-year-old municipal utility, owned by the City of Groton, built a water system to serve its industrial customers, particularly medicine producer Pfizer Inc. But over the last decade Pfizer has phased out manufacturing, focusing its Groton operation on drug research and development.  Its water system, supplied by the Poquonnock and Pohegnut reservoirs and Smith Lake in Groton, and the Ledyard and Mohegan Pond reservoirs in Ledyard, is capable of providing 12.1 million gallons of water a day. Demand is now a little under 6 million. Water constantly spills from the brimming reservoirs into Long Island Sound.

“We spill more than we pump,” said Alfred C. Dion, a deputy director at the Groton utility, who said his work on developing a regional system has been the most rewarding of his 42-year career there.

In addition to tapping into the ample Groton supplies, the revamped system should make it possible, in an emergency, to move water from the other major utilities in the region — Norwich Public Utilities and the New London Water and Sewer Authority — to any point in the system. The New London system, serving that city and Waterford, can provide 9 million gallons a day. The Norwich system can yield 7 million.

“It dramatically reduces the region's vulnerability to a drought,” said Chris Clark, operations manager of the Mohegan Tribal Utility Authority and the primary architect of the system.

•••••

Over time, neighborhoods now using wells or small independent systems might begin tying into the more robust system.

About 70 percent of the region's population is served by a water supply system, according to the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, a group instrumental in getting the regional system constructed.  Groton Utilities first proposed a regional plan in 1999, but the idea did not move beyond discussions until 2002, when the Mohegan Tribe, intent on finding a long-term, reliable source of water for its growing casino, offered to finance the construction of a water main crossing the Thames River to make a regional system possible.

The key elements of the new system are the 1,400-foot, 20-inch diameter pipe buried as deep as 85 feet beneath the riverbed of the Thames River, and two new water towers. One is on Rogers Hill in Waterford, and a second is at Holmberg Orchards in northwest Ledyard.

The cross-river pipe, recently completed and tested, will allow water for the first time to move between water systems on both sides of the river. The two water tanks, each about 310 feet above sea level, equalize pressure in the system, allowing for the movement of water where needed. The Rogers Hill tank is finished, and the Ledyard tank is nearly done.

“With water, height is everything,” said Clark.

The tribe has received accolades for fronting the money to pay for the $13.5 million project. As the various towns use the improved system to tap into the water source and expand their supply territories, they must reimburse the Mohegans a proportional share of that investment, but the tribe is not counting on recovering all its money, Clark said. Montville is reimbursing $4.3 million of the $13.5 million because of the immediate benefits it will receive.

The cross-river connection alone would have been enough to tap into the Groton water supply, but the new tanks and pumping stations create a significant regional system.

“We tried to look at the thing from a big perspective,” said Mark F. Brown, tribal chairman at the time the offer was made. “There had been problems with drought and, when the benefits of doing it this way was explained to us, we came to the conclusion, 'Why wouldn't we do this right?' ”

With the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, all parties worked out a detailed agreement outlining how the water will be metered and protocols for an emergency. The agreement gives Groton Utilities the authority to manipulate the system from a central control room using radio-controlled valves.  Officials from the City of Groton, Ledyard, Montville, Norwich, Preston, Waterford and the tribe signed the agreement on May 27, 2004.

The tribe's commitment stood fast, even after costs went up nearly $4 million from initial estimates.

“We grew up here,” said current tribal Chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum. “Once we were committed, we were going to get this done for the region. It's the Mohegan way.”

The system is expected to be fully completed by November and operational soon after, Clark said.

•••••

The most immediate beneficiary will be the Mohegan Sun casino and the stores and businesses along and adjacent to Route 32 in Montville.

With the turn of several valves, water will flow north from the Groton filtration plant six miles into Ledyard, where it will take a hard left down Hurlbutt Road under the Thames River and then emerge on the west bank, just south of the Montville boat launch. A right turn will take the water along Route 32 in Montville, providing as much as 1.93 million gallons of water daily, 1 million of it for the Mohegan Sun casino and hotel.

Norwich has provided water to the casino since it opened in 1996 and to the United Nuclear Corp. that was located there previously. It began serving business and neighborhoods along Route 32 in Montville 15 years ago. Now Norwich wants to use its water for its own development needs, said John Bilda, general manager of Norwich Public Utilities.

Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon, who is on a commission appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell to study ways of diversifying the region's economy, said having a reliable water system for the region is key to attracting business and industry.  Even with the imminent improvements, the search for new water supplies will continue, Dion said.

“While the region continues to grow, so will the demand for water,” he said. “And while we are in good shape now, we cannot assume that will always be the case.”

Different Towns, Different Benefits

City of Groton

Groton Utilities will be able to sell access water. It now uses only about half of the 12 million gallons it can supply daily. When the system is done, the utility will sell up to 930,000 gallons per day to the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority,which, in turn, will bill customers in Montville. Up to 1 million gallons of day will go to the Mohegan Sun casino. Groton Utilities has not calculated the additional revenues it expects but says the money will go back into maintenance of the system.

Ledyard

The new water tank in the northwest corner of town will improve fire protection in the western half of Ledyard.Water will be supplied to the Avery Hill Road neighborhood, where mobile homes have had water problems in droughts. Public water could be taken to other neighborhoods, including Aljen Heights.

Montville

The town can provide water to future commercial developments along the Route 32 corridor, as well as neighborhoods off the turnpike. The area had gotten water from the Norwich system and a smaller amount from New London. Some spots, however, were under water supply restrictions from the state Department of Environmental Protection,which limited development potential. Those restrictions will be lifted.

Norwich

The city can use the water it once sent to Montville and the Mohegan Sun to meet its own or nearby development needs, including those for the proposed Utopia Studios entertainment complex at Norwich Hospital.

Mohegan Tribe

The Mohegan Sun casino will receive an ample water supply for today's needs and those that might arise with any expansions. The new system adds redundancy, greatly reducing the risk that water problems in a portion of the system would force the casino to temporarily close.

Preston

The new system would supply the Utopia development, if it occurs, or any other project at the former Norwich Hospital property. Groton would serve as a back-up water supply. T he town could also connect neighborhoods to the Groton supply.

New London and East Lyme

While these two communities are not partners in the project, they could reap benefits. New London will no longer send 70,000 gallons of water a day to Montville. It could use that amount for neighborhoods in East Lyme. New London,which has had problems in droughts, now has access to both the Norwich and Groton systems in an emergency.
 



And on another, semi-related subject...How can Weston relate to this?
Agenda 2002: Coping With Growth (a view from Southeastern CT)
Published on 01/20/2002

The Eastern Connecticut economy, once heavily dependent on defense spending, has diversified significantly so that bioscience, tourism and casinos as well as maritime research and activity now join military spending as key components of regional growth.

The challenge for Eastern Connecticut as a region is to outline and encourage an agenda that identifies common problems and opportunities. The
many issues require regional solutions that overcome local provincialities.  Cities and towns together must anticipate the housing, transportation and educational needs and water supplies required to make the region work...

New London public schools

New London's public schools face a crisis of confidence. Many parents are voting with their feet, either by moving out of the city or electing to pay to send their children to private or suburban public schools.

The exodus is most prominently felt at New London High School, which is rapidly losing what was already a small base of young people being prepared for college. The drop-out rate is very high as well. Test scores continue to be low.

The New London Board of Education and the community have supported the efforts of Superintendent Julian Stafford to reorganize the central office and the administrative leadership among principals at individual schools. These included a controversial appointment of a new high school principal.

But now Dr. Stafford and his staff must begin to show some positive results. The superintendent, upon arriving, asked that he be judged by performance and be held accountable. The community and the board should do so.

Adequate water supplies

The Southeastern Connecticut region is split into a large number of private and public providers of water, including supply departments owned by the cities of Norwich, New London and Groton and the town of East Lyme. Water, along with housing, represents the most challenging and critical issue for the continued prosperity of the region.

Some towns – East Lyme is a good example – desperately need more water. The city of Groton has a surplus. But the array of multiple suppliers does not meet the future needs of the region effectively, and that is a threat to economic development in this section of the state.

The Southeastern Connecticut Regional Water Authority was organized more than 30 years ago, but it has never had the support and cooperation of the municipal suppliers, most especially Groton and Norwich.  There have been small pockets of success. New London and Waterford cooperated and Norwich and New London have supplied Montville, for example. But all the more often, individual suppliers spent their energies protecting their respective turfs.  Towns and cities alike should realize that continuing on this path ultimately will be destructive to the economic and social needs of the region.

High on the Chamber's and the Council of Governments' list of priorities should be comprehensive talks leading to the acquisitions of the water companies to organize them into a metropolitan water district. If the towns cooperated, there would be strong legislative support to create the water district.  The cost savings inherent in one comprehensive regional water system would be predictable and beneficial.




Farmworkers’ Endless Worry: Tainted Tap Water
NYTIMES
By November 13, 2012

SEVILLE, Calif. — Like most children, the students at Stone Corral Elementary School here rejoice when the bell rings for recess and delight in christening a classroom pet.

But while growing up in this impoverished agricultural community of numbered roads and lush citrus orchards, young people have learned a harsh life lesson: “No tomes el agua!” — “Don’t drink the water!”

Seville, with a population of about 300, is one of dozens of predominantly Latino unincorporated communities in the Central Valley plagued for decades by contaminated drinking water. It is the grim result of more than half a century in which chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, pesticides and other substances have infiltrated aquifers, seeping into the groundwater and eventually into the tap. An estimated 20 percent of small public water systems in Tulare County are unable to meet safe nitrate levels, according to a United Nations representative.

In farmworker communities like Seville, a place of rusty rural mailboxes and backyard roosters where the average yearly income is $14,000, residents like Rebecca Quintana pay double for water: both for the tap water they use only to shower and wash clothes, and for the five-gallon bottles they must buy weekly for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth.

It is a life teeming with worry: about children accidentally sipping contaminated water while cooling off with a garden hose, about not having enough clean water for an elderly parent’s medications, about finding a rock while cleaning the feeding tube of a severely disabled daughter, as Lorie Nieto did. She vowed never to use tap water again.

Chris Kemper, the school’s principal, budgets $100 to $500 a month for bottled water. He recalled his astonishment, upon his arrival four years ago, at encountering the “ghost” drinking fountains, shut off to protect students from “weird foggyish water,” as one sixth grader, Jacob Cabrera, put it. Mr. Kemper said he associated such conditions with third world countries. “I always picture it as a laptop a month for the school,” he said of the added cost of water.

Here in Tulare County, one of the country’s leading dairy producers, where animal waste lagoons penetrate the air and soil, most residents rely on groundwater as the source for drinking water. A study by the University of California, Davis, this year estimated that 254,000 people in the Tulare Basin and Salinas Valley, prime agricultural regions with about 2.6 million residents, were at risk for nitrate contamination of their drinking water. Nitrates have been linked to thyroid disease and make infants susceptible to “blue baby syndrome,” a potentially fatal condition that interferes with the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen.

Communities like Seville, where corroded piping runs through a murky irrigation ditch and into a solitary well, are particularly vulnerable to nitrate contamination, lacking financial resources for backup systems. Fertilizer and other chemicals applied to cropland decades ago will continue to affect groundwater for years, according to the Davis study.

“You can’t smell it,” Mrs. Quintana said of the dangers of the tap. “You can’t see it. It looks like plain beautiful water.”

Situated off the state’s psychic map, lacking political clout and even mayors, places like Seville and Tooleville to the south have long been excluded from regional land use and investment decisions, said Phoebe S. Seaton, the director of a community initiative for California Rural Legal Assistance. Residents rely on county governments and tiny resident-run public utility districts. The result of this jurisdictional patchwork is a fragmented water delivery system and frequently deteriorating infrastructure.

Many such communities started as farm labor camps without infrastructure, said John A. Capitman, a professor at California State University, Fresno, and the executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute. Today, one in five residents in the Central Valley live below the federal poverty line. Many spend up to 10 percent of their income on water. “The laborers and residents of this region have borne a lot of the social costs of food production,” Professor Capitman said.

Bertha Diaz, a farmworker and single mother of four in East Orosi, rises at 4 in the morning to pick grapefruit and other crops. Her chief concern, she said, was how she would afford bottled water.

She comes home to an additional chore — filling five-gallon jugs at the Watermill Express, a self-serve drinking water company in nearby Orosi. When she began receiving cautionary notices from the local water district, she formed a neighborhood committee and also joined AGUA — the Association of People United for Water — a network of residents working with the nonprofit Community Water Center.

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Human Right to Water bill, which directs state agencies to make clean water a financing priority. “Clean water ought to be a right,” said Bill Chiat, who educates government officials on water issues. “The question is, how are you going to pay for it?”

The answer is sometimes a twisted tale: In Lanare, in Fresno County, the local community services district received $1.3 million in federal money to construct a treatment plant for arsenic-tainted water. But when the system began operating, the cost of water skyrocketed — the result of lowball estimates by construction engineers, as well as the siphoning of treated water to nearby farms. “Before, it was dirty water,” said Isabel Solorio, a part-time housecleaner. “But at least it wasn’t expensive dirty water.” The plant currently sits unused.

But there is a growing recognition by state and local officials that rural communities need regional solutions. One option is consolidation, in which small systems band together to create a larger system with a bigger customer base. Another might be partnering with Alta Irrigation District, which has delivered surface water for agriculture from the Kings River for 130 years. Conserved water in upstream reservoirs could also be a source for Seville and elsewhere. “It would require a new governance structure,” said Chris Kapheim, the irrigation district’s general manager. “But it would give these areas a long-term fix.”

The state is allocating $4 million for interim solutions like filters under sinks that can remove arsenic and nitrates.

Even temporary solutions cannot come quickly enough for residents like Eunice Martinez, 47, who lives in Tooleville, where water has been contaminated with arsenic and bacteria.

Mobile homes rented by farmworkers sit temptingly near the Friant-Kern Canal, a 152-mile aqueduct that supplies water for one million acres of farmland.

Long before they knew there was a health problem, Ms. Martinez and her 72-year-old mother, Margaret, had stopped drinking the water. “Honestly, it was the taste,” she said. “It just wasn’t right.”

Ms. Martinez sometimes visits family in a nearby town where the water is clean and clear, just to freshen up. “I turn on the tap and it’s, ‘Wow, I’m amazed,’ ” she said. “It’s something so simple in life. And it’s gone.”





Fouled wells require disinfection
State Department of Public Health provides guidelines
By Judy Benson
Publication: The Day
Published 08/29/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 08/29/2011 12:20 AM

The state Department of Public Health is reminding private well owners that wells can become contaminated due to flooding and can require disinfection.  Flooding is anticipated due to heavy rainfall and storm surges from Tropical Storm Irene.

Water should be pumped or allowed to recede from around the well before the well is disinfected, the health department said in a news release Friday. Homeowners with dug wells should expose their wells and clean them of debris. If the electrical panel or connections have been submerged, a licensed electrician should evaluate the electrical panel and connections prior to the homeowner handling them.

To ensure water is free from bacteriological contaminants, the well should be sampled after it has been disinfected and tested by a certified laboratory. If there are other suspected contaminants, people should notify their local health department.

For information, contact the state Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section, Private Well Program at (860) 509-7296.

To disinfect a private well:

• Use non-scented chlorine bleach in a bleach solution greater than 5.25 percent.
• If you have water treatment devices, remove all membranes, filters, cartridges, charcoal filters, etc. after the chlorination process is completed.
• If the water is discolored or if you have debris in your dug well, clean the well of debris.
• Do not disinfect the well until floodwaters have receded.
• Run water until it is relatively clear.
• Drain your storage tank and hot water tank, so that chlorinated water will also enter that tank.
• Mix up a batch of chlorinated water in a 5-gallon pail and use this mixture to clean along the top of the well. One-half cup to 1 cup of bleach (5.25 percent) in 5 gallons of water is a good concentration.
• A licensed plumber, pump installer or well driller can also be contacted to do the disinfection.
• The chlorine batch in the 5-gallon bucket should be poured into the well so that it swirls around the interior casing.
• Re-cap the well and then proceed to open each hot and cold faucet (inside and outside the house), until a distinct chlorine odor is observed. Then shut each faucet.
• If you do not detect a strong chlorine odor you may want to add more bleach and repeat the process.
• Allow the chlorinated water to remain in the water system for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.
• Backwash water softeners, sand filters and iron removal filters with chlorinated water.
• Open all faucets individually and run the water until there is no chlorine smell - may take 15 minutes or more.
• Make sure on outside faucets that chlorinated water is diverted from plants and shrubs because chlorinated water will kill the vegetation.

Additional Resources:

www.dph.state.ct.us; http://www.dph.state.ct.us/BRS/Environmental_Lab/environmental_laboratory.htp; EPA website: www.epa.gov/safewater/privatewells;
"What To Do After The Flood"- private wells and septic systems: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/privatewells/whatdo.html; http://www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/emerg_septic.html.
For information on food and water safety during hurricanes, power outages, and floods, visit: www.fda.gov.


Millions in U.S. Drink Dirty Water, Records Show
NYTIMES
By CHARLES DUHIGG
December 8, 2009

More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.

Regulators were informed of each of those violations as they occurred. But regulatory records show that fewer than 6 percent of the water systems that broke the law were ever fined or punished by state or federal officials, including those at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has ultimate responsibility for enforcing standards.

Studies indicate that drinking water contaminants are linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year.

In some instances, drinking water violations were one-time events, and probably posed little risk. But for hundreds of other systems, illegal contamination persisted for years, records show.

On Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will question a high-ranking E.P.A. official about the agency’s enforcement of drinking-water safety laws. The E.P.A. is expected to announce a new policy for how it polices the nation’s 54,700 water systems.

“This administration has made it clear that clean water is a top priority,” said an E.P.A. spokeswoman, Adora Andy, in response to questions regarding the agency’s drinking water enforcement. The E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, this year announced a wide-ranging overhaul of enforcement of the Clean Water Act, which regulates pollution into waterways.

“The previous eight years provide a perfect example of what happens when political leadership fails to act to protect our health and the environment,” Ms. Andy added.

Water pollution has become a growing concern for some lawmakers as government oversight of polluters has waned. Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, in 2007 asked the E.P.A. for data on Americans’ exposure to some contaminants in drinking water.

The New York Times has compiled and analyzed millions of records from water systems and regulators around the nation, as part of a series of articles about worsening pollution in American waters, and regulators’ response.

An analysis of E.P.A. data shows that Safe Drinking Water Act violations have occurred in parts of every state. In the prosperous town of Ramsey, N.J., for instance, drinking water tests since 2004 have detected illegal concentrations of arsenic, a carcinogen, and the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene, which has also been linked to cancer.

In New York state, 205 water systems have broken the law by delivering tap water that contained illegal amounts of bacteria since 2004.

However, almost none of those systems were ever punished. Ramsey was not fined for its water violations, for example, though a Ramsey official said that filtration systems have been installed since then. In New York, only three water systems were penalized for bacteria violations, according to federal data.

The problem, say current and former government officials, is that enforcing the Safe Drinking Water Act has not been a federal priority.

“There is significant reluctance within the E.P.A. and Justice Department to bring actions against municipalities, because there’s a view that they are often cash-strapped, and fines would ultimately be paid by local taxpayers,” said David Uhlmann, who headed the environmental crimes division at the Justice Department until 2007.

“But some systems won’t come into compliance unless they are forced to,” added Mr. Uhlmann, who now teaches at the University of Michigan law school. “And sometimes a court order is the only way to get local governments to spend what is needed.”

A half-dozen current and former E.P.A. officials said in interviews that they tried to prod the agency to enforce the drinking-water law, but found little support.

“I proposed drinking water cases, but they got shut down so fast that I’ve pretty much stopped even looking at the violations,” said one longtime E.P.A. enforcement official who, like others, requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. “The top people want big headlines and million-dollar settlements. That’s not drinking-water cases.”

The majority of drinking water violations since 2004 have occurred at water systems serving fewer than 20,000 residents, where resources and managerial expertise are often in short supply.

It is unclear precisely how many American illnesses are linked to contaminated drinking water. Many of the most dangerous contaminants regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act have been tied to diseases like cancer that can take years to develop.

But scientific research indicates that as many as 19 million Americans may become ill each year due to just the parasites, viruses and bacteria in drinking water. Certain types of cancer — such as breast and prostate cancer — have risen over the past 30 years, and research indicates they are likely tied to pollutants like those found in drinking water.

The violations counted by the Times analysis include only situations where residents were exposed to dangerous contaminants, and exclude violations that involved paperwork or other minor problems.

In response to inquiries submitted by Senator Boxer, the E.P.A. has reported that more than three million Americans have been exposed since 2005 to drinking water with illegal concentrations of arsenic and radioactive elements, both of which have been linked to cancer at small doses.

In some areas, the amount of radium detected in drinking water was 2,000 percent higher than the legal limit, according to E.P.A. data.

But federal regulators fined or punished fewer than 8 percent of water systems that violated the arsenic and radioactive standards. The E.P.A., in a statement, said that in a majority of situations, state regulators used informal methods — like providing technical assistance — to help systems that had violated the rules.

But many systems remained out of compliance, even after aid was offered, according to E.P.A. data. And for over a quarter of systems that violated the arsenic or radioactivity standards, there is no record that they were ever contacted by a regulator, even after they sent in paperwork revealing their violations.

Those figures are particularly worrisome, say researchers, because the Safe Drinking Water Act’s limits on arsenic are so weak to begin with. A system could deliver tap water that puts residents at a 1-in-600 risk of developing bladder cancer from arsenic, and still comply with the law.

Despite the expected announcement of reforms, some mid-level E.P.A. regulators say they are skeptical that any change will occur.

“The same people who told us to ignore Safe Drinking Water Act violations are still running the divisions,” said one mid-level E.P.A. official. “There’s no accountability, and so nothing’s going to change.”




Water supply for NYC comes from upstate...anyone who has seen "Die Hard 3" knows that!
City’s Water Is Ranked Best in a Taste Test
NYTIMES
By SEWELL CHAN
Published: August 27, 2008

Beating more than 150 other municipal water systems, New York City came in first — for the first time — in the New York State Water Taste Test at the State Fair in Syracuse this week.

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 Leave a Comment on City Room Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wasted no time issuing a statement on Wednesday bragging about the distinction and calling the tap-water system “the lifeblood of our city.”

But who came in second?

The second-place winner, announced on Tuesday, was the village of Pulaski, population 2,398, in Oswego County, near the eastern edge of Lake Ontario. By car, the upstate village (locals pronounce it pull-ask-EYE) is nearly five hours from New York City.

So far, Pulaski is taking the news well. “We were very proud to have come in second place,” Gary M. Stevens, superintendent of public works for the village since 1992, said in a phone interview. “First place would have been better, but things happen.”

The village’s mayor, Ernest C. Wheeler, said, jokingly: “We’d like to know where you get your water from. You don’t get it from Lake Ontario, do you?”

The annual water taste test — this was its 22nd year — is a “nonscientific competition” sponsored by the State Department of Health and the New York section of the American Water Works Association. About 250 people attending the fair judged the blind taste test.

Mr. Stevens, of Pulaski, has never been to New York City. Mr. Wheeler, who has been the mayor for two years, said he last visited three years ago. He did not remember the city’s water too well. “It tasted O.K., but ours is better,” he said. “Whatever.”



AP Probe Finds Drugs in Drinking Water
Stamford ADVOCATE
By JEFF DONN, MARTHA MENDOZA and JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press Writers
Published March 10 2008, 8:17 AM EDT

A vast array of pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones -- have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.
 
But the presence of so many prescription drugs -- and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen -- in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas -- from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public "doesn't know how to interpret the information" and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies -- which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public -- have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

"We recognize it is a growing concern and we're taking it very seriously," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Members of the AP National Investigative Team reviewed hundreds of scientific reports, analyzed federal drinking water databases, visited environmental study sites and treatment plants and interviewed more than 230 officials, academics and scientists. They also surveyed the nation's 50 largest cities and a dozen other major water providers, as well as smaller community water providers in all 50 states.

Here are some of the key test results obtained by the AP:

_Officials in Philadelphia said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city's watersheds.

_Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.

_Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.

_A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco's drinking water.

_The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.

_Three medications, including an antibiotic, were found in drinking water supplied to Tucson, Ariz.

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

The federal government doesn't require any testing and hasn't set safety limits for drugs in water. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven't: Houston, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City's Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.

Some providers screen only for one or two pharmaceuticals, leaving open the possibility that others are present.


The AP's investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation's water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

Yet officials in six of those 28 metropolitan areas said they did not go on to test their drinking water -- Fairfax, Va.; Montgomery County in Maryland; Omaha, Neb.; Oklahoma City; Santa Clara, Calif., and New York City.
 
The New York state health department and the USGS tested the source of the city's water, upstate. They found trace concentrations of heart medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer.

City water officials declined repeated requests for an interview. In a statement, they insisted that "New York City's drinking water continues to meet all federal and state regulations regarding drinking water quality in the watershed and the distribution system" -- regulations that do not address trace pharmaceuticals.

In several cases, officials at municipal or regional water providers told the AP that pharmaceuticals had not been detected, but the AP obtained the results of tests conducted by independent researchers that showed otherwise. For example, water department officials in New Orleans said their water had not been tested for pharmaceuticals, but a Tulane University researcher and his students have published a study that found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug byproduct clofibric acid in treated drinking water.

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Va.; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.

The AP also contacted 52 small water providers -- one in each state, and two each in Missouri and Texas -- that serve communities with populations around 25,000. All but one said their drinking water had not been screened for pharmaceuticals; officials in Emporia, Kan., refused to answer AP's questions, also citing post-9/11 issues.

Rural consumers who draw water from their own wells aren't in the clear either, experts say.

The Stroud Water Research Center, in Avondale, Pa., has measured water samples from New York City's upstate watershed for caffeine, a common contaminant that scientists often look for as a possible signal for the presence of other pharmaceuticals. Though more caffeine was detected at suburban sites, researcher Anthony Aufdenkampe was struck by the relatively high levels even in less populated areas.

He suspects it escapes from failed septic tanks, maybe with other drugs. "Septic systems are essentially small treatment plants that are essentially unmanaged and therefore tend to fail," Aufdenkampe said.

Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don't necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry's main trade group. The same goes for the makers of home filtration systems.

Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe -- even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

For example, in Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials in December called for human health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.

In the United States, the problem isn't confined to surface waters. Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, source of 40 percent of the nation's water supply. Federal scientists who drew water in 24 states from aquifers near contaminant sources such as landfills and animal feed lots found minuscule levels of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.

Perhaps it's because Americans have been taking drugs -- and flushing them unmetabolized or unused -- in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion, while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co.

"People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that's not the case," said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Human waste isn't the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.


Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity -- sometimes with the same drugs as humans. The inflation-adjusted value of veterinary drugs rose by 8 percent, to $5.2 billion, over the past five years, according to an analysis of data from the Animal Health Institute.

 
Ask the pharmaceutical industry whether the contamination of water supplies is a problem, and officials will tell you no. "Based on what we now know, I would say we find there's little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health," said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But at a conference last summer, Mary Buzby -- director of environmental technology for drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. -- said: "There's no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they're at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms."

Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life -- such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They say, though, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

"It brings a question to people's minds that if the fish were affected ... might there be a potential problem for humans?" EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. "It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven't gotten far enough along."

With limited research funds, said Shane Snyder, research and development project manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a greater emphasis should be put on studying the effects of drugs in water.

"I think it's a shame that so much money is going into monitoring to figure out if these things are out there, and so little is being spent on human health," said Snyder. "They need to just accept that these things are everywhere -- every chemical and pharmaceutical could be there. It's time for the EPA to step up to the plate and make a statement about the need to study effects, both human and environmental."

To the degree that the EPA is focused on the issue, it appears to be looking at detection. Grumbles acknowledged that just late last year the agency developed three new methods to "detect and quantify pharmaceuticals" in wastewater. "We realize that we have a limited amount of data on the concentrations," he said. "We're going to be able to learn a lot more."

While Grumbles said the EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, he said only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. Nitroglycerin can be used as a drug for heart problems, but the key reason it's being considered is its widespread use in making explosives.

So much is unknown. Many independent scientists are skeptical that trace concentrations will ultimately prove to be harmful to humans. Confidence about human safety is based largely on studies that poison lab animals with much higher amounts.

There's growing concern in the scientific community, meanwhile, that certain drugs -- or combinations of drugs -- may harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in sizable amounts every day.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics.

For several decades, federal environmental officials and nonprofit watchdog environmental groups have focused on regulated contaminants -- pesticides, lead, PCBs -- which are present in higher concentrations and clearly pose a health risk.

However, some experts say medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body.

"These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations. That's what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out to the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects," says zoologist John Sumpter at Brunel University in London, who has studied trace hormones, heart medicine and other drugs.

And while drugs are tested to be safe for humans, the timeframe is usually over a matter of months, not a lifetime. Pharmaceuticals also can produce side effects and interact with other drugs at normal medical doses. That's why -- aside from therapeutic doses of fluoride injected into potable water supplies -- pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who need them, not delivered to everyone in their drinking water.

"We know we are being exposed to other people's drugs through our drinking water, and that can't be good," says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.


Pesticides Found in Most Rivers, Streams
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
March 3, 2006, 1pm

WASHINGTON - Pesticides linked to cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders contaminate almost all of the nation's rivers and streams and most fish found in them, but seldom at concentrations likely to affect people, government scientists said Friday.

Though the pesticides were less common in ground water, the     U.S. Geological Survey's study of data between 1992 and 2001 found them present in streams in both urban and agricultural areas at concentrations that could affect aquatic life or fish-eating wildlife.

Robert Hirsch, the USGS associate director for water, said that "while the use of pesticides has resulted in a wide range of benefits to control weeds, insects, and other pests, including increased food production and reduction of insect-borne disease, their use also raises questions about possible effects on the environment, including water quality."

About 40 pesticides of 100 that were studied accounted for most of the findings in water, fish and sediment. Three herbicides used mainly on farms, atrazine, metolachlor, and cyanazine, were the most frequently detected in agricultural streams. Three herbicides used commonly in cities, simazine, prometon, and tebuthiuron, showed up more often in urban streams.

The pesticides also showed up more than 90 percent of the time in the fish tissue found in agricultural, urban and mixed land-use areas.

At least one pesticide was detected in water from all the streams studied. Pesticide compounds were found at nearly all times of the year in about 19 of every 20 streams with agricultural, urban or mixed land-use watersheds, the agency said. The most frequent occurrence was in shallow ground water beneath agricultural and urban areas, where more than half the wells contained one or more pesticide compounds.

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a national research and advocacy group, said the data surrounding the nation's reliance on about 1 billion pounds of pesticides a year "shows an urgent need to strengthen policies at all levels of government and curtail pesticide use."

The USGS report is based on an analysis of data from 51 major river basins and aquifer systems nationally, and a study of an aquifer system that runs through eight states from South Dakota to Texas, east of the Rocky Mountains.

It found that concentrations of individual pesticides nearly always complied with     Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standards, though no water samples from streams were taken at drinking-water intakes.

EPA also is responsible for reviewing pesticides, based on pesticide-makers' tests that can cost tens of millions of dollars. It typically takes up to a decade to study each one before it can reach the marketplace, according to industry figures.

But simply detecting the presence of a pesticide does not always mean there is reason for concern, said Jay Vroom, president of CropLife America, which represents pesticide developers and manufacturers. He emphasized that the use of pesticides by farmers, ranchers and others is strictly regulated by federal and state laws.

"Water quality is of paramount importance to us," he said. "And the USGS report correctly recognizes that the large majority of pesticide detections in streams and groundwater were trace amounts, far below scientifically based minimum levels set for protecting human health and the environment."



General Electric agrees to buy water company

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, AP Business Writer
Mar 14, 4:30 PM EST

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) -- General Electric Co. will buy a water treatment company in Canada for $656 million in a deal that will accelerate the conglomerate's plans to tap into a fast growing market in a thirsty world, company officials said Tuesday.

GE's acquisition of Zenon Environmental Inc. will provide technology to help convert seawater into drinking water and to reuse waste water from municipalities and industry, company officials said.

"We think it will position us as the leader and the lowest cost producer of fresh water from these new sources," said Colin Sabol, chief marketing officer for GE Water and Process Technologies. "We'll be able to make fresh water less expensively than anyone in the world."

The Fairfield-based industrial, financial services and media company entered the water business in 2002.
 
"We saw water scarcity spreading across the globe," Sabol said.

GE is helping build one of the world's largest water desalination plants in Algeria.

Zenon makes advanced membranes for water purification, wastewater treatment and water reuse. The company pioneered the use of technology for water and wastewater treatment that is spreading rapidly throughout the world, company officials said.

Zenon's technology will lower costs to treat water in the initial step, Sabol said. The membranes are well suited to handle fluctuations in water quality typically associated with seawater and wastewater, he said.

GE's water business, now $2.1 billion, is expected to grow to about $2.5 billion next year and $5 billion in five years, Sabol said.

GE expects to use the new technology in water-thirsty countries such as China, India and Australia.

"It will allow us to accelerate our growth in desalination," Sabol said.

The transaction will require the approval of Zenon's shareholders and regulators.

GE shares rose 11 cents, to close at $33.78 Tuesday on the New York stock Exchange. The stock has traded between $32.21 to $37.34 over the past year.




General Electric agrees to buy water company
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN,  AP Business Writer

Mar 14, 4:30 PM EST


STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) -- General Electric Co. will buy a water treatment company in Canada for $656 million in a deal that will accelerate the conglomerate's plans to tap into a fast growing market in a thirsty world, company officials said Tuesday.

GE's acquisition of Zenon Environmental Inc. will provide technology to help convert seawater into drinking water and to reuse waste water from municipalities and industry, company officials said.

"We think it will position us as the leader and the lowest cost producer of fresh water from these new sources," said Colin Sabol, chief marketing officer for GE Water and Process Technologies. "We'll be able to make fresh water less expensively than anyone in the world."

The Fairfield-based industrial, financial services and media company entered the water business in 2002.       
 
"We saw water scarcity spreading across the globe," Sabol said.  GE is helping build one of the world's largest water desalination plants in Algeria.

Zenon makes advanced membranes for water purification, wastewater treatment and water reuse. The company pioneered the use of technology for water and wastewater treatment that is spreading rapidly throughout the world, company officials said.  Zenon's technology will lower costs to treat water in the initial step, Sabol said. The membranes are well suited to handle fluctuations in water quality typically associated with seawater and wastewater, he said.

GE's water business, now $2.1 billion, is expected to grow to about $2.5 billion next year and $5 billion in five years, Sabol said.  GE expects to use the new technology in water-thirsty countries such as China, India and Australia.

"It will allow us to accelerate our growth in desalination," Sabol said.  The transaction will require the approval of Zenon's shareholders and regulators.

GE shares rose 11 cents, to close at $33.78 Tuesday on the New York stock Exchange. The stock has traded between $32.21 to $37.34 over the past year.


Article Last Updated: Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 6:30:44 AM EST
GE buys 4th pure-water firm for $1.1b
By ROB VARNONrvarnon@ctpost.com

FAIRFIELD - General Electric Co. continued its expansion into the water treatment technology business Wednesday, announcing a $1.1 billion acquisition of a Massachusetts company.

GE is buying Ionics Inc. of Watertown for $44 a share, in an all-cash transaction. Ionics will be added to GE's Wilton-based GE Infrastructure unit after shareholder and regulatory approvals, which GE expects sometime in 2005.

Jeffrey DeMarrais, a spokesman for GE Infrastructure, said Ionics' desalination technology was one of the company's biggest attractions, because the world's supply of potable drinking water is being stretched thin.

Desalination turns saltwater and other types of fouled water into drinking water. DeMarrais said GE expects the need for this type of technology to grow dramatically in China, India, Africa and the western part of the United States, where a lack of water is becoming a bigger problem.

GE has acquired three water technology companies during the last several years in anticipation of higher demand for water purification systems, he said.

It's too early to tell if the acquisition will cost the Massachusetts firm any jobs as it is bought up, DeMarrais said. But it definitely will not affect employment in Wilton, an administrative facility.  The Ionics acquisition was the company's second billiondollar-plus deal this week...

OTHER G.E. news:
GE announced on Monday the $4.4 billion purchase of CitiGroup's transportation financial services division.  Shares of GE dropped 17 cents to $35.64 in New York Stock Exchange trading Wednesday.



Water Purification Equipment and Personnel Dispatched From U.S. Army's TARDEC To Assist Mississippi Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief
Thursday September 15, 7:00 am ET
- U.S. Army, Office of Naval Research and the Bureau of Reclamation Have Begun Producing as Much as 100,000 Gallons of Potable Water Per Day for Gulf Coast Residents -

WARREN, Mich., Sept. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Engineers from the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), earlier this week began generating potable water using purification equipment to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

The Expeditionary Unit Water Purification (EUWP) system demonstrator, capable of generating 100,000 gallons of potable water per day, has been set up on the beach in Biloxi, MS, to provide water for the nearby Biloxi Regional Medical Center. Since the hurricane hit, the hospital has been without potable water and relying on bottled drinking water for patients and staff.

As additional capability, two 600 gallon per hour Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units (ROWPU) and one 1500 gallon per hour Tactical Water Purification System (TWPS) have been deployed to the region. Two sites in Waveland, MS, are being set up to support local residents. The systems are being operated by engineers from TARDEC and Reclamation with support from the 38th Infantry Division's 38th Main Support Battalion.

On September 4, FEMA requested support from the Office of Naval Research for the EUWP, which is equipment created in coordination with TARDEC. The EUWP, a demonstration platform designed to evaluate new water purification technologies, is capable of delivering potable water in humanitarian relief missions around the world as well as in forward locations on the battlefield. It is C-130 transportable and compatible with the Army Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck-Load Handling System (HEMTT-LHS) transport vehicle. Development of this technology is a collaborative effort with input from other partners including: the Environmental Protection Agency, Reclamation and NASA as well as academia.

"We are pleased this emerging technology will be put to use to help the local residents who have suffered from the effects of the most devastating hurricane in this country's history," said Dr. Richard E. McClelland, Director, TARDEC. "Years of research, design and engineering have gone into the development of this technology so that it can be helpful in such a critical situation today."

The EUWP is the world's largest transportable desalination system. The relief mission in Mississippi is the second deployment of the EUWP in a real- world disaster relief scenario. Previously, a unit was put in place at Port Clarence, Alaska, Coast Guard station, where it produced approximately 250,000 gallons of purified water in 3 days, after a storm surge flooded the areas fresh water ponds.

TARDEC is headquartered at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan and is located in the heart of the world's automotive capital. Part of the Army Materiel Command's Research, Development and Engineering Command, TARDEC is the nation's laboratory for advanced military automotive technology. TARDEC's mission is to research, develop, engineer, leverage and integrate advanced technology into ground systems and support equipment. TARDEC's 1,100 associates develop and maintain vehicles for all US Armed Forces, numerous federal agencies and over 60 foreign countries. TARDEC continually pushes the state-of-the-art in technology areas of survivability, mobility, intelligent systems and maneuver support and sustainment, making sure that they field robust equipment that meets the performance needs of the Soldier.




Aquatic alarm: Norwalk River's oxygen drop may threaten fish
By John Nickerson, Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
May 5, 2004
NORWALK -- Unexplained plunges in the amount of oxygen in the Norwalk River have officials and environmentalists scrambling to halt a trend that
could threaten aquatic life.  The unusual drops in oxygen levels were first noticed nearly two weeks ago by an employee of The Maritime Aquarium
at Norwalk watching a Web site.

The University of Connecticut Department of Marine Sciences Web site, MYSound, displays water-quality information from seven sensors around
the state. One sensor is in 18 inches of water on the end of the aquarium's boat dock just north of the Stroffolino Bridge.  The aquarium staffer called John Frank, chairman of the city's Shellfish Commission.

Days before the call was made, millions of oyster larvae died unexpectedly in an indoor South Norwalk hatchery. The facility grows fledgling oysters in tanks of water pumped from the river about a quarter-mile downstream from the aquarium, close to Long Island Sound.  Frank has since called state and city agencies to figure out how to stabilize oxygen levels.

"We have found some strange spikes downward that do not make sense. They do not follow the normal biological process," Frank said.  Last month, oxygen content in the river dropped below 2 milligrams per liter seven times, he said. The drops in oxygen levels have lasted for about 15 minutes.
When oxygen levels drop below 1.5 milligrams per liter, fish can die, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Long Island Sound office. When oxygen levels drop below 3 milligrams per liter for four or so days, fish also can suffer.

Oxygen levels are normally higher in the spring than in the height of summer, when levels naturally decline because of water temperature and pollution.  Dick Harris, a director for Westport-based HarborWatch/RiverWatch, which does routine water quality sampling in the Sound, said oxygen levels usually decrease to about 7 or 8 milligrams per liter this time of year.

Archived material from the University of Connecticut's Web site show 19 of the first 21 days of April recorded levels below 6 milligrams of oxygen per liter.  "If its true, a lot of juvenile fish will not make it this spring," said Harris, adding that he doesn't believe the situation is a disaster.  In the next few days, Harris said he will use another oxygen meter to test the water.

Dissolved oxygen levels fluctuate normally throughout the day.  When the sun comes out, microscopic aquatic plants called phytoplankton release oxygen elevating levels of oxygen in water. At night, a reversal occurs as phytoplankton feed on oxygen, lowering its amount.  But recent oxygen levels show wild variations occurring sometimes twice during the night.

At Sargeant's Cove oyster hatchery in the Tallmadge Bros. building on Water Street, the lack of oxygen may have claimed its first victims.  Dave Hopp, an oyster boat skipper who runs the hatchery, said millions of oyster larvae died in four tanks a day after one of the most severe oxygen depletion episodes was recorded April 21.  According to the university graph, at midnight April 20 the oxygen level dipped below 1 milligram per liter. The next day, Hopp pumped river water into four tanks containing the larvae.

A day after that when the free-swimming oysters were examined, 5 million larvae were dead. The usual mortality rate for that size batch is 125,000, Hopp said.  "We don't know if it was due to that," he said. "It just happened to be at the same time. We have lost larvae before -- they are a fragile animal. It just happens sometimes. It could have been food or temperature."  But just in case oxygen could be the culprit, Hopp is purchasing an oxygen meter and will begin testing water pumped into the barrels used to grow oysters.

Frank said he first suspected that the city's wastewater treatment plant was to blame.  But Department of Public Works Director Harold Alvord said the plant is operating well and has not been releasing oxygen-depleted water into the river.  Alvord said he believes the problem is manmade and may be originating from one of the 210 drainpipes that end at the river within the city.

In the past week, Operations Management International, the private company that runs the sewage plant, has begun testing its discharge on an hourly basis.  Levels of oxygen have not dipped below 6 milligrams per liter, said Tom Closter, Health Department chief environmental officer.         Although he has not seen April's figures, Closter said the plant's daily average readings dating from March show the oxygen levels did not go below 6.1 milligrams per liter.

A health department employee was sent out a week ago to test for bacteria, which also can cause oxygen levels to drop.  No elevated readings were recorded, Closter said, adding that the plant is rapidly being ruled out as the cause of the low-oxygen conditions.  But William Ziegler III, who joined with the family of the late Hillard Bloom to create Sargeant's Cove hatchery, said he remains concerned about the sewage plant.

"It's a darn shame that we can't make better use of the facility (treatment plant) to keep the oxygen levels high and the nitrogen levels low. It is a major source of nitrogen," Ziegler said.  But Alvord said nitrogen levels, which lead to the growth of algae which lowers oxygen levels, are very low at the plant.  Closter, Frank and Alvord believe that the low oxygen levels may be the result of someone dumping chemicals in the river. Additional oxygen meters could be placed upstream to better locate the origins of the problem, Closter said.

Frank said city and state are cooperating in the effort to discover the source of the problem.  He said the situation could pose a danger, not only to fish but the oyster and clam business.  "We think of that upper part of the harbor as a natural nursery. A lot of oysters and clams spawn up there and they produce clams and oysters that end up settling or digging into the ground a good deal further downstream. Even though nobody goes clamming up there, we see that as an important part of the shellfish system," Frank said.




Aquarion seeking land deal with town
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Published June 12 2006

The Aquarion Water Co. wants to begin negotiating with Greenwich officials over the sale of up to 365 acres of land near reservoirs and other water supplies in town.

Though Greenwich officials have been talking to Aquarion for years about purchasing some of its land, the water company took a step closer to sealing the deal this week by saying it was notifying state regulators of its intention to enter formal negotiations with the town.

"This is an official notification," Aquarion spokeswoman Adrienne Vaughan said. "This is the beginning of negotiations."

Aquarion said it is willing to sell or give up development rights on 365 acres the water company owns in town.

"It signals our unwavering commitment to the perpetual preservation of water utility property for the protection of our water supplies and open space," Aquarion President and Chief Executive Officer Charles V. Firlotte said in a press release.

Town officials and conservation advocates have supported the sale for years, saying it would help protect the acres of meadows from being developed. The town had been in informal talks with Aquarion for years, though this is the water company's first formal recognition of Greenwich's interest in the land.

"It's great news because we hadn't gotten that formalized," Conservation Director Denise Savageau said of the negotiations.

First Selectman Jim Lash declined to comment by telephone on the announcement, though he said in a press release Aquarion issued that "all of Greenwich's residents will benefit from the protection of these land parcels."

The land deal involves 96 acres of land Aquarion owns on Lake Avenue and North Street for which the water company has little use. This land is farther away from Aquarion's reservoir supplies than other water company property being considered, so it could be eventually be used for recreational purposes.

The other 269 acres are adjacent to or near Putnam Lake and Rockwood Lake reservoirs and as a result would likely remain an open meadow buffer between drinking supplies and nearby developed areas.

Aquarion, which serves more than 16,300 homes and business in Greenwich and 221,000 households in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, said any land deal would take from two to three years to negotiate and finalize, including receiving regulatory approval from the state departments of Public Health and Public Utility Control.

Recently passed legislation rewards utility companies that sell their excess land for open space uses by allowing company shareholders to keep a larger percentage of the proceeds than if the land was sold for development. In the latter case, nearly all the profits could only go to benefit utility customers.

"It's in their best interest to sell it for open space conservation or public recreation," DPUC spokeswoman Beryl Lyons. "It benefits the company, but it benefits the public as well."

Before a sale could occur, Aquarion must have the land appraised and sell the land for at least that price.

Because the cost will likely be in the millions -- with few officials venturing to give a more precise figure -- the town will likely seek to create a public and private partnership that in the past successfully purchased the 110-acre Treetops property for $11.5 million on the Greenwich-Stamford border. Private donations along with municipal and state money went into the purchase of that property.

"There's going to be significant dollars," Savageau said of the Aquarion deal. "That's about all you can say at this point."


ENDANGERED LANDS BILL - OFA Fiscal Note

Explanation
The bill specifies requirements and restrictions on the abandonment of certain watershed lands and results in state and municipal impact. Passage of this bill will not result in a fiscal impact for the Departments of Public Health or Public Utility Control, as its provisions will not materially alter the agencies' regulatory responsibilities.

Section 1 of the bill may restrict future development activities on certain watershed lands, and correspondingly impact the tax base of any municipality in which such land is located. Passage of this section of the bill would result in potential revenue loss that is not known at this time.

Section 2 of the bill requires entities acquiring certain water companies to grant the state a permanent conservation easement (1) on the lands involved as a condition of the approval of the transfer. It provides that the easement be imposed once the abandonment of the watershed lands being transferred has been approved. To the extent that such an easement is considered a taking of that land, the state would have to compensate the owner for the loss in value of the land. The average bargain sale price for such lands is $5,800 per acre. Fair market value for the same lands is $12,500 per acre, which represents an increase of more than 50%. Passage of this section of the bill would result in potential significant cost to the state. (2)

Section 3 of the bill requires that all economic benefits from such transfers be allocated to ratepayers. Current law requires that these benefits be equally allocated between ratepayers and shareholders.

(1) A permanent conservation easement allows for the preservation and protection of public water supplies and natural resources,
predominantly as natural, scenic or open space lands.

(2) This analysis assumes that the Department of Environmental Protection would be initiating the purchase of any such lands.




State preparing for water battle; Experts anticipate legal fight over Colo. River rights
By Jerd Smith, Rocky Mountain News
December 11, 2004

Colorado will spend as much as $2 million in the next two years to build a legal war chest shoring up its rights to the drought-plagued Colorado River.  The new initiative comes as Lake Powell and Lake Mead - the river's giant storage ponds - have reached historic lows, triggering anxiety over future supplies from Los Angeles to Denver.

"About a year ago the people at the Colorado Water Conservation Board began sounding the alarm, saying we need to move to protect ourselves, and I agreed," said Russell George, executive director of the Colorado Division of Natural Resources. "Essentially we're building the best legal case that Colorado can have so that we presumably prevail when it comes down to making decisions.

"I think we have a couple of years (before the river's supplies could drop low enough to trigger a demand for more water for Nevada, Arizona and California). But we can't waste time."

The money is being spent on new computer models detailing how the river's supplies will be affected by ongoing drought and on creating a computerized historic archive documenting Colorado's use of the river under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. It also will pay for new legal research to help guide the state in the unlikely event that the lingering drought prompts new claims to Colorado's share of the river's supplies, George said.

In all, seven states have rights to its waters. How much each state gets is outlined in the 1922 Colorado River Compact, a hard-fought document that envisioned plenty for all.

Next week at the annual meeting of all the river's users in Las Vegas, Colorado plans to push to open new talks over long-standing problems on the river surfacing because of the drought and the West's population boom.

"The last 20 years have been a positive period for coming up with imaginative solutions on the river," said Jim Lochhead, a water attorney who advises Colorado cities on river compact issues and a former executive director of the Colorado Division of Natural Resources. "The next 20 years, though, may produce more difficult challenges if we continue to be in a dry cycle and the system continues to go down."

Millions depend on river

Colorado's destiny is intimately tied to the river whose birthplace lies high in the Never Summer Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park. It supplies roughly half the drinking water 3.6 million Front Range residents use annually, provides water for snowmaking from Winter Park to Vail and irrigates the peach and apple orchards that dot the Western Slope.

All told, roughly 25 million people in the West depend on its liquid bounty.  Nearly a century ago, before computer models could track snowmelt and streamflows, most believed the river's largesse was boundless.

The compact assumed, for instance, the river generated about 20 million acre-feet of water annually. Compact writers divided up 16 million acre-feet of its supplies among the seven states, saying they could argue over the rest later, according to Lochhead.  Experts now believe that surplus never existed and that the river generates 13 million to 13.5 million acre-feet (maf), on average. An acre-foot equals 326,000 gallons, enough to serve up to two urban families for one year.

The seven basin states rely on excess water generated in exceptionally wet years to make up the difference between the 13.5 maf and the 16 maf, with Lake Powell and Lake Mead acting as liquid bank accounts.  But the past five years have been harsh and dry, robbing Powell and Mead of their surpluses, threatening critical electric generating stations, endangering fish and drinking supplies.

How to deal with shortages has never been detailed before, George said. He and others believe all the basin states must move deliberately and calmly to decide how the water will be shared should the drought and the population boom continue.

"Ultimately the goal is to have an understanding among the seven states that everybody is cutting back and not wasting water so that we don't have to get to a true shortage that forces us back into our corners. That's never occurred, but we think it would get really ugly," he said.

3 issues to be resolved

In Colorado that means Front Range cities and Western Slope ski towns must begin planning now for potential cutbacks in their share of the river's supplies, George said.  The state's new water models are designed to help them determine what would happen under a number of different cutback scenarios, with spring snowmelt being the wild card.

For utilities with large storage reservoirs, such as Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Conservancy District, it will likely mean pushing hard to refill their own drought-stressed systems and to safeguard supplies until it's clear that Powell and Mead are beginning to refill, several water officials said.

"Maybe we have three years to accumulate a reserve," said Eric Wilkinson, manager of the Northern Colorado District. The district serves several Front Range cities including Fort Collins, Boulder and Broomfield. "That means we'll want to build an absolutely full (storage system) in case there is a call (for water from the Lower Basin states.)"

In the meantime, Colorado wants three key issues resolved:

• Under the 1922 compact, Mexico is entitled to 1.5 million acre-feet of water, to be delivered from surplus supplies. The Upper Basin was to contribute only in times of shortage. But since 1970, 750,000 acre-feet has been delivered from Lake Powell annually. That means, in Colorado's view, that the Upper Basin has delivered too much water. "That's a fundamental issue that has to be resolved," Lochhead said.

• Colorado also has asked U.S. Secretary of Interior Gale Norton to reduce the historic outflow from Lake Powell, in light of the drought. Reducing the flows from Powell would mean the Upper Basin states could maintain a stronger buffer against a possible demand for extra water from Nevada, Arizona and California.

• And Colorado also wants Arizona to stop storing river water it doesn't need in aquifers, further draining the two giant storage ponds. "We're very concerned about that. We would like to see it fixed right away," George said.

Even if snows come through this winter, most experts believe it will take Powell and Mead years to recover, leaving Colorado and other Upper Basin states vulnerable to demands for more water, particularly if a state of chronic, low-grade drought develops.

John Keys, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, hopes his agency can forestall those demands by carefully evaluating the river's supplies and asking each state to figure out ways to live with less.

"Our biggest fear," Keys said, "is that when this drought breaks, we'll still be short of water."



Experts: Tribes may lay claim to waterways
By Matthew Strozier, Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
January 26, 2003

The issue these days is land, but American Indian claims in Connecticut and elsewhere in the East could eventually involve water as well, creating a legal or regulatory quagmire for ill-prepared officials, according to legal experts.

Though frequent in the arid West, American Indian water claims are almost unheard of in states east of Missouri, experts said. Eastern states such as Connecticut also have a different doctrine of law governing water rights and it's unclear how American Indian claims would fit in it.

"What happens in many Eastern states is that water is abundant," said Judith Royster, professor of law and co-director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. "And what happens if water is abundant is that nobody is going to worry about allocating water among the various groups."

But droughts and increasing demands are hurting the East's water supply, and Royster said that could make tribes look at their water rights more closely to sustain federally recognized reservations.  Last week, spokesmen for American Indian tribes in Connecticut said they are not preparing water claims. Several said they had not even discussed the topic until asked about it by The Advocate.

"First time it's ever come up in all the years we've been doing it," said Chief Richard Velky of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, which has 400 acres in Kent, part of which borders the Housatonic River. "We don't see it as a potential problem at all, and I hope it wouldn't be."

Last month, the Bureau of Indian Affairs denied the Schaghticoke (Eastern CT) tribe's federal recognition in a preliminary decision. Scholars say federal recognition, and federally recognized reservations, are central to obtaining tribal water rights.  Charles Bunnell, deputy chief of staff for the Mohegan tribe, said the tribe has no intention of making water rights claims. "Not who they are as a people," he said.

The Mohegans are a federally recognized tribe, with a reservation on the western bank of the Thames River in Montville. Bunnell said the tribe is allowed to claim up to 700 acres to be part of the reservation but must acquire it from willing sellers. The Golden Hill Paugussetts plan to lay claim to 720,000 acres of the state from Waterbury to Greenwich, said Bill McBride, chief marketing officer for the tribe. McBride would not rule out a possible water claim but said it is not being considered.  The tribe received preliminary rejection of their federal recognition bid last week, but it has vowed to press ahead with land claims.

"That's possible," McBride said about a water claim. "Right now, we are really strategizing as to how we are going to proceed with the land claims."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said water claims have not been raised by American Indian tribes and the state would defeat them if they were. It would take federal statute, treaty, agreement or executive order to override sovereign state's rights to water, and Blumenthal called those things very unlikely.

"I don't think people should have any fear that the Connecticut River, the Quinnipiac River or our other major waterways are going to be seized by an Indian tribe," Blumenthal said. "Or that they will begin paying their water bill to the Golden Hill Paugussetts."

The lack of claims or litigation has not stopped academic debate on the subject.  The discussion revolves around the different kinds of water regulation in the East and West.  Connecticut and other Eastern states have regulated riparianism, which requires water users to obtain permits for their water consumption. Western states have an appropriative system, which gives the first users to claim the water priority.

In the event of an American Indian water claim in the East, the question would be what system should apply, or if either should. Needs for the water could include agriculture, fishing, mining and businesses, depending on federal decisions.  Villanova University law professor Joseph Dellapenna argues state water systems such as regulated riparianism apply to American Indian tribes as well. In regulated riparianism, they would get permits along with other users and share in the risk of a drought.

Royster counters that a third system of "reserved rights" would apply because federally recognized reservations are separate from state laws. The federal government would have to determine the tribe's original "time immemorial" water needs, such as for farming, and its current needs.  Royster said water and land go together for federal tribes. "I think the water rights go with the land," she said. "And if tribes have rights to land that includes rights to water. They are inseparable."

In Western states, American Indian tribes began asserting rights to water in big numbers in the 1970s, Royster said, and their victories have resulted in intense hostility from non-American Indian water users. There was a particularly protracted fight over tribal water rights in Wyoming around the Big Horn River.

Scholars said state officials should study a case in Florida with the Seminole Tribe. A settlement was reached with the state and the tribe that allowed the tribe the right to 15 percent of the available water from specified sources, rather than a set gallon amount.  Discussion of American Indian water rights may sound remote now, but Dellapenna and Royster said that will change in the East. They said addressing the various water needs and rights early is vital.

"It's not going to be easy, nobody is going to argue with that," Royster said. "It's going to be a headache, but it's not insurmountable." 


Hartford Courant editorial Monday, June 3, 2002...
Act On Water Ordinances
ENFIELD & NEIGHBORS -- Rainy days can easily wash away concerns about water shortages and summer drought.  But the wet reprieves should not stop towns from approving water conservation ordinances. It is better to prepare thoughtfully with powers that may never be used than to rush through new regulations under emergency conditions.

The rain hasn't relieved the water shortage entirely. In Manchester, for instance, municipal wells are 41/2 feet below normal levels. The April rainfall was 1 inch less than normal.

The Manchester Board of Directors is debating a water ordinance and is expected to act after some questions are answered. The directors are giving themselves time to make sure they've thought of all of the implications.

There's no water emergency in Manchester. But that could change. And the Manchester proposal anticipates other reasons for water system shutdowns, such as a terrorist act.

Enfield discussed passing a water ordinance but decided it wasn't necessary. Representatives of the Hazardville Water Company thought their aquifer supplies were sufficient and that no action was necessary. The Connecticut Water Company also assured the council that its aquifers were adequate. But it serves other towns as well and might want to draw down its water supplies to keep water flowing elsewhere. Some council members worried that a water ordinance could give the company that option.

East Windsor is scheduled to discuss a water conservation ordinance at its June 4 meeting. Officials are wisely researching other municipal regulations to tailor rules that fit East Windsor's needs.

The state often issues water conservation advisories. But those are voluntary. If towns have individual regulations they can respond quickly to local water emergencies.

With water supplies being replenished, it is easy to think there will be no drought. But it's better to be prepared.



Thursday, April 11, 2002 - 5:58:49 AM MST (Connecticut POST)
State mobilizes for growing drought danger
By PAM DAWKINS - pdawkins@ctpost.com

NEW BRITAIN -- Much of southwestern Connecticut is in the red -- not financially, but in terms of water.

Three years of below-average precipitation have left Connecticut with a rain deficit and drought watches in Fairfield, New Haven and Middlesex counties.  Now, state residents can monitor the drought through a new Web site, www.drought.state.ct.us.

"This is an unfolding story," said Arthur J. Rocque Jr., commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, during a Wednesday press conference to unveil the site. The DEP and the departments of Public Utility Control and Public Health are working together on the live Web site, through which visitors can monitor rainfall, groundwater and river levels, water restrictions and the level of danger from forest fires.

"It's not so much that we have an immediate crisis on our hands," said DPUC Chairman Donald W. Downes. But rain in the levels forecast for the immediate future is unlikely to fix the problem, unless the state and municipalities take action.

The state is calling on consumers to watch their water usage and, according to Rocque, as the situation gets closer to the "emergency" level (which comes after advisory, watch and warning levels) mandatory conservation measures will kick in.

"We're not yet at the stage where fines are ready to be imposed," Rocque said.  According to the DEP, between last July and early April approximately 19 inches of precipitation has fallen, compared with an average of 34 to 35 inches. Streams and reservoirs are well below their usual levels and, because of the lack of snow this winter, will not get their normal refill from melting snow.

Earlier this month, BHC Co., the Bridgeport-based water provider for more than 500,000 people in Greater Bridgeport, New Canaan and Ridgefield, asked its customers to cut their water use by 20 percent a day. Usual use for their customers is 70 million gallons a day, said spokeswoman Adrienne C. Vaughan.  Its Greater Bridgeport System, Vaughan said, should be at 98.5 percent capacity at this time of year; it is at 75 percent.

According to BHC, Bridgeport's rainfall since October is 9.5 inches below average.  The company has asked local officials for mandatory drought restrictions but, Vaughan said, she believes Stamford and Ridgefield are the only towns to do so yet.  The warming weather, usually so welcome in Connecticut, means an increase in water use -- for pools, watering lawns and cleaning cars -- and also an increase in water evaporation rates.

"Then we will have a water shortage " if we don't get more rainfall, Rocque said.

To stave off that shortage, the state is partnering with The Home Depot, Lowes and the utilities to promote conservation products and efforts.  DPUC Commissioner John W. Betkowski III noted Wednesday that "Faucet leaks can waste up to 500 gallons a month," and a leaky toilet can use up to 1,000 gallons a month.

"For very little cost, they [consumers] can save water," he said in announcing that conservation products are now available at home improvement stores as well as Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating's SmartLiving Centers.  The state is also beginning door-to-door education campaigns, said DPH Commissioner Dr. Joxel Garcia.

Of the state's more than 3 million residents, he said, approximately 2.6 million are served by 95 community water systems; 88,000 get their water from 457 small water systems that each serve less than 1,000 people, and the remaining 700,000 get their water from wells.

Mandatory conservation efforts are under way for 13 of the 95 biggest systems, while 74 of them are asking residents to conserve water voluntarily. Of the smaller water systems, 389 are practicing either mandatory or voluntary conservation efforts.  Residents who get their water from wells need to watch the quality, Garcia said. As levels decline, there could be more sediment showing up in drinking water.

If this happens, Garcia suggests calling in local health departments to test the water before running out to buy filters.  "We don't want to be punitive," said Garcia of the conservation efforts. "This is something that may affect the economy if we don't take this seriously."

With that possible impact in mind, Rocque said he is talking to people at the Department of Economic and Community Development, to keep them abreast of what is happening.  For the past few years, Rocque said, businesses have already been instructed to stop using drinking water for industrial purposes, if possible.

"At this point in time, we don't see any real dislocations for business," Rocque said.



In Terms Of Water, We're Still In A Hole;  Recent Rains Don't Make Up For 9 Months Of Dry Weather
April 5, 2002
By STEVE GRANT, Courant Staff Writer

It rained last week, it rained over the weekend, and it rained Wednesday.

What drought?

"Short rainfalls like this, although they are highly beneficial - I hate to use this cliché - are a drop in the bucket," said Gerald R. Iwan, chief of water supplies at the state Department of Public Health.

Precipitation is so far below normal - a deficit of 15 inches over the past nine months - that wells in some locations are nearly as depleted as they were during the historic drought of the 1960s.

Moreover, as the growing season kicks in during coming weeks, and trees and other plants lay first claim to much of the precipitation, it will become more difficult for water supplies to rebound.

Without heavy rains, reservoirs and wells could be in even worse shape by summer. Because of that, state agencies involved in water supply management issued an advisory this week asking all Connecticut residents to voluntarily conserve water.

Though weather patterns in recent weeks have brought wetter weather, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration doubt that the rain will be enough to break the drought conditions prevailing in the Eastern United States. "Months of normal-to-above-normal precipitation are necessary to end it," the agency says.

Mel Goldstein, The Courant's weather columnist and chief meteorologist at WTNH-TV, Channel 8, said Thursday that he does not see above-normal precipitation in the forecast either.

"There are no prospects for that whatsoever," he said.  "The best we can hope is stay up with normal precipitation."

Water supplies today are far more closely regulated than they were in the 1960s: Supplies have been enhanced in some places and many reservoirs are interconnected to help move water from one area affected more than another. But even with those improvements, agencies involved with drought management say there could be serious problems if dry weather persists.

Arthur J. Rocque Jr., commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, anticipating potential problems, said his agency already has taken one unusual conservation step.  It waived its requirement that operators of water impoundments release a spring freshet flow, a step
ordinarily taken in late winter or early spring to blow out organic matter downstream and ensure river health.

"That helps us save a little bit of water," Rocque said, and, because even a wild stream may not see a freshet flow every year, the effect on stream health should be nominal.

The agency also is considering altering its trout-stocking program. The DEP still plans to stock all the streams it ordinarily stocks before the fishing season begins April 20, but it plans to watch water levels closely, and if some streams become too low once the season begins, they might not receive additional fish during the season.

"It depends on Mother Nature cooperating and providing some heavier than normal rainfall over the next four or five weeks," said William Hyatt, director of the agency's inland fisheries division. Streams most vulnerable are those such as the Saugatuck River in Fairfield County that are
downstream of reservoirs.

Even with the latest rain, which has perked up most rivers, groundwater supplies remain unusually low. And groundwater supplies are a major water source for streams during summer months.

"The point a lot of people don't understand is that groundwater and stream water is one system," said Virginia de Lima, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Connecticut district office.

The survey's Connecticut district maintains a network of indicator wells, which, according to the latest readings, are exceptionally low, some of them with levels similar to those recorded during the drought of the mid-1960s.  The water level of an indicator well in Mansfield, for example, is similar to the level recorded at this time in 1965, when the state was well into a prolonged drought.

That drought, affecting much of the Northeast, is considered the drought of record for the state, of such severity that it is likely to happen only once in 200 years. It lasted from September 1961 to September 1966 and severely taxed water supplies in many areas.

The Barkhamsted Reservoir, one of the main supplies for the Hartford area, fell to an all-time low of 42 percent of capacity at the end of 1965, compared with its current level of 77 percent. The utility said in 1965 that water supplies were in "an ever-diminishing state throughout the state."
Yearly rainfall had been running 12 to 15 inches below normal.

During summer 1966, a ban on lawn watering was imposed between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., a mild restriction compared to measures taken in New York, parts of Massachusetts and New Jersey.

What has changed since then?

Population has increased over the past 40 years, but supply improvements have been made, too. And, with better planning, water conservation measures are triggered even before serious problems develop.

Iwan said there is sketchy information available regarding the 1960s drought in Connecticut, largely because there was little overall state management of water supplies at the time.

"Coordinated responses by state agencies were few and far between," he said. The water supply office at Public Health had "no more than seven or eight employees."  Today it has upward of 50.

The number of reservoirs has changed comparatively little, but there are many more groundwater supplies being tapped.

"I would say that we augmented the supply and improved the supply with additional groundwater wells," Iwan said.  Also significant is an improved planning process for utilities, and mechanical improvements that provide flexibility between water utilities.

"We have a much higher level of technical sophistication and planning in effect now," Iwan said. "It doesn't offset the need for the rain, but it allows us to go further into a drought than arguably we were able to do in the 1960s."

A less severe drought in 1999 drew attention to problems with the Metropolitan District Commission's delivery system, which has undergone corrective measures since.  Last year the district, using a device called a "pig," scoured sediments and deposits from its main distribution line, increasing the carrying capacity of the line by 8 million gallons a day.

Water saving devices, including those for shower heads and toilets, have helped conserve water. Also, many water utilities today have interconnections with other systems that can be crucial if one system becomes taxed while a neighboring system still has a comfortable supply, Iwan said.

One problem associated with the 1960s drought in much of the East is unlikely to recur to any significant degree. In the 1960s, there were few sewage-treatment plants operating, and those that existed were primitive. When streams became low, dilution was reduced, and pollution became an even worse problem than it had been.

Today, sewage-treatment plants are ubiquitous and into their third generation of treatment efficiencies in many places. Many of these plants have the ability to move to an even higher level of treatment if flows were to drop to dangerously low levels, Rocque said.  At the moment, the agency sees no need for any change in treatment levels, Rocque said.

Legislation enacted two decades ago will help in the event of a severe drought, Rocque said. Any diversion from a river must have a permit from the state, ensuring that a business or utility can't just siphon water from a stream without regard to downstream impacts.

"Habitat impacts you would expect to see in a prolonged drought like we saw in the `60s are less likely to occur because that law is in place," he said.


Without A Doubt, It's A Drought
March 8, 2002, by STEVE GRANT, Courant Staff Writer

On a typical March day, the Barkhamsted Reservoir brims with water from melting snow, thousands of gallons raging through the spillway at its south end.  The spillway was dry Thursday morning.

The late-winter roar that usually issues from the swollen brooks that help fill the reservoir - and provide the Hartford area with drinking water - was little more than a melodic tinkle.

With almost no snow and almost no rain this winter, the worst drought in two decades is imposing increasing strains on Connecticut's water supplies, though they are not at crisis levels. At least not yet. If the drought continues in coming months, problems could be far more serious by
summer.

Four of the state's largest water utilities already have imposed mandatory conservation measures such as bans on washing cars or watering lawns. Fourteen have asked customers to voluntarily conserve water.  The New Britain Water Department, which imposed mandatory restrictions, exercised an old agreement with the Metropolitan District Commission and last month drew about 8 million gallons of water from the Nepaug
Reservoir in New Hartford, Canton and Burlington. It was the first time the city has tapped the MDC system, which manages Greater Hartford's water, since the prolonged drought of the 1960s.

The U.S. Geological Survey found troubling new evidence of the severity of the drought in its latest check of the network of 70 wells it maintains to monitor groundwater supplies statewide.  Water levels in 54 of the wells were the lowest ever recorded for February. Winter ordinarily is a time when aquifers are recharging while vegetation is dormant.

"The fact we haven't seen the rise during the winter is the concern," said Virginia de Lima, the survey's Connecticut district chief. "Water levels tend to fall beginning in April, and they will be falling from a lower point." The beginning of the drought can be traced back perhaps as far as the late 1990s, but it has been pronounced since January 2001. Since then, precipitation has run about 16 inches below normal. Since Jan. 1 this year,
precipitation is more than 3 inches below normal.

"When I go back to 1905 in our records, I can't find a [winter] season like this, this combination of warm, dry and snowless," said Mel Goldstein, The Courant's weather columnist and chief meteorologist for WTNH-TV, Channel 8. "It's not the climate of New England. It's not the climate of South Carolina. It's the climate of Arizona and the southwest part of the United States."

Snowfall is headed for a record low. The official total for Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks is about 11 inches.  The winter of 1988-89 had only 14 inches of snow, but it was different because the winter was cold. The winter of 1936-37 also recorded only 14 inches of snow, but there were nearly 7 inches of rain in December.  This season, rain also has been scarce. Last weekend, 1.25 inches fell in Windsor Locks, the first time since September more than an inch fell in a 24-hour period.

At the Barkhamsted Reservoir, the brooks and streams perked up a bit after the rain, but their flows are crashing again. The rain didn't make much difference in the reservoir's overall supply.  "As the situation has declined in regard to precipitation, we see more and more systems notifying their customers to conserve, which we think is proactive and appropriate at this time," said Gerald R. Iwan, chief of water supplies at the state Department of Public Health. "If they're able to conserve water and keep demands down, that is that much more they have for later."

The MDC, comparatively well off among Connecticut water utilities but keeping a wary eye on the ever-more-exposed shorelines of its reservoirs, estimates it has a 500-day supply at the moment, not low enough that the utility needs to impose restrictions.  On Thursday, Carol E. Youell, the MDC's natural resources administrator, sidestepped mussel shells and old stumps as she surveyed on foot acres of exposed Barkhamsted Reservoir bottom that a year ago was deep below the reservoir's surface.  MDC spokesman Matt Nozzolio said the reservoir is about 12 feet below capacity level, or 75 percent of its volume capacity. While the utility has not imposed any formal restrictions, it is urging customers to avoid waste. Once
levels fall below a 430-day supply, a first step would be to ask municipalities to cut back on non-essential use such as street cleaning and vehicle washing, he said.

"March and April historically are wetter months, so we're hoping there will be some replenishment," Nozzolio said.  Goldstein said more rain seems likely over the next 10 days, but not enough to make up the deficit. That could take months, if relief comes at all.



Drought comes to unofficial end
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Published December 28 2007

Recent rains have moved the town out of drought status, though officials said they do not want to lift the drought advisory until the reservoirs begin to fill up more.

The latest readings taken Wednesday show the reservoirs at 36 percent full, up four percentage points from last Friday and nine percentage points from last month when Aquarion Water Co. and town officials first issued a drought advisory asking residents and businesses to voluntarily cut water usage by 10 percent.

Despite the increase in reservoir levels, residents and businesses should continue to curtail water usage, town and water company authorities said, adding they want to make sure the reservoirs fill up some more before officially lifting the drought advisory.

"I still would like them to be at the 80 or 90 percent level where they should be," Greenwich Conservation Director Denise Savageau said of reservoir levels. "We're still way down from where we should be."

Officials called for voluntary water restrictions last month after reservoir levels dipped below 28 percent. Authorities were poised to issue mandatory water restrictions had the levels dipped below 25 percent. But the reservoirs held steady and then recent rain storms began inching levels higher. Still, town officials said they do not feel comfortable about lifting the drought advisory until they can be sure that there is more rain in the forecast.

"We would still be urging people to voluntarily look at water conservation," Savageau said. "We don't want to lift everything and go back to a drought in February and March."

One of the concerns is that although the reservoir levels are adequate for this time of year when the demand for water is low, as spring approaches, the reservoirs will have to be closer to 100 percent full in order to accommodate the traditional spike in water usage.

Spring is when people begin to use water for outdoor purposes, such as gardening and lawn care. Unless more rain falls and begins to fill the reservoirs to capacity in preparation for spring, the town could have a more serious drought problem in a couple of months, officials said.

"We could be back in it shortly unless we continue to get significant precipitation," said Adam Brill, a Bridgeport-based spokesman for the Aquarion Water Co.

A drought advisory committee convened to monitor the public drinking water supplies is scheduled to meet Jan. 8 to discuss the situation, including weather forecasts.

"We'll take a look and make an assessment," Savageau said. "Hopefully, we'll have some really good storm events."

The National Weather Service is calling for more rain tonight and tomorrow and a chance of snow or rain on Sunday. Most of the rainfall will be light -- about half an inch to three quarters of an inch of total precipitation.

"Nothing that would bring us flooding," Upton, N.Y.-based meteorologist David Wally said. "This would be good rainfall -- beneficial rainfall to help alleviate any kind of drought."

Although the 7 inches of rain that fell in parts of Fairfield County in September, October and November was at the lowest on record for the three months combined, the 3 inches that fell this month is slightly above normal, Wally said.

"A couple more rainfalls should ensure we stay above normal," he said.


Town teeters on drought
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen
Published December 4 2007

The town's reservoirs are hanging steady just above the 25 percent of capacity mark that would require mandatory restrictions on water use, officials said.

Greenwich remains under a drought advisory as reservoir levels hovered at 27 percent of capacity, according to the Aquarion Water Co. Normally, reservoir levels should be 80 percent full this time of year, officials said.

The periodic precipitation has been paltry, including the half-inch that came during Sunday's snowfall and the quarter of an inch that fell yesterday morning, said David Medd, Aquarion's Greenwich operations manager.

Still the combination of sporadic light rain events combined with less water usage have contributed to keeping reservoir levels steady.

"A month ago, we were in a declining pattern," Medd said. "Now, we're just flattening out."

Medd said demand appears to be slightly less than it was at this time last year, although it is unclear whether that is due to the call for conservation.

"Whether it's conservation or whether it's weather -- maybe I like to think it's a little of both," he said.

At the same time, if the reservoirs stayed where they are at and don't begin filling up by mid-February, mandatory restrictions, which primarily restrict outdoor water usage, will be instituted, Medd said. That is because as the weather begins to warm up and spring prepares to kick in, water usage is expected to increase.

"If we don't start seeing increases -- and significant increases --Êin a month or so, it's going to be that much of a concern," Medd said. Under the drought advisory residents are asked to voluntary reduce their water usage by 10 percent.

Aquarion officials also have contacted some of its top business customers to ask that they do what they can to conserve water, such as fixing leaky pipes.

First Selectman Peter Tesei received an update yesterday on the drought situation from Conservation Director Denise Savageau, who said she wants to step up the town's public relations campaign and persuade more people to save water.

"Folks are talking about it, they are aware we're in a drought advisory," she said. "We want to reinforce that."

Savageau intends to update the town's Web site, www.greenwichct.org, to include tips on ways to save water around the house. Private well users also should try to conserve water because groundwater supplies appear affected by drought conditions.

"There are some streams that are flowing below normal," she said. "We're watching it very careful."



Water officials waiting on weather
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Published November 18 2007

If no rain were to fall in Greenwich during the next several months, the town would have only a 90-day supply of public drinking water left in its reservoirs, according to water company figures.

Despite the seemingly dire conditions, water company officials said chances are good that a soaking rain storm will pass through the area in the near future and recharge the reservoirs. They also have measures at their disposal that would allow them to stretch out and manage the public drinking water supply, including bringing water from other areas through a regional pipe system, said Aquarion Water Co.'s operation manager David Medd.

"At this point, I'm cautiously optimistic," he said. "Odds are we're going to have some precipitation."

Droughts usually occur during the summer when demand is high and there isn't much rain. This year, the dry spell came as summer turned into fall and the unseasonably warm temperatures persisted. Those conditions worked to keep water demand high, Medd said. Also, because the late summer and early fall featured unusually dry conditions, rain that did fall was quickly absorbed by the ground instead of recharging the reservoirs, he said.

But those conditions have begun to change and as the temperatures have turned colder, water demand, particularly from outdoor use, has begun to drop, Medd said. Now officials are waiting for a long soaking rain to come around to recharge the reservoirs.

"If things stay dry, then all bets are off," Medd said.

During this time of year when the reservoirs should normally be at 80 percent of capacity, Greenwich's supplies are only slightly more than a quarter full at 27 percent. In some ways, having a drought when the weather turns cold is easier to manage than during the summer, Medd said.

"To a degree yes, because it's less stressful on the system," he said, adding that demand for water in the summer is nearly double the amount as in winter. "In the summer, the severity (of a drought) can be much greater."

At the same time, encouraging water conservation also presents a greater challenge, particularly because most residents are used to summer droughts when saving water typically means turning off the sprinklers and refraining from filling swimming pools, officials said. With little outdoor water use taking place this time of year, officials are faced with the trickier challenge of educating residents on ways to conserve water indoors, such as asking residents and companies to fix leaky pipes and promoting low-flow faucets and shower heads, said Greenwich Conservation Director Denise Savageau.

"If the weather doesn't turn around for us, we need to think about conservation," she said.

Medd said that at this point, the reservoirs need a good soaking, which he would characterize as more than an inch of precipitation. Greenwich's reservoirs hold 3.5 billion gallons of water, which comes from water collected over a 35-mile watershed.

With Greenwich in a drought advisory, which calls for a 10-percent voluntary reduction on water usage, other municipalities, such as Stamford, also are close to instituting similar calls, officials said. At the same time, other parts of the state have an adequate reservoir supply. That is because the weather has been unpredictable, in some cases, giving Greenwich scant rain while showering other parts of the state with plenty of precipitation, Savageau said.

"We've been having very localized storms," she said. "It's really a hit and miss with the weather."


In another part of CT...
Norwich Residents Asked to Conserve Water 
DAY
By Izaskun E. Larrañeta    
Published on 11/16/2007 

 

Norwich Public Utilities is urging its customers to conserve water as the reservoirs that serve the city are less than 60 percent full.

Today’s announcement means the utility company has issued a Stage 1 Water Supply Emergency, asking customers to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 10 to 20 percent. Not since the mid-1980s has NPU issued this type warning.

Last month, NPU issued a water supply advisory but with lack of rain it was forced to upgrade the level of emergency.

John Bilda, general manager at NPU. said typically reservoirs are at 80 percent capacity this time of year. Rainfall totals across New England have been 35 percent below normal, he added.

The city did receive about sixth-tenths of an inch of rain Thursday but that was still not enough, said Christopher LaRose, the utilities’ operations integrity manager.

LaRose said if the weather does not improve and the city does not get more rain, a Stage 2 Water Supply Emergency, which is not voluntary, could be issued in February.



Deluge eases water worries 
Greenwich  TIME
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Published October 13 2007

Though up to 4.5 inches of rain that fell in parts of town this week helped raise the drinking water supply, the town's reservoirs are still at half their normal levels, officials said yesterday.

The reservoirs were last measured at 33 percent of capacity on Wednesday, but even Thursday's deluge wasn'tenough to fill them to the 72 to 78 percent normally seen this time of year, said David Medd, operations manager for the Aquarion Water Co.

"We need another three or four or five days of what we've been getting," Medd said.

Earlier this month, water and town officials issued a call for voluntary water conservation because of low reservoir levels. The National Weather Service predicts another batch of rainstorms might arrive as early as Tuesday night.

"We're definitely not out of the woods yet," Medd said. "But I feel a lot better now than two weeks ago."

The heaviest downpours came Thursday night when rain gauges measured 2.5 inches of precipitation in backcountry Greenwich and 3.3 in the downtown area, officials said.  Though nearby municipalities experienced flooding problems, Greenwich had minimal damage, officials said.

"There was some pretty heavy flooding in the Old Greenwich area, but no major damage once the water subsided," Public Works Commissioner Lloyd Hubbs said.

The rainstorms were a mere shadow of the nor'easter that flooded most parts of town in April, forcing the evacuation of 100 residents living in low-lying areas and qualifying Greenwich for federal disaster relief.  Still, this week's precipitation helped officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who were touring Pemberwick yesterday, see the Byram River's raging waters for themselves. Officials were in town to inspect the frequently flooded areas of Pemberwick in preparation for a $100,000 federal study of the river.

"The water was piling over those dams pretty rapidly," said Jodi McDonald, chief of the rivers and lakes section of the corps' planning division in New York, who was among the contingent visiting Pemberwick yesterday.

The corps is conducting a so-called "reconnaissance" study to identify the flooding problems along the river, which winds through New York and Connecticut, and determine whether an engineering solution will help to fix it. Yesterday's tour, also attended by U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, was the corps' first visit to the Connecticut side of the river.

"It was really a straightforward first initial site visit to see where the problem areas are," McDonald said. "We may come back to show our engineering team some of the issues and what the watershed looks like and we'll go from there."

The corps expects to publish its study sometime early next year.


Drought Advisory: Trout, Reservoirs, Dairy Farms Stressed By Lack Of Rain
By RINKER BUCK | Courant Staff Writer
October 6, 2007

Trout entrepreneur Harold McMillan was not at all surprised to learn on Friday that Gov. M. Jodi Rell had issued a drought advisory for the state. All fall, he's been watching the water and the trout disappear.


McMillan, a devout fly-fisher who quit his Wall Street job to found Housatonic River Outfitters in Cornwall Bridge in 1996, normally spends the Columbus Day weekend presiding over a busy fly shop and dispatching river guides in driftboats down the Housatonic with anglers. But like anyone who lives close to the water and the land, he's acutely aware of the weather. This year, after a wet spring and early summer, it simply stopped raining in Connecticut, with barely 2 inches of precipitation being recorded at Bradley International Airport since Aug. 1;normally, in August and September, the state receives 8 inches of rain.

The results of the shortfall have been evident to McMillan and his fellow river guides along the Housatonic and Farmington watersheds all fall, especially along the major streams and tributaries where trout breed. A wildlife boom in Connecticut - predator species like hawks and fisher cats have dramatically increased in number - has combined with the drought conditions to threaten the trout trapped in stream pools. Normally, by this time of year, enough rain has fallen so that those stream trout can escape to the larger river below.

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Gov. M. Jodi Rell is calling on all homes and businesses to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 10 percent. Here are some water-saving tips from the state:

In the Bathroom
• Repair all leaks. A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons per day.

In the Kitchen
• Use a dishpan for washing and rinsing dishes or fruits and vegetables.
• Do not use water to defrost frozen foods.
• Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.

In the Garden
• Wait until the coolest part of the day to water lawn, garden.
• Wash the car with water from a bucket rather than a hose.
• If you use a hose, control the flow with an automatic shut-off nozzle.
• Use mulch around shrubs and garden plants to reduce evaporation.

Private Well Users
• If your pump is going on more frequently, or if air bubbles come from your faucet, you may have a water problem.

Source: State Department of Public Health
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"But the streams are all exceptionally pressed for water this year and the trout are having a hard time," McMillan says. "As the water level in the pools gets lower and lower, the fish just can't get away from the predators. With the usual predation cycle in nature, it's either `fight or flight.' Well, trout can't fight, and now they've lost their option of flight because the water levels are too low. Between the ospreys, herons, raccoons and fishers, all of them feasting on our trout streams, we're getting quite a population loss this year."

Rell issued the drought advisory Friday after several large towns, including Bristol and Manchester, recorded reservoir levels below 70 percent and water monitors on the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers showed that they are flowing at seriously low levels. The Hartford area is in relatively better shape, with the Metropolitan District Commission reporting central Connecticut reservoirs running at 85 percent of capacity, only about 5 percent below normal. The University of Connecticut has also called for mandatory water conservation at its Storrs campus.

An advisory is the least severe of four levels of alerts; the others are drought watch, drought warning and drought emergency, and this one was issued in part because the National Weather Service predicts that Connecticut will receive no significant rainfall next week.

Among other measures, Rell is calling on all Connecticut homes and businesses to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 10 percent.

Normally, according to data compiled by the National Weather Service, the climate station at Bradley airport in Windsor Locks records about 35 inches of rain for the year by early October. (Hartford generally receives about 44 inches of rain for the year, with precipitation occurring on about 125 days.) But the year-to-date rainfall recorded as of yesterday was only 29.6 inches. Most of this deficit has occurred in August and September.

Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., says there is no rain in sight for Connecticut through next Friday.

W. David LeVasseur, an undersecretary at the state Office of Policy and Management, is nicknamed Connecticut's "drought czar" because he coordinates the drought-watching activities of several state agencies and large municipalities. Water experts with several state agencies, from the Department of Environmental Protection to Homeland Security, have been meeting over the past two weeks about Connecticut's drought conditions, LeVasseur says, and they were somewhat surprised to have to move to the first stage of an emergency by issuing the drought advisory this week.

"It's been a very interesting scenario this year because we had an awful lot of rain in the spring and early summer and so our groundwater reserves appeared to be in good shape," LeVasseur says. "But a second month in a row of almost no rain triggered this drought advisory.

A complex formula of "triggers," LeVasseur says, is used to make the decision to issue a drought advisory or drought watch. For example, precipitation that is 35 percent below level for two consecutive months, or measured groundwater levels being below average for three months, can help trigger a drought advisory. The state also monitors flow on major rivers and streams, reservoir levels and the Crop Moisture Index recorded by the state Department of Agriculture.

"It's not just an index or two that triggers a drought alert," LeVasseur says. "It's a combination of factors, because we want the public to know this is based on real data from a wide variety of water measurement points."

Unlike the Housatonic River fishing guides, or the dairy farmers complaining that their grazing meadows are dry, orchard-keeper John Lyman III says that the dry conditions this fall may actually help his business. Lyman, one of the family proprietors of the large Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, annually harvests 45,000 bushels of apples in September and October. For a variety of reasons, including the changing economics of the orchard business in New England, drought hasn't threatened his crop this year. While the amount of rain that an orchard receives every year may help determine the size of apples, Lyman says, it is aggregate sunlight over a season that determines the quality of the harvest.

"Most people aren't aware of this but, typically, in a dry year, fruits and vegetables taste better," says Lyman. "If the weather is dry and clear, all that sun beating down on the fruit favors the development of natural sugars, so the apples are sweeter. But for that to happen you have to have plenty of rain early in the growing season so the fruit is fully formed before the dry weather arrives, which is exactly what happened this year. We were well positioned with rain by early August."

Lyman says that in Middlefield he was blessed by a single, mid-August thunderstorm that helped his crop - local rainfall that orchards elsewhere in the state might not have received. Still, he expects the state apple crop this year to be healthy, with slightly smaller but sweeter-tasting fruit.

The warm fall weather has helped Lyman Orchards in other ways. Like many New England apple operations, the Lyman family has aggressively diversified away from the traditional business of selling bulk apple harvests into the fickle wholesale market. The Lyman operation now includes a busy pick-your-own operation for families, a large retail store, online sales of apple products and even two golf courses.

"It's not your grandfather's orchard anymore, and the industry has transitioned to a pick-your-own model with a strong retail component," Lyman says. "So you want clear, warm weather in the fall to attract that weekend family traffic. We joke around here that the only rain we want in the fall is between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. So, warm, dry weather spins both ways for an orchard."

Lyman says that the exceptionally dry, warm conditions in September have increased his pick-your-own and retail business by 5 to 10 percent, and he expects a "very healthy" Columbus Day weekend.



Gov. issues drought advisory, state agencies must conserve water
Norwalk HOUR
October 6, 2007

HARTFORD [AP] — The governor is issuing a drought advisory for Connecticut and is directing all state agencies to take immediate steps to conserve water.
Rainfall totals over the past few months have been 35 percent below normal.  Town officials in Bristol, Manchester, Norwich, Sprague, Greenwich and Sharon have already enacted emergency rules for water conservation.

While there may be some relief over the weekend, Governor Rell says it's still important for residents to take steps to conserve water. She advises people turn off the tap when brushing their teeth, take shorter showers, stop watering their lawns and do larger loads of laundry.  The governor is also recommending that each city and town designate an official drought coordinator to work with local water utilities and the appropriate state agencies.


NPU asks customers to conserve water 
DAY
Published on 10/3/2007 

Blaming a lack of rain and an unexpectedly warm autumn, Norwich Public Utilities today announced a water supply advisory and is asking customers to conserve water. 

A water supply advisory serves to alert the public of a potential water shortage in the event of on-going dry conditions and receding reservoir levels, according to NPU.
 
Norwich water customers are served by the Deep River and Stony Brook reservoirs. During an average fall, local reservoirs are at approximately 80% of their full capacity.  Currently, local reservoirs are at 70% capacity, the utility said in a press release.

Utilities that provide water are required to have plans in place to deal with water supply issues long before a severe drought would trigger emergency measures. At the advisory level, customers are asked to conserve water by limiting their usage and restricting activities such as washing cars or watering lawns.  



Anxiously Waiting For Water, Lack Of Rain A Problem For Farmers, University
By GRACE E. MERRITT | Courant Staff Writer
September 7, 2007

Picking McIntosh apples on his farm in Woodstock on Wednesday, Doug Young noticed something was wrong: The apples seemed ready to fall off the tree yet they were still puny.

With parched conditions and no rain expected until Sunday at the earliest, he and other farmers in eastern Connecticut have plenty to worry about. In Young's case, his apples are small, his cucumbers are ruined, and his pumpkins may be in jeopardy.

"We actually had only 53/100ths of an inch of rain for the whole month of August," Young said. "We are very, very concerned."

Beyond the yellowed grass and the dried-up bittersweet, some of his apple trees are doing beautifully. These are the newer orchards where he put in irrigation as he planted. The older trees, such as the Macs, rely on old-fashioned rainwater.

Across northern Connecticut, particularly in the east, a dry spell that set in around Aug. 11 has threatened crops and prompted water conservation measures in some towns and at the University of Connecticut.

The northeast part of the state has been particularly hard hit with low stream flow conditions that have left groundwater levels below normal, said Jon Morrison, hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. Stream flows began to decline in the middle of August. The region got only a little more than an inch of rain overall, almost 3 inches below normal though not record setting, he said.

As a result, some farmers are pumping water from nearby rivers and ponds to irrigate their crops while others are using water cannons, essentially backyard sprinklers on steroids, to water larger crops, said Rick Macsuga, agriculture marketing representative for the state Department of Agriculture.

In some cases, farmers are forced to be selective about which crops to save, watering only the more popular, lucrative crops, Macsuga said.

Some communities have begun conserving water. On Tuesday, UConn called for mandatory water conservation on campus. The university raised air-conditioning temperatures by 4 degrees in its buildings, and dining halls began serving breakfast and lunch on paper plates, which could save an estimated 60,000 gallons of water a day. The university also has prohibited car washing and street washing, and has limited lawn watering and water main flushing.

The town of Manchester last month asked water users to voluntarily conserve water by taking shorter showers, and running dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads. The alert came after the town's reservoirs dropped to 80 percent of capacity, said Edward Soper, Manchester water administrator.

"The water's kind of low. We haven't had a lot of rain. We want people to be aware that the situation exists," Soper said.

The U.S. Weather Service predicts a chance of showers Sunday night through Wednesday as a cold front moves through and possibly stalls over the area. In addition, a tropical system may develop to the south, which could bring a soaking rain, said Glenn Field, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service forecast office in Taunton, Mass. He said the region would need about 6 inches of rain just to reach normal levels for September.

Tom Callahan, an associate vice president at UConn, said it would take a soaking rain for UConn to lift its conservation alert, because the formula is tied to the flow of the Fenton River. The university draws its water supply from well fields in the Fenton and Willimantic rivers.

Young is not too optimistic. Other rains that soaked western Connecticut seemed to evaporate before they got to eastern Connecticut this summer.

Still, he is grateful to at least have something to harvest this fall. Last year, his entire crop was wiped out July 3 by a hail storm that pelted his tomatoes, apples and melons with quarter-sized hailstones.

"You always have to look on the bright side," Young said.




Water plan a 'win-win,' selectman says
By Amy Renczkowski New London Day Staff Writer
Article published Dec 10, 2010

East Lyme - If residents showed up at Camp Niantic Thursday, they would have learned how much a project to tackle the town's water shortage could cost them.
About 25 people from the town's boards and commissions, along with a local legislator, got briefed instead.

First Selectman Paul Formica, who organized the public information session, said he hopes the low turnout was because residents had already heard the plans.
"I hope they are supportive of it when it comes time," Formica said. "It's our big opportunity to solve a big problem."

The "opportunity" is a regional one that calls for the construction of a water main between New London and East Lyme. It will cost $10.8 million and is proposed to be funded through state and taxpayer money.

Once the water main is built, East Lyme will send about 125,000 gallons of its excess water to New London in the fall, winter and spring. New London, which draws its water from Lake Konomoc, would subsequently draw less water from the lake during that time.

East Lyme would be able to draw water back during the summer when it needs it the most because of the weather and the influx of residents into the beach communities. The town's population nearly doubles in the summer.  East Lyme needs about 30 million gallons more than it has during the summer months, which is when town officials enforce water conservation measures. This plan will add to the town's water supply.

"Make no mistake. This is our problem. The Town of East Lyme has to do something," Formica said. "This is really a win-win for New London, for East Lyme and for the region. This is a long way in creating a 12-month water supply for East Lyme."

Formica said East Lyme has had water shortages for more than 20 years. In the past couple of years, the town has replaced wells in addition to working on water conservation.  Six months ago, the regional water interconnection project was just a concept. However, town officials called it a project Thursday because state agencies are investing.

The state Department of Public Health has $10.1 million available in its drinking-water revolving fund for the project. At 2 percent interest, the town can borrow 80 percent, about $8 million. The project was also awarded $300,000 in federal funds.  Formica showed those attending the meeting a graph of the proposed debt over the next 25 years, which is estimated to stay the same.

"We're in a situation where the last thing we want to do is raise taxes," Formica said. "We think we can afford this and move forward, not to mention that we can solve a problem that's happened for the last 25 years. The time is now."

Formica's goal is to get the project under way by spring. Taxpayers will be asked to consider the project early next year.  But before that, New London and East Lyme must sign a contract, which they may do next week.  The regional plan will also allow East Lyme to receive or provide water to other towns in an emergency.

"I think it's an excellent example of the right project to do for regionalization," said state Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme. "It's a win-win for everybody."



THE SAUGATUCK RESERVOIR IS A "STORAGE" RESERVOIR FOR THE ENTIRE AQUARION SYSTEM:

Saugatuck River Valley (or watershed) gets protection; looking toward Redding (#1 and #3) or Easton (#2)... a regional system some day in Eastern CT? (#4)


[IMAGE]
Above,
Lise A. Hanner, state director of The Nature Conservancy, and Charles A. Firlotte, president and CEO of Aquarion Water Company, sign a partnership agreement. (Maggie Caldwell photo)  and below,
the most beautiful view in Weston...and at the right, not as good a view, but an important link in Eastern CT's regional h2o system Groton's city water supply.Kelda Coalition to get active again (just our thought)?
26 February 2006 news of water company sale:report from "Down Under"...

The Saugatuck Reservoir feeds into watersheds on the east side of Weston. It is now part of Kelda Group plc, of Yorkshire England, no longer the friendly, Connecticut (and New York) "BHC" and no longer traded as a corporation on the New York Stock Exchange! For more about Kelda (now Macquarie Group) from their corporate, Internet homepage, click here: Kelda Group  

To paraphrase Gilbert & Sullivan, the very model of a modern global corporation...for more, e-mail the Connecticut Fund for the Environment


Water's long trip to your tap
JOHN BURGESON jburgeson@ctpost.com
Article Last Updated: 03/09/2008 12:47:02 AM EST

Somewhere east of Florida, a molecule of water evaporates to join countless billions of others in the atmosphere. For days it soars, albatross-like, eventually becoming part of a low-pressure system hundreds of miles across that wheels its way northeastward, rotating counter-clockwise. By now it has turned back into its liquid form, but it remains aloft on upwelling currents of air.

"Most of your moisture that falls in Connecticut would come from the Gulf Stream," said Accuweather.com meteorologist Mike Pigott. "The average time aloft would be about nine days."

Moving over Connecticut, the system intensifies, and the molecule attaches itself to a speck of dust, joining thousands of others like it to form a raindrop.

Now too heavy  to remain airborne, the drop falls somewhere in Easton, saturating the parched Earth with its life-giving moisture. In doing so, it becomes a geologic resource, joining a stream that winds its way downhill over ancient outcrops of granite, schist and gneiss before emptying into the Easton Reservoir, known officially as Easton Lake.

There our molecule might remain for months, even decades. But now it is a valuable commodity, both as something that in its own miniscule way will generate profit for the Aquarion Water Co., but also as something essential for the human beings on the other end of the faucet.

Aquarion, founded 151 years ago as the Bridgeport Hydraulic Co., today has a total reservoir storage capacity of 33 billion gallons, serves 720,000 people in four states through a network of 3,200 miles of mains. Of this number, its "East" division is by far the largest, serving 371,000 people — most of whom live in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Stratford, Shelton, Trumbull and Westport.

The East division provides 41 million gallons per day, on average — less in winter, more in summer. About 15 percent is "lost" for fire protection, leaks and theft.

The average household uses 245 gallons per day and has an annual water bill of $439. "Connecticut is fortunate — it's one of only two states in the nation than has protected water sources," said John Herlihy, Aquarion's director of water quality and environmental management. "All our water comes from either reservoirs or wells that are fed by watersheds that are mostly open space."

The only other state with a protected municipal water supply is Rhode Island.

Company officials describe a watershed as all of the land that drains downhill to a reservoir.

"The boundary of a watershed is like the rim of a bathtub, with the reservoir as the drain," said Herlihy.

Municipal water systems in other states, he said, rely on non-protected water sources — primarily river water. Along the Mississippi River, for example, water is used and reused several times before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

"What this means is that our water needs less treatment to bring it to federal standards," he said.

Brian Roach, supervisor of Aquarion's source protection program, explained that the private homes and businesses in the watersheds are monitored for such activity as fertilizer use, septic system compliance, and oil runoff.

"Usually, people are pretty cooperative, and when there's a problem, they almost always work with us to find a solution," Roach said. "Most of the people in our watersheds understand that their actions impact water quality. Usually it's not a hard sell."

Of special concern to Aquarion are commercial establishments such as golf courses, horse farms, construction sites and gas stations, he said.

Herlihy said that the water company strives to maintain its watersheds as open space — either by owning the land directly or by giving it to The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the environment."True, we did sell off some land to developers, but these were properties that were not on reservoir watersheds," he said, noting that much of the present-day watershed was assembled by the company in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

There are also security concerns — particularly since Sept. 11, 2001.

"Following 9-11, we did a significant security review," Herlihy said. "We installed more fencing, changed locks and trained personnel," Herlihy said.

He said that shore fishing and hiking are only permitted along what are known as "distribution" reservoirs, and not "supply" reservoirs.

For example, the Aspetuck Reservoir in Easton is a distribution reservoir that feeds the Hemlock Reservoir — stretching from Easton to Fairfield, which is a supply reservoir.

"In Connecticut, we are extremely fortunate to have excellent quality water," said Kurt Johnson, a program director and lawyer for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. "We have a lot to be proud of — we have some of the best water in the county."

Johnson is also critical of those who purchase bottled water, citing the litter and pollution it generates, and the amount of energy it consumes, both to manufacture the bottles and to transport the product by diesel trucks.

"From a pollution perspective, from a global warming perspective and even from a product quality perspective, you're better off drinking what comes out of the tap," he said, and encouraged people — particularly high school athletes, to use refillable water bottles.

Johnson also said that a concern other states have is that amounts of prescription drugs can find their way into municipal water systems — because they were present in urine that was flushed down the toilet someplace upstream. This is not a problem in Connecticut, he said.

"This is why Connecticut's water supply is of great value to companies that need great water — such as soda companies," he said. "It's a great economic resource."

Both Johnson and water company officials note that while municipal supplies must comply with strict Environmental Protection Agency regulations, bottled water need only comply with far less stringent Federal Drug Administration standards.

"We know what's going on in our water," said Roach, of Aquarion. "You'd be amazed what you'll find in bottled water."

All of Aquarion's nine major water treatment plants operate under the same eight-step process. The idea, Herlihy said, is to get the water to the point that it exceeds federal EPA standards and state Department of Public Health standards, and is virtually lacking in odor, taste and color, and lacks turbidity — meaning that it has a high degree of transparency. It also must be almost free of contaminants such as bacteria and one-celled organisms.

"Our goal is zero incidents, and we've always met that goal," Herlihy said.

Ninety-eight percent of Aquarion's water comes from reservoirs, or "surface" supplies. The remaining 2 percent is drawn from wells in Shelton and Westport.

The East system has eight reservoirs and three water treatment plants. These reservoirs, as of last week, are "at or near 100 percent capacity," said Adam Brill, company spokesman.

How water is treated:

The water treatment process, in simplified terms, works like this:

- Coagulation: The first step is coagulation, in which negatively charged organic molecules present in the water - mostly from leaf litter in the surrounding watersheds - is pulled out with aluminum sulfate, which is positively charged.

- Flocculation: This creates so-called "floc" particles, which results in the next step, flocculation.

- Inorganic particulate: This is the step that, in effect, clarifies water by making it cloudy - at least for a time. Looking down into the flocculation tanks, one can easily see a snowstorm of ever-larger particles created by the slow agitation of the tank, combined with the addition of FerricChlorade iron hydroxide. Water spends about 20 minutes in the two-stage flocculation tanks.

- Sedimentation: This is the stage where the denser-than-water floc particles are allowed simply to settle out in a tank.

- Filtration: In this step, the water is forced through more than 24 inches of anthracite carbon particles and another 12 inches of sand. "It's here where the remaining floc particles are removed," said Gary Kaminski, the treatment plant's process engineer. The filters are cleaned by a backwash process once every 84 hours or so, he said. Now the water, nearly as clear and clean as when it fell from the sky, must be treated for human consumption.

- Disinfection: Aquarion previously did this with chlorine gas, but has switched to sodium hypchlorite - in essence, concentrated laundry bleach. "It's a lot easier of handle," Kaminski said. As for the chlorine smell, that can be easily removed. "Chlorine readily turns into a gas, so all you have to do is leave it in a pitcher in your refrigerator overnight."

- Corrosion control: This is done to reduce the water's lead content. Although it's virtually free of lead when it leaves the plant, lead can be introduced from lead pipes (still found in older homes), and soldered lead joints. By adding a small amount of phosphate, harmless lead salts coat the exposed inner lead surfaces of home plumbing. Plumbers no longer use lead solder, but it's still commonly found in homes.

-Fluoridation: To reduce tooth decay, state law requires fluoride treatment in all municipal water systems serving more than 10,000 people. Hydrofluosilicic acid licic acid is added in concentration of about 1 milligram per liter; this releases fluoride ions in the final product.

Source: The Aquarion Water Co.


Neighbors upset at scale of plans to upgrade water treatment plant
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen
Published February 4 2008

Aquarion Water Co. is proposing a major upgrade to its aging Putnam Water Treatment Plant on DeKraft Road as part of a $24 million project to bring the 1920s-era facility more in line with modern engineering standards.

"In order for us to continue to provide safe and adequate amounts of water, improvements to these plants have to be made," said David Medd, Greenwich operations manager for Aquarion.

But the scale of the project, including plans to build a new water storage tank double the size of the current one and a second new 6,800 square-foot chemical storage structure, has neighbors seething.

"We have an issue with this because it's going to be an eyesore for the neighbors to have this humongous thing there," said Isabel Maddux, a Butternut Hollow Road resident who recently learned of the proposal during a neighborhood meeting hosted by Aquarion. "There was a storm of protest."

Aquarion said that after surveying its facilities several years ago, officials determined that the Putnam plant built in 1928 was antiquated. For instance, in order to disinfect the water and kill any bacteria to make it safe to drink, the plant uses chlorine gas, which requires workers to wear masks when they handle the toxic substance. Water company officials want to switch to sodium hypochlorite, a liquid form of bleach considered safer than the gas as a disinfectant. But in order to switch, Aquarion needs to construct a new building where the liquid chemical will be stored.

The plant also needs a new clearwell, or concrete storage tank used to hold the drinking water immediately after it has been disinfected, but before it is pumped throughout town. The clearwell is showing its age, Medd said.

"We're now at the point that the more recent inspections have shown that there is a greater rate of deterioration on the inside of the concrete," he said. "There are concerns that at the continued rate of deterioration, there are structural concerns."

Rather than demolish the tank and build a new one in its place, officials propose erecting a second, much larger one next to it. Once construction of the new one is complete and operational, the old tank could then be razed and rebuilt. Together, the two tanks would hold 3.4 million gallons of water, much more than the 1 million gallon capacity of the single old tank.

The size difference is perplexing to neighbors who questioned why Aquarion would need such an increase in capacity if the town has gotten by for eight decades on the smaller storage tank.

"All of the numbers are way out of whack with really no reason because they're working today," said Charles Cortese, who lives with his wife, Gail, on Dairy Road.

Additionally, although nearly all of the old tank was buried underground, plans for the new one show it rising as high as 22 feet above ground and towering over nearby structures.

"They didn't show any plans to build any of it subterranean, and of course they could build subterranean," Gail Cortese said.

Neighbors said they want Aquarion to scale back its plans.

"We can see 1 million to 2 million, but 1 million to 3.4 (million)?" asked Gail Cortese. "The thing is if they lowered the 3.4 (million), the building wouldn't have to be as big and everything else wouldn't have to be as big."

The plans are in the preliminary stages, Medd said, adding that Aquarion chose the size of the tank based on current engineering standards, which dictate a capacity of 4.5 million gallons of water, but designers reduced the tank capacity to 3.4 million because of space constraints on that property.

Medd said there have been instances when the plant had to be shut down for emergency repairs and with only 1 million gallons of water stored in the tank, the town was close to running out of water.

"People have no idea how close we've come to running the clearwell dry," he said, adding that during its peak days, the town uses about 18 million gallons of water.

Also, because of underground pipes buried on its property, Aquarion doesn't have many options to bury the new storage tank underground, Medd said, adding that although the project may cause problems for neighbors, it will benefit the entire town.

"We have to serve the greater needs of Greenwich," he said.

Aquarion and the neighbors are expected to meet again to discuss the issues. The water company also must seek zoning approval from the town for its project, which will initiate public hearings where residents will be able to bring their concerns.



Aquarion joins with Nature Conservancy to protect Saugatuck River Watershed

Weston FORUM
by MAGGIE CALDWELL
Dec 3, 2007

Aquarion Water Company is taking the role of the lead fish swimming against the current, becoming the first private water company to voluntarily team up with The Nature Conservancy to develop an eco-friendly flow management system.

Aquarion will work with the conservancy to develop a sustainable water management plan that protects the Saugatuck River’s diversity of plants and animals while ensuring clean drinking water, recreation, and other essential community services throughout the river’s watershed, according to a press release.

To do this, hydrologists and biologists will work to determine how much water needs to be released from the dams throughout the year to maintain the “natural cues” plants and animals normally live by, said Lise Hanners, state director of The Nature Conservancy.

“Fish, insects, and plants need high water in the spring and low water in the fall,” she said. “Those natural events are sometimes obstructed by the dams.”

The partnership was officially launched with a signing agreement at Aquarion’s environmental office in Easton recently. The event was attended by about 50 people, including representatives from the state, area towns, the conservancy, and the water company.

Precedent

Aquarion has set a precedent for other private water companies to join forces with the conservation organization, said Ms. Hanners.

“We hope that Aquarion’s progressive thinking will set the standard for similar efforts by other private and public water suppliers and demonstrate that a healthy, sustainable balance between human and ecological needs can be achieved,” she said.

“Aquarion understands that sound management of freshwater resources is key to maintaining the quality of life in our region,” said Charles Firlotte, president and CEO of Aquarion. “We believe it is possible to create a flow management plan for the Saugatuck River basin that will achieve both public water supply and river ecosystem health goals and we look forward to working with The Nature Conservancy and other stakeholders in making this concept a reality that will benefit our customers and neighbors for years to come.”

The Saugatuck River watershed covers more than 57,000 acres in southwest Connecticut. The majority of the watershed land is within Weston’s borders, with much of the Saugatuck Reservoir and the Saugatuck River flowing through town.

The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect the habitats and species of the Saugatuck River watershed since the 1960s. The watershed is part of a public drinking water supply that provides drinking water for some 300,000 people in Fairfield County.

Led by The Nature Conservancy, the Saugatuck River Watershed Partnership was established in April 2006 when the chief elected officials from the 11 towns within the Saugatuck River Watershed signed a conservation compact recognizing the value of regional planning and a healthy watershed.

The partnership includes representatives of the 11 municipalities, state, local and federal agencies, conservation partners, and others interested in collaborative conservation efforts to preserve, enhance and protect the health of this natural resource.

The conservancy says it selected the river as an “ecoregional target,” or priority for protection, because it is one of the healthiest rivers in southwestern Connecticut.

Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut provides water to roughly 600,000 people, in 36 towns across the state.


This doesn't affect Westonites because, other than a few houses near Westport, we are all private wells (plus 28 or 9 homes on a Town well near Ravenwood).
Aquarion gets preliminary water rate increase approval 

DAY
Posted on Nov 20, 6:27 AM EST


NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) -- State regulators have given preliminary approval to a rate hike request for Bridgeport-based Aquarion Water Co.

The state Department of Public Utility Control Monday issued a draft decision approving about half the increase sought. The DPUC would grant Aquarion $17.15 million in additional revenue, or an overall increase of 14.84 percent.

Aquarion originally asked for a $31.95 million, or nearly 28 percent, increase to pay for infrastructure improvements and increases in operating expenses.

Rate increases would vary across the 36 cities and towns Aquarion serves.

A DPUC hearing on written exceptions to the draft decision will be held Dec. 7, with a final decision expected to be issued on Dec. 12.



Water company gets surprise Aquarion's request for rate increase turned into decrease by DPUC
Waterbury Republican-American
Friday, October 15, 2004
By Gale Courey Toensing
Copyright © 2004 Republican-American

Customers of the state's largest water company likely will see their water bills decrease.

The Department of Public Utility Control issued a draft decision Thursday that not only rejected Aquarion Water Co.'s request for a rate hike, but also ordered a decrease in how much the company can bill its customers.

Aquarion has more than 170,000 customer accounts in 35 towns in Litchfield, New Haven and Fairfield counties. Those accounts serve more than 500,000 people, according to the company's Web site. The company's Eastern Division includes Litchfield County towns of Litchfield, Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Litchfield, North Canaan and Salisbury. The company also serves parts of the Naugatuck Valley, including Beacon Falls.

If the DPUC's draft is approved without changes at the end of the month, when DPUC commissioners are scheduled to meet and render a final decision, Aquarion's revenues will decrease by $4,164,498, or 3.6 percent.

"We' shocked by the preliminary decision. We believe it highly inappropriate, but we will decline further comment until we've had a opportunity to fully review it," said Adrianne Vaughn, the company's director of corporate communications.

The company will have an opportunity to consult with DPUC before the final decision is made, Vaughn said.

Aquarion submitted a rate hike request to the DPUC in March, asking for a revenue increase of $16.1 million, or 13.94 percent.

The company said it needed the increase to recover investments of $151.5 million in its property, plant, and equipment throughout its Connecticut service areas since 1996, work done to improve water quality and service. The company's rates differ in each of its regional divisions and one of the goals in asking for a rate increase was "to start a first step toward a uniform rate structure. It was not something we intended to accomplish with one application," Vaughn said.

A utility company can ask for a rate hike to cover the costs of a new plant only after it has built the plant through shareholder investments and loans and begun operating it, DPUC spokesman David Goldberg said in a prepared statement. Rates are based primarily on a return on a company's investments in its plant and equipment.

"The department valued Aquarion's rate base at more than $380 million and sets its return on that rate base at 8.01 percent. Further, state law directs the department to set an allowable rate of return on equity so that a company can earn a return on its investment and attract additional capital. Today's decision sets Aquarion's return on equity at 9.4 percent," Goldberg said.

Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal hailed the decision as a victory. The attorney general had argued against Aquarion's requested increase, calling it "unjust and unreasonable." "Aquarion has been rightly rewarded for its arrogance -- receiving a rate reduction rather than the outlandishly excessive increase it requested," Blumenthal said in statement.

The company made a profit of $90 million dollars in a land sale of 15,300 acres of open space and water utility land to the state and The Nature Conservancy in 2002.

Aquarion is owned by the Kelda Group, a British company which in 2002 had revenues of $1.3 billion operating in the United Kingdom, and Europe, according to its Web site.

Aquarion is one of the 10 largest investor-owned water companies in the United States, and the largest privately owned utility in New England with 211,000 home and business customers New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire and Connecticut. 




Not so fast...Att'y General on the job!
Aquarion pushes for water-rate hike (didn't get it--click here!)
By Louis Porter, Greenwich TIME Staff Writer
March 16, 2004
Aquarion Water Co. wants to raise water bills for its customers across the state by almost 14 percent this fall.  The company plans to ask the state Department of Public Utility Control at the end of the month to authorize a 13.95 percent increase. The rate case should be decided by the end of September.

The $16.1 million increase is needed to cover improvements in the company's pumping stations, water mains and other infrastructure, according to
Aquarion. "We have invested $151.5 million for infrastructure improvements throughout Connecticut" since 1996, spokeswoman Adrienne Vaughan said.  In Greenwich and Darien, a family of four pays about $398 per year for water. In Stamford, New Canaan and Ridgefield, a family of four pays about $238 per year.  The DPUC will study the case and determine whether the infrastructure improvements are necessary, agency spokeswoman Beryl Lyons said. The company could get a smaller increase than it requested.  "If they put in gold-plated pipes, we will only let the rate payers pay for regular pipes, and the shareholders will pay" for the rest, Lyons said.  The DPUC will not be the only state agency watching over the rate case.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office will be interested, too.

"The thrust of our study and scrutiny is to determine if this rate increase is necessary and fair," Blumenthal said. "We do not routinely review every rate increase sought by every water company in Connecticut. . . . (But) Aquarion is one of the largest and this rate increase is substantial."

Aquarion serves 587,000 people in Connecticut, including 60,000 in Greenwich, 105,500 in Stamford, 9,000 in New Canaan, 19,000 in Darien, and 5,800 in Ridgefield.  Aquarion is also seeking to raise the amount it charges towns for access to water for firefighting.  The rates paid by Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield will be raised and Stamford's charges will remain the same. Stamford pays more per inch-foot of water main used for firefighting.

Stamford pays about $1.2 million a year to have water available for firefighting.  Greenwich pays $672,000 annually. New Canaan pays about $239,285, while Darien pays $265,221.  More rate increases are probably on the way for customers in the Western Rate Division, which includes Stamford, New Canaan and Ridgefield.

When the Kelda Group, Aquarion's United Kingdom-based parent, sold the development rights to more than 15,000 acres of land to the state and the Nature Conservancy two years ago, the company received $90 million, or $60 million after taxes. About 13,000 acres of the land are in Fairfield County and the rest are in Litchfield, New Haven and Hartford counties.  Aquarion is putting that money into infrastructure improvements in the Western Division -- $18 million in the southwestern regional pipeline that carries water across the area and $45 million into improving the North Stamford water treatment plant.

In late fall, Aquarion plans to ask DPUC for another rate increase to allow it to recoup its investment. In the interim, the company is asking for a
work-in-progress surcharge to be added to customers' bills to phase in the cost of the upgrades, Vaughan said.  In all, Aquarion will have spent more than $100 million to improve water quality and reliability for Stamford, New Canaan and Ridgefield customers, she said.

Blumenthal said his office will study the use of the Kelda land sale money and its effect on rates.  "There is nothing in the agreement that the governor concluded with Kelda that required use of the money for rate relief or any other purpose related to charges," Blumenthal said.  The water delivery infrastructure is old and needs repair, he said, but "the question is what is the cost and who should bear it."



Seeking Cures For Global Warming
December 5, 2004
By JULIET EILPERIN, Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- In the four years since President Bush took office, scientific sleuths trying to understand the extent of global climate change - and to finger the culprits - have come up with several important new clues:

Glaciers in the Antarctic and in Greenland are melting much faster than expected, and the fastest-moving glacier in the world has doubled its speed.

Worldwide, plants are blooming several days earlier than they did a decade ago, and animals are migrating toward cooler climates across the globe.

The oceans have absorbed extra heat trapped in the atmosphere, which indicates that Earth's temperature should rise by another 1 degree Fahrenheit in the coming decades.

The president's scientific and policy advisers on global warming do not dispute these findings, but none of them has persuaded the White House to alter its current climate policy. Rather than endorsing mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions linked to warming, the course embraced by most of America's allies, the White House is focusing on technological fixes: developing energy sources that burn cleaner or finding ways to extract excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"Our approach is founded on sound science, and on trying to address, with different strategies, climate change," said Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs.

International negotiators will embark on a new round of climate talks today as researchers are still struggling with how to measure the effects of global warming and predict what's in store.

"We're learning fast, but part of what we're learning is the climate system is really complicated. ... I don't think we'll ever make the kind of prediction Bush would want," said Wallace Broecker, a geochemist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Broecker said he believes that the United States has to act quickly to counter its contribution to global warming. "If we don't pick up the pace, we're not going to get there."

The United States is taking part in the Buenos Aires talks even though the administration opted out of the Kyoto Protocol, which will restrict carbon emissions in most industrialized nations starting in 2008. Dobriansky said that U.S. officials will try to convince their counterparts that technological change, not government mandates, offers the best chance to preserve both economic growth and the environment.

Bush flirted with the idea of limiting carbon dioxide emissions as a candidate in 2000, but he dismissed that option his first year in office, saying that "given the limits of our knowledge," the nation was better off focusing on voluntary emissions reductions and better energy sources. To that end, the administration has poured nearly $8 billion into climate change research since 2001.

James Mahoney, who oversees this research as assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, said that even though researchers have refined computer models, helped design a more sweeping global observation system and improved the world's overall knowledge of global warming, "We continue to be humbled in the limits of our own knowledge. ... It's a daunting challenge."

But some of the government's own scientists, as well as many independent researchers, reject this assessment. James Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told a University of Iowa audience in October that the administration is ignoring evidence of "dangerous anthropogenic interference" with the climate.

"Anthropogenic" means human-caused, and his phrasing is significant because the United States pledged in 1992, as part of an agreement called the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, to take all necessary steps to combat such interference.

"As the evidence gathers, you would hope [the administration] would be flexible," Hansen said in an interview. "You can't wait another decade" to cut carbon dioxide emissions, he added.

Hansen and other proponents of restricting greenhouse gases point to several recent studies that make the case for immediate action. These include a paper this year showing that ocean heat storage - which reflects the difference between the energy that the Earth receives from the sun and the heat that it emits back into space - rose between 1993 and 2003 at a rate that conforms to current climate models. It also indicates that global temperatures will rise by 1 degree Fahrenheit over the next several decades.

Scientists have also refined their understanding of other factors that could accelerate or temper climate change. At one point researchers thought that warming would cause more water to evaporate and form clouds, which cool the atmosphere. They recently discovered that this was not the case. They also have begun to grasp the complex role that aerosols - the fine particles emitted by cars, power plants and other sources - play. Lighter-colored aerosols, such as car exhaust and power plant pollution, reflect sunlight and have a cooling effect, while darker ones, such as soot, absorb it. Both types of emissions will affect warming in the future, although scientists are still gauging their influence.

Other researchers have documented concrete indications of global warming's effects, such as these: Plants worldwide are blooming an average 5.2 days earlier per decade, according to Stanford University senior fellow Terry Root; and the opossum, an animal that confined its range to the South as recently as the Civil War, can now be found as far north as Ontario.

When all these indicators "line up in the same direction, what's the possibility that's all an accident?" said Stephen Schneider, who co-directs Stanford University's Center for Environmental Science and Policy and advocates stricter carbon dioxide limits.

Some scientists do question the evidence. John Christy, an atmospheric science professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said that despite a recent study suggesting that the Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the globe, the hottest years for Arctic temperatures in recorded history are 1937 and 1938, and current Greenland temperatures are not higher than they were 75 years ago.

Myron Ebell, who directs global warming and international environmental policy for the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, said that some studies cast doubt on a U.N. pronouncement in 2001 that the 20th century was likely the warmest in a millennium.

Christy said that given the economic costs of imposing tighter controls on energy production, "the Bush administration is doing a more reasonable approach, considering that mandating carbon restrictions will have no measurable effect on what the climate will do."

Several senior administration officials said that although they agree that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide contribute to climate change, restricting these emissions right now would cost jobs. Instead, they said, the government should continue to focus on promoting technologies that will curb pollution. One example is FutureGen, a $1 billion, decadelong power plant project to convert coal into gas and store carbon emissions underground. Bush has also sponsored a $1.7 billion, five-year hydrogen car project aimed at eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from cars.

"The U.S. position is maybe the only rational position, to identify and promulgate application of new technologies," said White House science adviser John Marburger III. "To do anything meaningful [on limiting greenhouse gas emissions] requires a dramatic cessation or reduction of economic activity. It's simply not practical at the present time."

Advocates of limiting greenhouse gases, however, remain optimistic that they will eventually prevail. Christie Whitman, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator in Bush's first term, said that mandatory carbon dioxide reductions are "going to happen at some point," in part because multinational corporations will demand that U.S. policy mirror European standards.

Larry Schweiger, president of National Wildlife Federation, said that Bush has an opportunity to outline a new climate policy in his second term.

"If President Bush personally sits down with the scientists and hears what has happened since he first came to office, we can work together to make progress on global warming," he said. "The president has an opportunity to leave behind a strong legacy of addressing one of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced. He shouldn't squander that opportunity."




Thomas Cole

Editorial - Reclaiming a River
NYTIMES
May 16, 2009


A floating dredge lowered a clamshell bucket to the bottom of the Hudson River on Friday and pulled up a load of muck contaminated with PCBs — oily industrial lubricants that General Electric spent decades dumping into the river, and decades more fighting to keep there.

It was a big moment — the beginning, after years of legal, scientific and political wrangling, of one of the costliest and most complicated environmental cleanups in American history. It was testimony to the power of sustained advocacy, and a tribute to everyone — private citizens, environmental groups, scientists, politicians from both parties — who had fought to make it happen.

It was also a reminder of the importance of state and federal environmental laws, without which this never would have happened, and of the need to keep them strong in the face of constant pressure to undercut them.
If successful, the cleanup will also add one more chapter to the long and improbably triumphant rebirth of the Hudson, one of the world’s great rivers. Once little more than a sewer for the towns and industries along its banks, the Hudson staged a remarkable comeback after the enactment of the clean water laws of the 1970s. But one blot remained: a large concentration of PCBs in river sediments below two G.E. plants in the Upper Hudson.

The company had dumped these toxic hydrocarbons in the river for decades, back when that was legal. They were banned in the 1970s, but by then they had worked their way into the food chain, the striped bass in particular. The parts of the river saturated with PCBs were identified as a federal Superfund site, with G.E. held responsible for cleaning them up or at least containing them.

But how? The fight raged for nearly two decades — dueling scientists and dueling lawyers — with G.E. arguing that the PCBs would biodegrade and, in any case, were best left alone, and the federal government arguing that they ought to be dredged and buried off-site.

The government ultimately prevailed. The basic cleanup plan was devised by the Clinton administration and ratified by George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, who in 2002 ordered G.E. to get on with the job. Even then, the river waited as the company sought new studies and found new reasons for delay. As recently as March, G.E. was in court trying to argue that the E.P.A. had no constitutional right to tell it what to do.

G.E.’s engineers have tackled the job more willingly than its lawyers. They have built a “dewatering facility” on the Champlain Canal that will process barge loads of dredge material, sending clean water back to the river and dried toxic sediment by train to a landfill in the Texas Panhandle. Phase One of the project, covering 94 acres of the most densely contaminated river bottom, will end in October. Then comes a period of analysis to examine whether the dredging stirred up unacceptable levels of PCBs, as G.E. has warned it might.

It is unclear when Phase Two, which will cover a much bigger area, will begin. G.E. has not yet agreed to do it, and environmentalists, for good historical reasons, are nervous. They worry that since G.E. designed and is running the project, the first phase will go awry somehow and give G.E. an excuse to quit. They worry that the E.P.A. will lack the will to force the job to completion.

The E.P.A.’s current administrator, Lisa Jackson, is a strong environmentalist, and we expect that she will insist that G.E. live up fully to its responsibility. For now, the start of dredging is reason enough to raise a glass of silty Hudson water to toast what we hope will soon be the river’s final break with its toxic past.




EARTH DAY IS EVERY DAY IN WESTON:
What has been on the table at the Capitol...  Legislators gone fishin'?   Argument on the other side...
Find out about Connecticut Legislature's effort to get on board - read the full pdf file on SB785.
From the C.G.A. (bill tracking in Hartford):
Quick Internet search about, perhaps, a bipartisan bill to protect us all for future EARTH DAYS? Alarmist? Check out one side of the story here.  And more about deca PBDE's...and an earlier report...

From across the pond...food for thought.

Indiana University (Hites' Lab) - get to this only with Internet Explorer (not old Netscape) browser: http://www.iu.edu/~hiteslab/pbdes.htm
1005 E. Tenth St.
Bloomington, IN 47405-7000

...Trends in Great Lakes Fish
To explore the geographical distribution and temporal trends PBDEs in the Great Lakes, lake trout from Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Ontario and walleye from Lake Erie, collected during the period of 1980-2000, were analyzed. As depicted in Figure 2, the total PBDE concentrations in fishes from the five Lakes increased exponentially with time, doubling every 3-4 years. Also, the relative proportion of BDE-47, 99, and 100 compared to BDE-153 and 154 increased significantly as a function of time (see Figure 3). This trend highlights the shift of increased production of penta-BDE versus octa-BDE over the years. For more information, see Temporal Trends and Spatial Distributions of PBDEs in Archived Fishes from the Great Lakes...

Figure 2. Temporal trend of total PBDE concentrations in fishes from the Great Lakes. The fitted exponential curves are shown, the slope of which was used to calculate the doubling time (t2 ± 1 standard error) for each.
----------------------------------------
Policy News - November 28, 2001 - At odds over PBDEs
European lawmakers appear to be at odds over what to do about polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. The European Environment Council at the end of September unamimously overturned a European Parliament vote to ban nearly all PBDEs. Now the ban returns to Parliament for a second reading.

PBDEs are used as flame retardants in computers, TV sets, and cars. They are considered emerging contaminants of concern because of their widespread use in consumer products, persistence, and evidence that some PBDEs bioaccumulate and exert toxic effects at low levels (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2000, 34 (9), 223A).

The Sept. 6 vote by Parliament to ban nearly all PBDE flame retardants, including octa-BDE and deca-BDE came as a surprise. The Parliament approved the European Commission (EC) proposal to ban penta-BDE. But the lawmaker’s action, based on the precautionary principle, to ban octa- and deca-BDE disregarded EC advice. European Union risk assessments for octa- and deca-BDE have not yet been completed.

The lawmakers agreed that octa-BDE and penta-BDE should be banned from use and importation by July 1, 2003. Deca-BDE should be banned by January 1, 2006, unless risk assessment results demonstrate that this is unnecessary.
—REBECCA RENNER
-----------------

PCBs In Two Kinds Of Fish:
Alert Issued For Young Children, Pregnant Women

The Hartford Courant
By ARIELLE LEVIN BECKER
June 4, 2009

The Connecticut Department of Public Health is issuing renewed warnings that young children, and women who are pregnant, nursing or of childbearing age, should not eat two types of fish.

Authorities in Connecticut and six other East Coast states — Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware — released coordinated warnings about the striped bass and large bluefish over 25 inches from their local waters. In Connecticut, both are commonly caught in Long Island Sound.

The fish contain polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, at levels that are of potential concern to the general public, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health. PCBs can affect the endocrine system and brain development and can cause cancer in animals.

Wednesday's advisory reflected new data indicating that PCB levels have dropped. In the past few years, the state health department has recommended that the general public eat large bluefish and striped bass only once every two months, rather than every month as advised this year.

Children under 6 and women who are nursing, pregnant or of childbearing age are considered at higher risk and should not eat the fish at all. Everyone else should eat no more than one meal of the fish per month, according to the state health department.

The seven states released their advisories together so travelers would know to be cautious about the fish in all of the affected states, since the fish tend to move between states. "The species are migratory and many of the fish that are in Connecticut today could be in New Jersey in the fall," said Brian Toal, an epidemiologist with the state health department.

PCBs, which were used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment, have not been used in U.S. manufacturing for more than 30 years, but they exist in the ocean off the East Coast from past use, when they leaked into storm sewers and made their way into rivers and the ocean. Larger, predatory fish tend to accumulate higher levels of PCBs from eating smaller fish that have PCBs in them.

The health department is urging people to continue eating fish for their health benefits, such as omega 3 fatty acids. Other commonly eaten fish from Long Island Sound, including blackfish, winter flounder, fluke and scaup, are low in PCBs and other contaminants.

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant


Science News - December 7, 2001
Rapidly rising PBDE levels in North America
(last paragraph of article)
...Campbell, who is on the Brominated Flame Retardants Industry Panel of the American Chemistry Council, an industry organization, stresses that that more data will be needed to convince the industry that any PBDE formulations must be removed from the market. But he says that his company would “do the right thing”, if faced with sufficient evidence that its products were causing harm. The industry is voluntarily testing whether children’s exposures to PBDEs present any risk through the U.S. EPA’s pilot Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program, he says.

In the meantime, Campbell stresses his belief that the high level of fire safety afforded by adding PBDEs to U.S. consumer goods outweighs the risk they pose to human health and the environment.



Feds abandon Connecticut River salmon effort
DAY
Associated Press
Article published Jul 11, 2012

Montpelier, Vt. (AP) — A top U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service official says a 45-year effort to restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River is being abandoned.

Regional assistant director for fisheries Bill Archambault says that last year the service spent about $2 million on the Connecticut River program and only about 50 adult fish returned to the basin to reproduce.

He says officials are beginning a three-year process to determine if a similar program should continue in the Merrimack River basin of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
The only bright spot for Atlantic salmon in the region is Maine's Penobscot River, where hundreds of fish returned last year.

Archambault says the problem is the small number of salmon that survive in the North Atlantic. Scientists don't understand what's causing the low survival rate.


Penn Cove listed as ‘polluted’
Whidbey News-Times
By Jessie Stensland
Jun 22 2005

Over the last decade or so, an alphabet soup of local, state and federal agencies has tested the waters, and the creatures that live in the water, all over the state of Washington.

In accordance with the Clean Water Act, the state Department of Ecology compiled all this data, made certain the studies were scientifically valid, and created a list of the most polluted waters in the state. This water quality assessment was published this month and can be viewed at www.ecy.wa.gov.

Two Whidbey Island bodies of water made the list under category 5, the most polluted bodies of water. The DOE labels the bodies in this category as simply “polluted water.”  Penn Cove, the cove that Coupeville sits on, made the list twice because of two pollution problems. The cove has low levels of dissolved oxygen and unhealthy pH levels. Lone Lake on South Whidbey made the list because of dioxin levels in trout.

“The water quality assessment is basically the finger that points to where the problems are,” said Kenneth Koch, a watershed assessment coordinator for the Department of Ecology.

Koch said the DOE took 28 samples from Penn Cove in the years 1993 to 2000. Scientists found that 24 of the samples had less than the minimum healthy level of dissolved oxygen.  In the same years, DOE tested Penn Cove for pH, which is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Tests showed that three out of 18 levels had unhealthy pH levels.
 

In 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tested the tissue of rainbow trout from Lone Lake and found that the amount of dioxin exceeded national safety levels.  Ralph Svrjcek, water quality specialist for DOE, said scientists in the department don’t completely understand what is causing the problem in Penn Cove. He said low oxygen levels can be harmful to marine life, noting that there have been large fish kills in the cove over the past decade.

“I can say that we’re almost certain that it’s a combination of factors,” he said.  Penn Cove is likely naturally susceptible to rapid temperature changes because the water is relatively shallow and the circulation is limited. The warmer the water gets, the less oxygen it carries.

But humans are also part of the problem. The DOE Marine Unit reviewed the Penn Cove data and concluded that “human causes appear to contribute the the problem.”  Svrjcek said likely sources of the pollution are poor farm practices, storm water runoff and septic tanks. The nutrients from these sources, like phosphorus or nitrogen, can upset the natural balance. An overabundance of algae, for example, can grow and use up oxygen in the water at night.

The pH problems, he said, may be related to the low oxygen levels.

Svrjcek said the high dioxin levels found in the fish in Lone Lake is baffling. A high level of dioxin is usually association with paper pulp mills or trash incinerators. Dioxin is a human carcinogen and reproductive toxicant, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
At this point, DOE staff simply doesn’t know where the dioxins came from.

The next step for DOE, Koch said, is to work with local government and the community to create a clean-up plan. The plan is called a “total maximum daily load” or TMDL, which sets the amount of pollution that can be discharged into the body of water.
For Coupeville, the TMDL could affect the town of Coupeville’s sewage discharge, farming practices in the area or residential development that involves septic tanks.

But it will likely be awhile before anything happens. Svrjcek said the EOC staff is working on another study to help them decide how best to tackle the pollution problem in Saratoga Passage, the water between Whidbey and Camano Island. The study would include Penn Cove and Holmes Harbor.
“This could result is setting limits on human activities,” he said, “so we want to make sure we have a good scientific footing.”
Once it’s complete, Svrjcek said DOE officials can approach the state Legislature with the study and request funding. The DOE has limited funding, so the top priority projects — like the major pollution problem in Hood Canal — will be tackled first.  In all, DOE identified 2,478 polluted segments of water in the state.

But just because a body of water is not on the list doesn’t necessarily mean it’s clean. The assessment only represents 3 percent of the lakes and marine waters and 5 percent of the streams in the state. In other words, the vast majority of the state’s water bodies have not been tested.



Students at Staples raise, release trout into Saugatuck River to test water purity
By JILL BODACH, Hour Staff Writer
Posted on 05/29/2009

The trout population in the Saugatuck River increased by 100 Friday morning as students at Staples High School released the brown trout they have been raising in their classroom since November into the water.

It was raining heavily as students released the trout, cup-by-cup, into the river. The trout will now become acclimated to a natural habitat after being cared for in aquariums by the students.

"I do this program as a way to give the students real hands-on experience and the chance to participate in a real environmental and conservation endeavor," said Mike Aitkenhead, advanced placement environmental science teacher at Staples.

The program is part of an education outreach program led by Trout Unlimited, a nationwide conservation organization. The program began 10 years ago when a wealthy New York businessman granted funding to the organization to use to teach young people about water quality.

Each fall, about 70 classrooms across the state receive 500 fertilized eggs each from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, and students raise them in aquariums. Students must monitor the conditions of the water, clean the tank and feed the fish until they are old enough to be released.

"The goal was to teach young people about clean water and connect them with the natural world," said Bill Blaufuss, the vice president of the Nutmeg chapter of Trout Unlimited. "Kids today, whether they live in the city or the suburbs, don't get out into nature as much as used to, and this program is a way to teach them about water quality and the environment."

Trout are a good resource to teach students about water quality because they require the cleanest, coldest (50 degrees or colder), most highly oxygenated and most unpolluted water of all fish. Trout thrive in water that is 50 to 60 degrees, but 70 degrees will kill them, Blaufuss said.

"Because trout are so demanding, they are likened to the canary in the coal mine who is used to tell them (coal miners) whether the oxygen is safe for miners to breath," he said. "If a river has trout in it, it's a good indicator that the water is very clean. If there aren't trout where there used to be trout, then the water isn't so clean."

Many factors affect water quality and, in turn, the trout population.

"With an increase in housing and commercial development, more and more trees are cut down, and there are more lawns and parking lots being created that lead right up to streams, causing fertilizer and oil runoff that pollutes the waters," Blaufuss said.

There were 120 students at Staples in five sections of APES to participate in the program. The students took turns monitoring the water quality and feeding the fish.

Blaufuss said he would like to see the program expanded to others schools in Connecticut. Each school needs to find funding for the program. Staples' program was funded by the Staples High School PTA.



Watershed group wants 'A List' of neighbors
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/03/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

The Mianus River Watershed Council wants to do a better job of getting to know neighbors.

New York land protection advocates have for years catalogued the properties abutting the Mianus River and the 750-acre Mianus River Gorge Preserve, but because of the border, they stopped short of Stamford and Greenwich. Now, the Greenwich-based Mianus River Watershed Council wants to continue the work of cataloguing properties near the Mianus River into Stamford and Greenwich.

The council recently received a $5,000 grant from the state's Greenways Small Grants Program to create a computer-based inventory of properties in or adjacent to the 42-acre watershed area draining into the Mianus River. The inventory would help land conservation advocates identify parcels they might consider acquiring for open space purposes in the future.

"The purpose of it is to try and put together an inventory, I guess what I would call ideal properties," said Jack Stoecker, head of the Mianus River Watershed Council.

Once they know what properties would be worth acquiring, conservationists could then approach the owners to see if they would sell their land or agree to protect it as open space. Conservationists hope one day to acquire or protect enough land in and around the Mianus River to create a contiguous "greenway" connecting undeveloped land in Greenwich, Stamford and New York.

"The idea is to someday have a trail network throughout the greenway," said Rod Christie, head of the Mianus River Gorge Preserve and a board member of the Mianus River Watershed Council.

At the moment, pockets of privately owned land separate several of the area's large parcels of open space, including the Mianus River Gorge Preserve in Bedford, N.Y., Mianus River Park in Stamford and Greenwich and the Pomerance and Montgomery Pinetum properties in Cos Cob. By acquiring those pockets, conservationists would advance their goal of expanding the Mianus River Greenway.

"On the Connecticut side, you have a bunch of protected parcels that are not connected," Christie said. "These are really the last opportunities out there to make those connections while we have the land available."

The Mianus River Gorge Preserve, which has experience with geographic information systems, is slated to help the council identify all of the properties in or near the watershed. Conservationists will then create a system to rank the parcels in terms of how much it is contributing to the greenway.

"It's going to be primarily a lot of GIS work," Stoecker said. "It's an attempt to identify the more valuable properties from a resource protection perspective."


Report: Too Much Dumped In Rivers
By JOSH KOVNER | Courant Staff Writer
October 12, 2007

An environmental group reported Thursday that major Connecticut facilities licensed to pump certain amounts of toxins into rivers violate those permit limits with alarming frequency, slowing the progress the state has made in improving water quality over the last 40 years.

The study by Environment Connecticut, an advocacy group based in Hartford, is the latest attempt by environmentalists to draw attention to the toxins coming out of factories, metal plating shops and municipal sewage treatment plants.

The advocates' effort has two prevailing themes. One is that the state Department of Environmental Protection does not crack down on chronic violators. The other is that the DEP is under-funded, and the federal and state governments need to spend more to upgrade sewage treatment plants and other clean water projects.


DEP officials said Thursday, as they did for The Courant's special report on tainted waters published Sept. 9, that the agency is working to strengthen enforcement. The officials also said that Connecticut's antiquated factories pose unique regulatory challenges and that the state, through its permitting process, has some of the tightest controls on toxic discharges in the nation.

"But what good's a permit without enforcement?" said Megan Hearne, river steward for the Connecticut River Watershed Council.

"We're sensitive to the fact that the DEP is trying very hard. Commissioner Gina McCarty has made improving enforcement a priority," she said.

Hearne joined Piper Crowell and Christopher Phelps of Environment Connecticut at a press conference Thursday at the Riverside Park boat house in Hartford.

Environment Connecticut studied monthly discharge reports and other data filed in 2005 by the 108 companies, power plants, naval bases and sewage plants in Connecticut with permits to discharge wastewater directly into rivers. The study found that 80 of those - 74.1 percent of the total - had exceeded their permit limits at least once. That was the sixth highest percentage in the nation for 2005, the study found.

"Overall, Connecticut has made great strides in cleaning up its rivers. This is one area where we still clearly have challenges that we need to overcome," said Phelps, program director for Environment Connecticut.

DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said the study has value but can be misleading because the numbers don't account for such issues as aging plants, stricter permit limits and the weather.

"We do have tighter requirements than many states - so you're going to see violations. But I agree the requirements don't mean a great deal if you can't assure compliance. We're looking at every way possible to strengthen our monitoring and enforcement on several fronts."

The study follows an announcement by the New Haven-based Connecticut Fund for the Environment that it intends to sue five companies it says have repeatedly violated toxic discharge limits. The companies are Electric Boat of Groton, on the Thames River; Whyco Finishing Technologies LLC of Thomaston, on the Naugatuck River; Allegheny Ludlum of Wallingford, on the Quinnipiac River; Atlantic Wire of Branford, on the Branford River; and Cytec Industries of Wallingford, also on the Quinnipiac River.

In its special report, The Courant found that the DEP rarely levies fines or seeks court action against chronic violators and that 17 of the 35 companies with permits to release toxins into rivers were doing so under expired permit limits. The Courant examined chemical release records of factories and other companies, not municipal sewage treatment plants, which discharge biological waste.

Companies can operate with expired permits until the licenses are renewed, but in some cases they are discharging toxins at higher levels than would be allowed under updated permits.


Part Two (Part One is below):
Experts look to solve Norwalk River's pollution problems
By JAMES NASH, Hour Staff Writer
July 28, 2006

WILTON — Tony D'Andrea said earlier this week he keeps asking one question: "What is the carrying capacity of the Norwalk River?"

D'Andrea represents the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission at Norwalk River Watershed Initiative, or NRWI, meetings and is worried about the lobster trade given the unknown quantities of contaminants the Norwalk River delivers to Norwalk Harbor and Long Island Sound.

For environmental purposes, carrying capacity is the population density an environment can sustain without negative impacts altering the equilibrium of populations.  NRWI co-ordinator Jessica Kaplan would also like an answer to the carrying capacity question.

The NRWI is a partnership of state and local agencies and advocacy groups concerned with the Norwalk River Watershed, home to an estimated 70,000 people across areas of Ridgefield, Redding, Wilton, Weston, New Canaan, Norwalk and Lewisboro, N.Y.

Dick Harris said he's been asking state officials about Norwalk River carrying capacity for a long time. Harris has been monitoring the river under a Harbor Watch/River Watch, or HWRW, program run out from Earthplace, the Nature Discovery Center in Westport.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, recently began a testing program in the Norwalk River that may answer questions clean water advocates have been asking regarding benchmark conditions of the river.

At Thursday afternoon's NRWI meeting in Wilton, DEP representative Chris Malik said, "The Norwalk River is still definitely listed as impaired."

But after the meeting Malik said the DEP tests being conducted in the river will help define the river's carrying capacity. Test results should be ready by October, according to the DEP.  The DEP is testing for chemicals, total and dissolved metals and nutrients as well as running assessment of conditions related to flies, snails and insect populations.

Carrying capacity is a starting point clean water advocates have longed to discover.

High E. coli counts taken from river samples over the years have raised nagging concerns for Harris, D'Andrea, Kaplan and others.  Clean water advocates worry about how much effluent from sewage treatment plants, E. coli carrying Canada Geese excrement, contaminants from runoff, and pharmaceutical chemicals from flushed toilets and human urine can be borne by the river before it no longer meets state standards for a swimmable river and organisms begin to perish.

HWRW has been testing the river for eight years, first under a state contract and then with support from Norwalk River watershed towns, advocacy groups, foundations and businesses.

Recent test conducted by Harris showed spikes in E. coli bacteria that were likely caused by increased rainfall.

Escherichia coli, commonly called E. coli bacteria, comes from the intestines of warm blooded animals. When found in water, E. coli indicates disease causing organisms may also be present.  Results of test showing elevated levels of E. coli bacteria found in water taken from test sites along Norwalk River in early July were not altogether shocking to clean water advocates who know rain doesn't run into the river in a pristine condition.

Rivers, streams, lakes and ponds are unlikely to be found completely E. coli free given that fecal matter produced by warm blooded wildlife finds its way to water bodies.

The naturally occurring biological interaction consuming E. coli in functioning septic systems and waste treatment plants should prevent health-threatening levels of E. coli from being found in the river.

Tests conducted two weeks later by HWRW showed decreased E. coli concentrations at several of the 12 test sights the organization regularly monitors, but counts were still above acceptable DEP levels for a river recognized as used for swimming.

Harris gives high marks to treatments plants in Ridgefield and Georgetown, where regular testing has shown good results. But accidents have happened.

Last March, half the bacteria that absorbs E. coli was killed at the sewage treatment plant in Georgetown through no fault of the plant's operation. Algaecide from an outside source is suspected. The plant was closed but not before thousands of gallons of raw sewage ran into the river.

Waste usually treated at the plant had to be trucked to Danbury for processing during a three-week shutdown, an operation that cost Redding more than $122,000, according to Harris.

Last November, medical waste from the Meadow Ridge nursing home, including adult diapers and expired medicines, were discharged into a sewer before being ground up. A catch basin at the Georgetown treatment plant was blocked and overflowed. Redding billed the nursing facility for the cleanup, according to Harris.

There is rising alarm among clean water advocates that pharmaceuticals — antibiotics, birth control, anti-depressant and other drugs — either disposed of down drains on in human urine, are playing havoc after being discharged through waste treatment facilities.

Test have linked pharmaceuticals to biological impairments that cause male fish to develop female characteristics, which renders them sterile.


Part One:

E. coli levels in Norwalk River more than three times federal maximums
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles on the Norwalk River.
By JAMES NASH, Hour Staff Writer
July 14, 2006

WILTON — Tests show runoff from recent rainfalls caused a spike in E. coli bacteria in water samples taken last week from a dozen sites along the Norwalk River. 

According to water quality standards established by the state's Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, a single sample maximum measurement for E. coli bacteria should not exceed 410 cell forming units, or CFUs, per 100 milliliters, or mLs.
A sample from the Norwalk River at the overpass on Post Road near Wilton Avenue show E.coli concentrations of 5,500 CFUs per 100 mLs.

E. coli levels in Wilton were more than three times maximum acceptable levels. Higher levels were found at other sites in the Norwalk River Watershed.

Dick Harris is the director of Harbor Watch/River Watch, or HWRW, which runs the water monitoring program for Earthplace, The Nature Discovery Center in Westport.

HWRW has been testing the Norwalk River for several years, first under a contract with Connecticut's DEP and, lately, with private and public donations including funding from the Wilton Conservation Department.

The Town of Wilton contributed $12,000 to the HWRW program last year and another $3,000 this year.

Trout Unlimited, the Norwalk River Watershed Association, Inc., and King Industries in Norwalk contributed $2,000 each. The Scallon Foundation contributed $3,500 to keep the water monitoring program afloat this year. The City of Norwalk provides interns to HWRW. The HWRW program uses Earthplace facilities at 10 Woodside Lane in Westport

In a report last autumn, HWRW described the Norwalk River watershed as "moderately impaired." The Norwalk River runs from the Great Swamp in Ridgefield to the Norwalk Harbor. Watershed towns include Ridgefield, Redding, Weston, Wilton, New Canaan and Norwalk, as well as Lewisboro, N.Y.

In Wilton, a sample from the HWRW river site in Georgetown near Old Mill Road measured 1,480 CFUs per 100 mLs. The reading at a School Road river site was 1820 CFUs, and a sample taken from the river near Wolfpit Road showed 1,600 CFUs.

Samples were taken July 6 after a run of rainy weather.

"I can't say we're totally surprised," Harris said regarding the sample findings. "We're looking at really wet weather. Rainfall really kicks it up."

The Norwalk River is a Class B river in a recreational category known as nondesignated swimming. Harris said that classification means the state knows the river is used for bathing and there are pools and sections deep enough for swimming, but there are no formal set-aside public swimming areas.

The Class B, nondesignated swimming classification requires less stringent E.coli criteria than designated swimming areas.

Although not surprising, Harris called the recent E. coli bacteria numbers "worrisome" for people who use the river for recreation. "At 410, you're going to get a few people sick," Harris said regarding the benchmark level. "This is the kind of stuff that will give you intestinal problems, diarrhea and throwing up," he said regarding samples taken last week.

According to precipitation figures HWRW obtains from the City of Norwalk, area rainfall increased over the last year.

This past March, 4.79 inches of rain fell in the area compared to 1.6 inches of rain in March 2005.

April's 8.12 inches of rain was more than twice the 3.29 inches that fell in April 2005. And this June's 5.56 inches more than doubled June 2005's 2.71 inches.

Last July, dry conditions caused E. coli levels to drop dramatically in the Norwalk River. A water sample taken from the Old Mill Road site in Georgetown on July 6, 2005, showed an E. coli level of 140 CFUs. That same day E. coli levels at the School Road site was 420 CFUs. Wolfpit measured 252 CFUs.

Recent increased E. coli levels from precipitation runoff illustrate what Harris and clean water advocacy groups such as the Norwalk River Watershed Initiative and the Norwalk River Watershed Association have been trying to draw public attention to for years.

Nonpoint source pollution will continue to pollute local waters with E. coli bacteria and other contaminants unless long-term solutions are undertaken, Harris said.

Nonpoint source pollution occurs when water picks up contaminants as it runs across roads, pavement, driveways, lawns and other surfaces on its way to the river. The river eventually delivers the contaminants to Long Island Sound.

Harris said as more development comes to areas surrounding the Norwalk River, he expects more pollution will be found in the water.

New development means more impervious surfaces — roofs, building facades, driveways; any surface water doesn't penetrate.

E. coli bacteria comes mostly from faulty or improperly maintained septic systems as well as animal droppings.



FINALLY!   A CONNECTICUT/PUGET SOUND CONNECTION:
  citizen take-over of water company?  Remember Kelda Coalition?  Now to be owned "down under..."

From the Aquarion website:  "On February 24, 2006, Macquarie Bank Limited of Australia and the U.K.-based Kelda Group plc announced that Macquarie and an affiliate entity will acquire Aquarion Company for $860 million.  The acquisition includes the Aquarion Water Companies servicing Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York as well as the Safety Valve water service line protection business.  Macquarie is committed to pursuing new and existing strategic initiatives with current management and staff to further drive customer satisfaction, continue to focus on product quality and operational efficiency, and continually improve Aquarion over time, including by the way of capital investment.   Although the acquisition is subject to regulatory approval, including from the Public Utility Commissions in Connecticut, New York and New Hampshire, closing of the transaction is expected to occur during the fourth quarter of 2006..". Kelda Group's website expresses it this way...


From Puget Sound:
Growth in region spurs PSE merger: Consolidation will mean more money to improve power system
South Whidbey RECORD
Oct 31 2007

Puget Sound Energy customers won’t get bigger bills, at least not in connection with the merger announced Friday with a consortium of mostly foreign-based investors, company officials said Monday.

PSE needs more renewable power and the merger with the consortium will give the company the power it will need in coming years, officials at the Bellevue-based utility said.  The company has predicted that population in Puget Sound will grow 28 percent, or roughly 1 million people, over the next two decades. That means PSE will need new power supplies to feed a power demand of 2,600 megawatts, the company said.

In addition to an increasing customer base, PSE has a number of purchased-power contracts that will expire, which has driven the company to seek out new sources of power such as wind farms and natural gas-fired plants.  The merger will provide an infusion of capital that will fund 20 years’ worth of state-law mandated renewable resource and energy efficiency capital improvements, said PSE spokeswoman Martha Monfried.

“We need to invest nearly $5 billion over the next five years to update our power-generating and delivery infrastructure and to increase our focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Monfried said.

“This will allow us to build more wind and more natural gas-fired plants as we outline in our integrative resource plan.”

The company’s integrative resource plan is based on the construction of 10 wind farms and 10 natural gas-fired plants to supplement current power output, she said, giving the company more power delivery security than it presently has.  PSE already owns two wind farms, valued at $600 million, one in Kittitas County and the other in Columbia County.  While the merger was not the only solution to bringing in more capital for the company, cashing in on the publicly held company’s equity and increasing its debt was not a viable option, Monfried said.

“We could continue to operate as we have in the past by going to Wall Street and getting equity and getting debt and being listed on the New York Stock Exchange,” she said.

“To have some committed investors who want to put the money here to allow us to continue our plans makes the most sense.”

Consortium investors saw a lot of potential in PSE, Monfried said.

“This group of investors has looked at us. They like what we are doing and like the area. It is a growing region,” she said. “It is a way for us to move forward to execute our plans.”

In addition to seeking out more power sources, PSE is looking to improve its customer outreach, Monfried said, such as when storms threaten its service and power distribution.

“On storm reliability and communicating more with our customers; we’re trying to investigate what systems are the best to do that to update what we currently have,” she said. “It is always investing in our future to serve our customers better and provide more information and be better integrated and able to respond.”

The merger is valued at $7.4 billion.  The consortium includes Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, Alberta Investment Management, Macquarie-FSS Infrastructure Trust and Macquarie Bank Limited.  PSE’s board of directors has already approved the merger. An approval is still needed from the company’s shareholders — the company will move from a publicly traded company to a privately held utility — and the merger is also subject to approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.  Simon ffitch, chief of Public Counsel Section within the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, said the merger will get an intensive review from the state.

“This merger could have significant implications for Puget Sound Energy customers,” ffitch said. “Washington law requires that PSE and its merger partners show that the merger is in the public interest and does not harm consumers. Public counsel will be looking at how this major change in ownership could impact rates, service quality and infrastructure reliability.”

Monfried said that she understands the state counsel’s role in examining the merger and remains hopeful because of previous power utility merger approvals.

“That is public counsel’s job to examine agreements that are entered into,” she said. “So we will be filing with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission a merger application to be approved. They will review that.

“We are hopeful that we will move forward,” she said

PSE, which provides electricity to Whidbey Island, said customers would benefit from the merger.  PSE also said the merger would not affect the utility’s current workers and management employees.



Report on Water Supply from the League of Women Voters of CT:

...On May 30 , 2006, the League of women Voters of Connecticut met with President and CEO of Aquarion at his request. Aquarion is in the process of being acquired by the Macquarie Group based in Australia. Aquarion has been meeting individually with the main nonprofit organizations that have been involved in drinking water supply advocacy.

Aquarion spent a fair amount of time talking about the environmental work that they have or are currently undertaking as well as the stability and long-term commitment and outlook of  Macquarie.

As a company devoted to infrastructure creation and management, their projects are capital intensive (in the hundreds of millions and billions)
and primarily funded by pension fund managers who look to long term stable investments, according to the report from the League of Women Voters.

 Not long after that meeting, Aquarion Water Company and the Town of Greenwich issued a press release indicating the intent to negotiate for the permanent protection of up to 365 acres of water utility land for open space in Greenwich. The the preservation effort would include seven tracts owned by Aquarion in Greenwich and would most likely require a public-private partnership*.

* = we are interested to see what this "public-private partnership" looks like...

Specialist blasts water deal
By Hoa Nguyen, Greenwich TIME Staff Writer
Published March 16 2006

When Cheryl Dunson learned that an Australian company was buying the town's water utility less than four years after a British firm took over operations, she also received several calls from friends and acquaintances who remembered how she has forewarned of that possibility for years.

Dunson, the past president of the League of Women Voters of Greenwich and a drinking water supply specialist for the state league, has been talking about the relative ease with which international corporations can buy and sell something as essential as the town's drinking water supply.  She has been a leading advocate of imposing some sort of local control over the water supply and other infrastructure, especially when it is owned by a distant international company.

"It brings to light the whole importance of examining the ownership of infrastructure," Dunson said. "We had identified that there was this trend of mergers and consolidation in the water utility industry and how control was being further removed from the hometowns where the water supply was based."

Macquarie Bank Ltd. of Australia announced last month that it will acquire Aquarion Co. and its subsidiaries for $860 million from United Kingdom-based Kelda Group. 
Aquarion serves households in 53 communities in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, including Greenwich and Stamford.  In 2000, Kelda bought Aquarion, which in turn bought Connecticut-American Water Co. two years later and took over as the town's main public drinking water supplier. Kelda said it sold Aquarion because it is no longer interested in expanding its U.S. holdings.

The sale to Macquarie still needs the approval of the state Department of Public Utility Control.

Dunson was an advocate for a legislative change in 2004 to give water companies an incentive to sell their excess land for conservation purposes rather than for development. She said the sale should remind people of the recent debate over whether a Dubai-based company should manage port terminals at U.S. cities.

"We saw this very heated debate regarding the operation of our ports and in this case, because it's a friendly nation, people may not be concerned about it," Dunson said. "One of the most fundamental infrastructure pieces is our water supply. If people are going to question how we manage our ports, then people should be questioning how we are managing our water infrastructure."

Aquarion spokeswoman Adrienne Vaughan said that the sale had little semblance to the Dubai debate. That is because the water utility's daily operation, including its management and employee base, will remain the same after the sale, Vaughan said.

"Aquarion is the team that will be managing the water system throughout our service territory," she said. "Aquarion will be managed by people here in Connecticut and the state regulators here in Connecticut."

Curt Johnson, a senior attorney for the Connecticut Fund for Environment who has worked on water utility control issues in the state, said he expects international companies to continue investing in U.S. water utilities.

"The private water utility industry has traditionally been a good solid investment," he said. "The trend in the industry as I understand it are the largest global industries are located overseas. We tend to have smaller domestic water companies."



US deal shows Macquarie takes the plunge

http://www.theage.com.au/news/business/us-deal-shows-macquarie-takes-the-plunge/2006/02/26/1140888748567.html
February 27, 2006


INVESTMENT bank Macquarie Bank says water utilities are an attractive area but will not say if it is looking for more acquisition targets in the sector.  Macquarie said late on Friday that a consortium led by it had agreed to buy United States water utility Aquarion from Britain's Kelda Group for $US860 million ($A1.16 billion).

Aquarion distributes water in New England, in the US's north-east and is one of the 10 largest privately owned water utilities in the country, servicing about 677,000 people.

A Macquarie Bank spokesman would not say if it were interested in any other water companies in the US.

"We would never signal our intention to acquire assets, but given that we've done this one, and we have South East Water (a major water utility in Britain), these types of assets represent some of the characteristics that we look for," the spokesman said.

Macquarie said it would explore options for its equity holding in Aquarion, including potential inclusion in a Macquarie-managed fund. The spokesman said the potential inclusion of Aquarion in a managed fund would depend on a dialogue with investors.

The consortium that acquired Aquarion also includes Macquarie Essential Assets Partnership (MEAP), an unlisted Macquarie-managed fund that invests in essential infrastructure assets in North America.

Macquarie Bank will contribute $US205 million towards the acquisition of Aquarion, comprising $US100 million for a 50 per cent equity stake in Aquarion and $US105 million in hybrid equity funding.

MEAP also will commit $US100 million for its 50 per cent equity stake, taking the consortium's total equity commitment to $US305 million.

The remainder of the acquisition price will be debt-funded.

Macquarie's new water deal has resonance in Australia, as last week the Federal Government's new water spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, foreshadowed a summit of water industry leaders, bankers and economists to examine a potential role for the private sector in tackling water problems.

Mr Turnbull said he was concerned that an inherent conflict of interest discouraged water companies from investing in initiatives to reduce consumption.

"Water companies have historically wanted to promote water usage because once financing and operating costs were paid for, every additional litre's revenue went pretty much to the bottom line," he said.

"But now we expect our water companies to urge their customers to use less water, to promote efficiency. Is that compatible with private sector participation, and if so, how?"

While "a mountain of private finance, debt and equity" had been invested in toll roads and other infrastructure, water had largely missed out, he said.

"I intend to invite participants in the water industry, as well as leading bankers and economists, to meet with me shortly to discuss whether, and to what extent, private sector involvement in Australia's water industry can be expanded to speed up the investment required to replace and expand the ageing and inefficient infrastructure we have today."

While privatisation of water has a long history, especially in Britain and France, it has been politically too difficult to put on the agenda in Australia.

Mr Turnbull's comments are likely to raise the pressure from Macquarie and other infrastructure investors to let to the private sector into the largely state-controlled water sector in Australia.


Posted on Wed, Jul. 13, 2005
Lawsuit seeks to block referendum on buying water company
By Andy Mead
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER

Kentucky American Water today asked a court to block a November referendum on whether Lexington should condemn the company.

The suit had been expected since mid-June, when the Urban County Council sent Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins a citizen-generated ordinance directing the city to restart efforts to buy the water company.  The ordinance was accompanied by more than 26,000 signatures gathered by a group called Let Us Vote Lexington, an outgrowth of Bluegrass FLOW (For Local Ownership of Water).  Blevins set the issue for a citywide vote on Nov. 8.

The action taken by Kentucky American today asks the Fayette Circuit Court to rule that the referendum process is invalid. It also asks that any spending on an election be blocked until the other legal issues are resolved.  Joining the company in the lawsuit are three citizens: Warren Rogers, president of the Coalition Against a Government Takeover; Kathy Gornik, president of Thiel Audio in Lexington; and Joe Jarboe, a Kentucky American customer in Scott County.

“We respect the views of people in Lexington who disagree over ownership of the water company,” Kentucky American attorney Bill Lear said in a press release, adding that what those supporting the petition drive “are seeking to do is not allowed by Kentucky law.”

Blevins, who hadn’t seen the suit yet, said he was surprised it was so long in coming.  “We ought to get it into court and get it resolved as quickly as possible, he said.  The water company’s main legal challenges and Blevins responses are:

Kentucky American: The Kentucky law that allows citizen-initiated referendums was repealed in 1980.

Blevins: The law was incorporated into the city charter and is still valid.

Kentucky American: A vote can’t be held this November because there is no regular election scheduled this year.

Blevins: Gathering the 18,315 signatures necessary for a referendum triggered an election.

The city began court proceedings to acquire Kentucky American in July 2003. A newly elected council majority ended the suit earlier this year, leading to the petition drive.  The election is expected to cost between $200,000 and $250,000. Since the city and county government’s merged in 1974, there haven’t been any citizen-initiated ballot referendums to pass an ordinance.




Water Plagues Wethersfield Home

The Hartford Courant
By BILL LEUKHARDT, wleukhardt@courant.com
9:37 PM EDT, May 6, 2012

WETHERSFIELD — Waterfront property is usually desirable.

Unless the "waterfront" is some strange underground flow that's eroding subsoil, seeping into your home and causing your lawn to buckle, foundation to shift, pipes to groan, fixtures to leak, house trim to loosen and seems to be worsening.

That's the fix Frank Sorano says he's in at 102 Jameswell Road, a well-kept ranch house built in 1950 that he and his wife, Mary, bought in 1985. He said they had no water problems until 2006. Now there's a continual flow of subterranean water deep under his property, and at times it's even audible at night.

"I have no idea what's going on underneath. But it's more than regular runoff," he said.

His yard, which he said used to be flat and easy to cut, is now uneven, causing his riding mower to scalp some sections of grass because the land is "terraced" in sections. He's fearful of sinkholes occurring as subsoil is moved.

His property has been examined by a consultant hired by the town and by geology professors and students. He talked with state and federal environmental officials and told lawmakers of his worries. So far, there's no easy answer.

Don Gonyea of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said that he sympathizes with the Soranos but that DEEP has no formal mechanism to address the problem.

"Were the problems to occur in a new development, I would not consider it noteworthy, but this is an old neighborhood," Gonyea said in an email.

Gary Robbins, a geology professor at the University of Connecticut who studied the site in 2010, said the water might be coming from a "perched" water zone that traps and releases water.

"The problem appears more widespread than just Frank's house," Robbins wrote in an email. "Down the street there is a continuous spring of water emanating from a front yard that flows out onto the street. The perched water zone is not common but it does happen, especially on slopes."

However, it's hard to pinpoint the cause without hydrogeologic studies, Robbins said. Sorano said he's looked in vain for help to have the studies done.

Sorano's first hint of water problems came during in a dry period of 2006 when water spurted through dirt in his lawn after he and his brother Michael rototilled sod before planting

"It bubbled up. I felt like Jed Clampett at the start of 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' " he said.

Since then one corner of his home has slowly sunk a few inches, bowing pavement and flooring, he said. House insurance, which covers one-time events like a tornado, doesn't cover such long-term damage, he said. Neither does flood insurance, which would be impossible to get anyway because 102 Jameswell is up a hill more than a mile from the floodplain of the Connecticut River.

It's Sorano's belief that his problems were triggered because something changed underground beneath the ground surface in his post-war hillside neighborhood a few blocks below Ridge Road.

When Sorano asked town officials several years ago to help determine the source of the problem, the town hired a consultant who suggested that Sorano install a deep curtain drain on his property to trap water and divert it with pipes into town catchbasins. Town officials at the time told Sorano there was nothing the town could do to correct the problem.

Town Engineer Mike Turner said the water problem apparently is affecting only the Soranos' property.

Sorano said he has spent about $30,000 so far waterproofing the basement, dealing with mold that sickened the couple's two college-age daughters, repairing cracked foundation and walls, repaving the cracked driveway and fixing house plumbing fixtures that loosened from pressure on the pipes.

But Sorano said he is reluctant to install a curtain drain until he's certain that will solve the problem.

Robbins, the UConn geology professor, said, "What is problematic here is that they live in the house problem-free for many years, then the problem just started. That indicates something changed. Some condition uphill changed that caused the diversion of water."



Local wells tapped out

MONTVILLE-- Lin Su and Heng Tan have stationed tall, plastic garbage cans filled with water in different rooms of their Uncasville condominium.

For the past two months, the garbage cans have become the couple's makeshift water reservoirs, since water from a newly drilled, 475-foot-deep well stopped flowing regularly. The well serves Su and Tan's unit and three others at Grandview Condominiums.

"After work, I call my husband, 'I have water!' So I put it in the trash can," Su said. "Or I say, 'Oh, we have no water, take a shower at work."

Because of the dry summer, many private wells in the region have run dry, putting residents in the uncomfortable -- and costly -- position of scrambling for access to life's basic necessity.

Su and Tan work at Mohegan Sun, and when water does not flow from their home tap, Tan showers at the casino's employee fitness facilities.

"It's the first time we experienced this hardship," said Tan, who has owned the condo since 2001.

Aside from the condo owners' regular $232 association fees, each of 16 owners in the Grandview complex on Walnut Drive have had to come up with an emergency $1,000 assessment fee to cover the cost of the new well, plus work on an existing well that serves another building.

"At times, there isn't any water available," Uncas Health District Health Director Patrick McCormack said. The health district issues well-digging permits and tests existing well water. "Unfortunately, you never know how water is going to affect your ability to draw from it. It's a tough situation for homeowners because one day you'll have water, the next day you don't."

The bedrock in the new well also is yielding little water, and condo association officials said they will now have to look into "hydrofracturing," or applying pressure to open fissures within the bedrock, usually the next step in tapping water from the earth.

The condo owners also will have to pay for that work.

Total precipitation from May through September was, on a state-wide average, nearly 7 inches below normal, officials from the National Weather Service at Upton, N.Y. said.

The past week of rain has provided much-needed water replenishing, however.

Experts with the United States Geological Survey have put the precipitation deficits higher for southeastern Connecticut, to about 10-14 inches.

That has created low ground-water levels from July through the beginning of October.

"It is possible for wells to go dry this year," USGS geologist Jonathan Morrison said. "The local issue is the well is probably not situated in an area that provides enough yield. What we had was a sustained period where we didn't have sufficient precipitation to recharge the ground water."

Residents with shallow, or dug wells, are the first to lose water in a dry spell and the first to fill back up after a rain.

Pete Chalecki, a service manager with Service Plus Plumbing in Norwich, said he has had an 80 percent increase this year in calls from people who have no water.

He said about half of those calls are directly related to dry wells rather than pumping system failures.

"There are dry wells all over the state," Chalecki said. "It seems like the Connecticut River Valley, predominantly the Connecticut River Basin, has always been a tough area to get water.

"That area is particularly bad. Mostly it was the surface water wells in this southeast region that were hardest hit."


GLOSSARY (DOES NOT MENTION POUNDED WELLS--THESE ARE BEST TYPE, BUT COST TOO MUCH BECAUSE THEY REQUIRE MORE TIME [= money] TO DEVELOP)

Drilled rock well:A well drilled into consolidated rock, in which that portion of the well drilled into the overlying consolidated material is supported by a casing.

Dug well:A well excavated into a shallow aquifer.

Water well:An artificial excavation or opening in the ground, by which ground water can be obtained or through which it flows under natural pressure or is withdrawn.

Well yield:The quantity of water per unit of time which may flow or be pumped continuously from a well.

Well hydrofracturing:A method of well development used to improve the specific capacity of new or existing drilled wells. Certain zones within the well are pressurized in excess of 100 pounds per square inch with water in an effort to force open fractures in the bedrock.

-- Source: Connecticut Law Journal

GET IN TOUCH

Some resources available to private well users/owners:

Connecticut Department of Public Health:Office of Local Health Administration 509-7660 www.dph.state.ct.us /local_health

Connecticut state agencies:

Department of Public Health Water Supplies Section 509-8000 or 509-7333 www.dph.state.ct.us

Department of Environmental Protection 424-3000 www.dep.state.ct.us

-- Source: State of Connecticut Web site http://www.drought.state.ct.us/wellresources.htm


Photos by John Shishmanian/Norwich Bulletin
Heng Tan of Walnut Drive in Uncasville uncovers the well cap Wednesday at his home.

GET IN TOUCH

State agency:

Department of Consumer Protection 713-6135 www.dcp.state.ct.us/licensing

Federal agency:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 1-800-426-4791 www.epa.gov

Other agencies/organizations

American Ground Water Trust (603) 228-5444 www.agwt.org

American Water Works Association, Connecticut Section (203) 757-1855 www.ctawwa.org

Guidance for Private Well Users www.drought.state.ct.us/well.htm

-- Source: State of Connecticut Web site http://www.drought.state.ct.us/wellresources.htm

TO AID WATER EFFICIENCY

Some water efficiency measures for residences

Bathrooms:

  • Never useyour toilet as a waste basket.
  • Do not let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth.
  • Take short showersinstead of tub baths. Turn off the water flow while soaping or shampooing.
  • If you must usea tub, close the drain before turning on the water and fill the tub only half full. Bathe small children together.
  • Never pour waterdown the drain when there may be another use for it -- such as watering a plant or garden.

    Kitchen and Laundry:

  • Keep drinking waterin the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.
  • Wash fruits and vegetablesin a basin. Use a vegetable brush.
  • Do not use waterto defrost frozen foods, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Use a dishpanfor washing and rinsing dishes.
  • Scrape, rather than rinse, dishesbefore loading into the dishwasher.
  • Add food wastesto your compost pile instead of using the garbage disposal
  • Operate the dishwasheronly when completely full.
  • Use the appropriate water levelor load size selection on the washing machine.

    Outside:

  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks and steps rather than hosing off.
  • Wash the carwith water from a bucket, or consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • When using a hose, control the flow with an automatic shut-off nozzle.
  • Avoid purchasingrecreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
  • If you have a swimming pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter.
  • Lower pool water levelto reduce amount of water splashed out.
  • Use a pool coverto reduce evaporation when pool is not being used

    Equipment:

  • Repair all leaks.A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons per day. To detect leaks in the toilet, add food coloring to the tank water. If the colored water appears in the bowl, the toilet is leaking. Toilet repair advice is available at http://www.toiletology.com /index.shtml.
  • Install ultra-low flow toilets,or place a plastic container filled with water or gravel in the tank of your conventional toilet. Be sure it does not interfere with operation of the toilet's flush mechanism.
  • Install low-flow aeratorsand showerheads.
  • Consider purchasinga high efficiency washing machine, which can save more than 50 percent in water and energy use.

    -- Source: Information provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, posted on State of Connecticut web site www.drought.state.ct.us /efficiency.htm

    WHAT IT MEANS

    Water shortages

  • Water shortages can be causedby a number of different things, including human activities, increased usage and climatic conditions. Often, water shortages are the result of too little precipitation during an extended period of time, usually a season or more.
  • Other climatic factors, such as higher than normal temperatures, high winds and low humidity can exacerbate the situation. In periods of water shortage, water levels in shallow wells can have large fluctuations due to climatic conditions.
  • Ground-water levelsare usually highest during April, as a result of precipitation, and then gradually decline until late September or October.
  • Shallow wells are most vulnerablein dry weather conditions. In extreme cases, water tables will drop below the bottom of the well, resulting in complete loss of water supply.

    Ground water

  • Ground water is formedwhen rain or other precipitation infiltrates the soil and moves down until it reaches the point of saturation. Water fills in the porous spaces between grain particles and fractures in rock.
  • The upper surface of the zoneof saturation is called the water table.
  • The depth of the water tabledepends on the nature of geological materials, the season and the slope of the ground.
  • The water table level varies from a little more than 3 feet below the surface to more than 160 feet.
  • Aquifers may be foundin the bedrock as well as in the overburden overlying the bedrock. In the overburden, aquifers consist of materials such as sand and gravel.
  • A coarse saturated gravel formationmakes a good aquifer, while a very fine sand and silt formation is indicative of a poorer aquifer that yields water slowly.
  • Aquifers vary in thickness and size. Some may be able to meet the water needs of only a few households, while others can supply entire communities with water.

    -- Source: Ontario, Canada, Ministry of Environment, www.ene.gov.on.ca/cons/3784e.htm