Aquatic Weed Harvester Helps to Restore Pond

Efforts to restore Georgica Pond are proving to be successful thanks in part to the help of an aquatic weed harvester.

Harvesting Algae

Georgica Pond has been invaded by toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, in recent years, which can cause serious health problems.  For the second consecutive year, the foundation has leased an aquatic weed harvester to remove plant material, or macroalgae, from the pond, which releases nitrogen and phosphorous as it decays and is believed to promote cyanobacteria.

The mechanical harvester 32,700 pounds of this material represent 6% of the pond’s nitrogen load and 12% of its phosphorous load; down from 2016 when 55,740 pounds, representing 13% of the nitrogen load and 23% of the phosphorous load, were harvested.  Officials say part of the reason for the decrease in 2017 was due to the large quantity of macroalgae harvester the previous year.

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Spreading the Invaders

According to a Fish and Wildlife study, almost 80 percent of non-native species found on the West Coast were first sighted in California.

You might have heard about ballast water. Cargo ships fill their holds with seawater to stay balanced, but that water can also carry invasive species.

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Since 1999, ships have been required to either retain ballast water or discharge this water at least 200 nautical miles away from shore — and over 90 percent of them do.

But invasives remain a problem well beyond the ports. Researchers say recreational boating also plays a part. Small vessels can spread around species that have been introduced by cargo ships.

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There’s another less-obvious way invasive species gets introduced —and it’s cost California millions of dollars.

After “Finding Nemo” was released, people started flushing fish and plants down the drain, or taking them to the ocean and dumping them in. It led to a pulse of invasion around the country.

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A study from UC Davis found that aquariums contribute to a third of the world’s worst aquatic and invasive species.

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Fate of Upper Spring Lake in Court

In 1970 Beth Martineau fought the Conservation Commission (the predecessor of the Department of Natural Resources) over access to Upper Spring Lake in Palmyra Wisconsin as they attempted to add the property to the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Now, the fate of Upper Spring Lake is once again back in court.  The original dam was washed out while the current owners were under negotiations to buy the property out of bankruptcy.  When the deal went through, the owners worked with the DNR to rebuild and improved, modern dam; spending about $1 million in the process.

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As part of the dam permitting, the creek became a navigable waterway and canoers and kayakers were allowed to portage past the dam.  As more visitors arrived, some quite carelessly and with little respect for the water and surrounding lands, the owners posted “Private Property” signs.  It will be up to the courts to decide if in the fact it is private property or DNR land.

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Beth Martineau was ruled to own “as much land as the water covered when the water at the old dam was 13 feet, 4 inches deep. Because it was somewhat lower in 1972, the judge said Martineau also had a strip of dry land varying from 6 to 50 feet around the water’s edge.”  The DNR is claiming the owners are exceeding the 13-foot-4-inch water level behind the dam, meaning more water is impounded and trespassing on state forest land that surrounds the lake.

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Innovative Weaponry in the Fight Against AIS

In the fight against alien animals that invade and overrun native species, the weird and the wired sometime win.

Invasive species are plants and animals that thrive in areas where they don’t naturally live, usually brought there by humans, either accidentally or intentionally. Sometimes, with no natural predators, they multiply and take over, crowding out and at times killing native species.

Fighting Invasive Species

A new underwater robot is targeting the stunning but dangerous lionfish.  The robot, called Guardian LF1, uses a gentle shock to immobilize the lionfish before they are sucked alive into a tube. In its first public outing this month, the robot caught 15 lionfish during two days of testing in Bermuda. Top chefs competed in a cook-off of the captured lionfish which sells for nearly $10 a pound.

Asian Carp

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials are using souped-up old technology to catch Asian carp, a fish that’s taken over rivers and lakes in the Midwest. They use a specialized boat – the Magna Carpa – with giant winglike nets that essentially uses electric current as an underwater taser to stun the fish, said biologist Emily Pherigo. At higher doses, the fish are killed and float to the surface. In just five minutes, they can collect 500 fish, and later turn them into fertilizer.
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“Legacy P” Poses Long-Term Challenge To Water Quality

Scott Gordon WisContext

Phosphorus is one of the most important components in the ongoing struggle to balance agricultural prosperity with water quality. When farmers fertilize their fields with this essential nutrient, plants use some, with precipitation carrying excess amounts into nearby bodies of water, fueling algal blooms that can kill fish and and endanger drinking water quality.

But phosphorus that lingers in the soil, sometimes for decades, is troublesome as well.

What scientists call “legacy phosphorus” — or “legacy P,” a common abbreviation — exists in a sort of nutrient limbo.

Agriculture Phosphorus

Phosphorus can easily bind to soil particles, a state in which plants don’t usually access it. The nutrient generally must be in water plants take up in order for them to use it. Moreover, as farmers spread more fertilizer, new quantities of phosphorus are made available to crops. But as land erodes or heavy rains hit fields, some of that older phosphorus will make its way into streams, rivers, lakes and ultimately groundwater. In coming decades, greater quantities of legacy phosphorus could get flushed into water sources due to climate change, which is projected to increase heavy precipitation events in the Midwest.

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To Salt or Not to Salt

Portland’s first snowstorm of the winter storm season hit mid-day prompting thousands of people to head home early.  Unfortunately, roadways were clogged for hours leaving many to abandon their cars.  Cautious motorists decided to stay home from work when the second snowstorm that left roadways icy for days.  Portland is now looking at adding road salt to their arsenal to make road ways safer.

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The city is concerned with the damaging effects of road salt.  It would ultimately get washed into storm drains which flow to a sewer treatment plant.  Will the salt corrode old metro-area pipes? It affects the roads, the steel in the bridges and the concrete and it affects your car.  And, the salt that stays on the roads will eventually get washed into the environment.

Minnesota is beginning to see some of the environmental effects of road salt use. In the Twin Cities metro area, the level of salt (chloride) in 39 surface waters now exceeds water quality standards.  An additional 38 surface waters are almost above the standard and many others remain untested.  Data shows that salt concentrations are continuing to increase in both surface waters and groundwater across the state.

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The fact is that it only takes one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. Once in the water, there is no way to remove the chloride. At high concentrations, chloride can harm fish, aquatic plant life, groundwater and drinking water supplies.

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Drought Disasters Around the World

Across the country and around the globe, the effects of drought are everywhere.  Google the word “drought” and the news stories are endless; some with severe consequences.

In California, over 100 million trees have died due to the drought.  In Tennessee the drought is posing a huge threat to the cattle industry.  Pastures have dried up and farmers have resorted to feeding the cattle hay which is normally saved for the winter months.  Similar stories are reported out of Georgia as well.

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Wildfires have ravaged over 54,000 acres of forest, protected areas and farmland in parts of Peru.  Peru is experiencing the regions worst drought in at least half a century.  Wildfires have burned over 100,000 acres of land across seven southern U.S. states leading to mass evacuations.

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As devastating as those issues are; other countries are faring much worse.  The severe drought in Madagascar has left 330,000 people on the brink of famine.

As Bolivia faces its worst drought in at least 25 years, the government has been forced to declare a state of emergency.  It is estimated that the drought has affected 125,000 families and threatened 716,605 acres of agricultural land and 360,000 head of cattle.

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Dead Zone grows in Gulf of Mexico

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which is believed to have been around since the 1970’s, is now an estimated 6,474 square miles of water unable to support marine life.

Government and independent scientists believe nutrient runoff is the main cause of the dead zone.  Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus flow into the gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

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For many, the ethanol industry and the government’s 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard carry a lot of the blame.  Since the governments introduction of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, acreage of U.S. land to farm corn and soy beans has grown by 16.8 million and over 1.2 million acres of grassland has been lost.

Flooding in 2015 and earlier this year washed away tremendous amounts of pollutants that had accumulated on land during the prolonged drought. The sources of much of these nutrients were cornfields, 40% of which are dedicated to producing ethanol, which fuel companies are compelled by Congress to blend with gasoline.

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NOAA officials estimate the Dead Zone costs the nation’s seafood and tourism industries $82 million a year. And it likely will get worse, scientists believe. The gulf produces about 40 percent of the nation’s seafood, which includes offshore species such as shrimp and red snapper. And Louisiana is second in seafood production to Alaska, according to The Nature Conservancy.

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Water Quality Month

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 40% of the nation’s waterways suffer water quality problems.  Water systems are often interlinked and the dangers of runoff from agriculture, forestry, construction and people’s personal yards are numerous.

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Did you know that a typical city block generates more than five times as much rainwater runoff as a forested area of the same size? This is because rooftops and pavement don’t allow water to soak into the ground like forests, wetlands and grasslands do. Instead, rainwater runs off pavement into the nearest storm drain, where it’s transported to local streams, rivers and eventually the ocean. On its way to the storm drain, rainwater picks up pollutants like oil, antifreeze, pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides. In most places, storm water does not get treated, so all of those pollutants end up in local waters.

Water Quality

Using non-toxic house products, not dumping things other than water down storm drains, and not flushing medication down the toilet or sink are just a few things you can do to keep the water in your area clean.

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Turning Phosphorus in Wastewaster into Fertilizer

Chicago officials boast that the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant is one of the world’s largest sewer treatment plants, handling the waste of 2.3 million people.

The Stickney Water Reclamation is the biggest single source of phosphorus in the entire region that drains into the Mississippi River. Combined with other sewage plant releases a state task force concluded that these plants are responsible for about half of the phosphorus pollution in rivers that drain into the Mississippi.

Stickney Water Reclamation Plant

The need for more aggressive and widespread action is especially acute in Illinois, which by most estimates is the largest contributor of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution to the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Pollution

A new $31 million project will help to reduce that pollution by diverting wastewater through three reactors that use catalysts to form tiny, nutrient-rich “pearls” for the fertilizer industry. The district estimates the equipment will produce up to 10,000 tons of slow-release fertilizer a year and reduce the Stickney plant’s phosphorus discharges by about 30 percent.

More still needs to be done, but this project is a good start.

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