Scientists have developed a new material that they say will remove a common pollutant from water supplies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
Scientists have developed a new material that will remove a common pollutant
from water supplies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl
Atrazine is a herbicide widely used in the Midwest. The chemical makes its
way into waterways and kills plants and animals. It also makes water unsafe to
drink. Scientists at the University of Illinois have found a new way to
remove Atrazine from water supplies. They say a new chemical coating
applied to carbon fibers attracts the herbicide so well that it will make
the water safe to drink. Researcher Jim Economy says the new process is
also much cheaper:
“The original activated carbon fibers that we developed thirty years ago
cost a hundred dollars a pound. These should be, as you scale up, should
be down around several dollars a pound, if not less.”
Economy says the technology still needs to be tested on a large scale, but
he says he expects it to be in wide use in the next two years.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.
October 18th marks the thirty-year anniversary of the Clean Water Act and the kick-off to what’s being called the “Year of Clean Water.” Conservation groups throughout the country will also use the date to establish the first National Water Monitoring Day. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell has more:
October 18th marks the thirty-year anniversary of the Clean Water Act and the kick-off to what’s
being called the “Year of Clean Water.” Conservation groups throughout the country will also
use the date to establish the first National Water Monitoring Day. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell has more:
Water quality experts have a lot of anecdotal evidence that lakes, streams, and rivers in the U.S.
aren’t as polluted as they were in 1972, when Congress passed the Clean Water Act. Robbi
Savage is President of America’s Clean Water Foundation.
“People are swimming where, thirty years ago, they never would have considered putting a toe
into the water. People are catching bass and other fish in areas where they never thought that that
fish would ever comeback to the waterways.”
Savage says the problem is that nobody really has definitive proof. That’s because a baseline of
national data wasn’t established thirty years ago. So the Clean Water Foundation and other
groups are using the October 18th date to ask citizens to test their local water and then submit the
results to a national database.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Matt Shafer Powell.
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are getting mixed signals from officials about just how safe their drinking water is. The federal government is trying to calm fears that terrorists might poison public water supplies. But at the same time the government and water utilities are asking the public to help keep an eye on reservoirs and storage tanks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are getting mixed signals from officials about just how safe their drinking water is. The federal government is trying to calm fears that terrorists might poison public water supplies. But, at the same time the government and water utilities are asking the public to help keep an eye on reservoirs and storage tanks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Since the attacks, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Whitman, has been traveling the country, assuring groups that water supplies are safe from terrorism. Speaking recently to a group of journalists, Whitman explained that security at water utilities has been increased and that water is now tested more frequently. And she said that given the size of most reservoirs, it would take a very large amount of any chemical or biological contaminant before any such attack would have an effect.
“It would be extremely difficult for someone to perform this kind of act, taking a truckload –and that’s what it would be, a tanker truckload– up to a reservoir and dumping it in, given the heightened security we have today. And that’s a security that’s not just being provided by the water companies, which it is, but it’s also citizen heightened security, believe me. People are calling in all the time when they see things that they think they shouldn’t be seeing near water supply systems.”
But, Whitman’s view is not shared by a number of experts in the field of terrorism prevention. Jim Snyder is a professor at the University of Michigan. He was a member of a team of experts that worked with the Defense Department to determine possible threats against public water supplies.
“There are a number of contaminants, several bio-toxins and a large number of chemicals that are more or less readily available that could be put into, let’s say, a ten-million gallon reservoir which could in amounts something between a backpack and a pickup truck could achieve a lethal dose of 50-percent. That is, 50-percent of the people who drank one cup would die.”
And Snyder adds, water contamination wouldn’t have to be lethal, just contaminated enough that it caused panic and made the water unusable. Snyder also points out that the tests that production chemists run on water would not detect the kind of contaminants terrorists would use. The first clue something was wrong would be sick or dead people.
EPA Administrator Whitman concedes that there are some contaminants that would not be filtered out or killed by disinfectants used in water treatment. but she says water systems across the U-S are prepared for most kinds of attacks.
“The vast majority of contaminants about which we’re worried, we know how to treat. We know what steps to take. And those where we’re not sure of what we need to do, we’re working with the CDC to develop a protocol to respond. And we’re sharing that information as we get it with the water companies to make sure even those small ones know what to look for and how to treat it if they find it.”
Besides the Center for Disease Control, the EPA is working with the FBI and the water utilities to prepare for the worst, while telling the public that there’s little to worry about. The EPA could have helped those water systems prepare earlier. The terrorism prevention team Jim Snyder sat on drafted a manual for water system operators, outlining security measures that could be taken. The EPA buried that manual in part because the agency didn’t want to unnecessarily alarm the public.
The water utility industry is working with the EPA to try to calm any fears the consumers might have. The American Water Works Association has held joint news conferences with Administrator Whitman, echoing the statement that poisons would be diluted or that it would take a tanker of contaminants to cause a problem. Pam Krider is a spokesperson for the American Water Works Association.
“When you get into a specific discussion about types of chemicals or quantities of chemicals, whether it’s a backpack or whether it’s a tanker, I mean, those are not as useful as discussing what are the processes that a utility has in place for monitoring what is and is not in its water, ensuring that they can provide safe, clean drinking water to the consumers within their city.”
So, the American Water Works Association is encouraging water utilities to step up testing water and quietly meet with emergency planners to prepare for the worst..
“What we have been discussing is the need for every utility to work very closely with local officials, to have a crisis preparedness and response plan in place, to have back-up systems in place, and most important, to engage their local community in keeping an eye out on the different reservoirs, storage tanks and treatment facilities and reporting any kind of suspicious activity that they might see both to the utility as well as to the police department.”
Water terrorism prevention expert Jim Snyder says simple things such as locking gates and posting security guards go a long way to discourage would-be terrorists from attacking a water treatment plant, storage tanks, wells or a reservoir. However, he notes. there’s little that can be done to stop a determined terrorist from contaminating a public water supply. And it seems that’s a message the EPA and the water utilities don’t want to talk about because it might worry the public.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The popularity of Jet Skis, Sea-doos, and other personal watercraft has exploded… But at the same time the number of complaints about the noise and accidents associated with the water-bikes has escalated. Some lakes and shores have banned or restricted them. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on some of the controversy surrounding the small, powerful boats: