Court orders EPA to assess fertilizer runoff pollution in U.S. waterways

Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video; Flickr

Environmental advocates in states along the Mississippi River have won a round toward a long-term goal of having federal standards created to regulate farmland runoff and other pollution blamed for the oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and problems in other bodies of water. Continue reading

Iowa Researchers Receive USDA Conservation Innovation Grants

Photo by robives; Flickr

Tom Vilsack announced on Tuesday that Iowa will be involved  in four of 33 Conservation Innovation Grants.

One of the grants that involves Iowa will go towards a multi-state Conservation Technology Information Center. The center will focus on providing information to expand on the benefits that cover crops can provide. The economic benefits to landowners, the environmental benefits that can accrue, as well as the crop production and ag management benefits that accrue from cover crop production, said Vilsack.  Continue reading

IPR discusses Iowa’s water

The Mississippi River. Photo by SSShupe, Flckr.
The Mississippi River. Photo by SSShupe, Flckr.

Iowa Public Radio has released a piece about the state of Iowa’s water supply.

The beginning of the segment focuses on the research of University of Iowa assistant professor, and CGRER member, Craig Just. He discusses his research using mussels to monitor water quality in the Mississippi River.

Author Charles Fishman is also part of the radio segment. He wrote “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water.”

Check out the full story here.

Public meetings for nutrient reduction plan

Mississippi River. Photo by christopherbarnette, Flickr.
Mississippi River. Photo by christopherbarnette, Flickr.

As we’ve posted about over the past few weeks (1,2), a plan to reduce Iowa’s waterway nutrient pollution is under review.

The public can attend three upcoming meeting to learn more about the plan. The first meeting is on the 17th in Denison, the second one is on the 19th at Iowa State University and the last one is on the 21st in Waterloo.

The plan looks to limit nutrient pollution primarily by making wastewater treatment and industrial plants get upgrades that will reduce their pollution. Farming accounts for the majority of nutrient pollution, and the plan calls for farmers to voluntarily reduce their nutrient runoff.

Nitrogen and phosphorous that gets into the waterways can travel down the Mississippi River and contribute to the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone. The dead zone is an area that’s unlivable for most marine life due to its low oxygen levels. This occurs because the nutrient pollution increases algae activity in the gulf. The algae then consume oxygen in the gulf leaving low levels for other marine life.

Read more about the meetings here.

Grain processing plant penalized $4.1M for violations

Photo by JimmyWayne, Flickr.

Roquette America Inc. has to pay $4.1 million in penalties because of environmental violations that took place at their grain processing plant in Keokuk.

The plant illegally discharged waste through storm drains at least 30 times, leading to more than 250,000 gallons of waste entering the Mississippi River and the nearby Soap Creek.

On top of the fines, the company may need to pay upwards of $17 million to upgrade their sewer and wastewater treatment plant.

Read more here.

UI engineers check Mississippi River for PCBs

Mississippi River. Photo by bdearth, Flickr.

University of Iowa engineers spent a day collecting core samples from the Mississippi River.

The group of engineers was part of Keri Hornbuckle’s team. Hornbuckle is both a professor in UI’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department and a member of the Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research.

The team will study the core samples to determine PCB levels. This data will then be compared to previous data taken from the Iowa River.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the researchers’ day on the Mississippi River.

Click here, here and here to find out more about Hornbuckle’s research.

EPA grant goes towards replacing old push boats’ engines

Photo by Corvair Owner, Flickr

The EPA is giving a grant to the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission to reduce the diesel production of push boats travelling along the Mississippi River. The $498,978 grant will replace engines on push boats that are 51-58 years old.

According to the EPA’s news release, this grant is part of a larger plan to reduce diesel emissions:

EPA has awarded $50 million for clean diesel projects as part of its ongoing campaign to reduce harmful emissions in the air and better protect people’s health. These efforts will replace, retrofit or repower more than 8,000 older school buses, trucks, locomotives, vessels, and other diesel powered machines. Reducing emissions from existing diesels provides cost-effective public health and environmental benefits while supporting green jobs at manufacturers, dealerships and businesses across the country.

Diesel engines emit 7.3 million tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 333,000 tons of soot annually. Diesel pollution is linked to thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and millions of lost work days. While EPA’s standards significantly reduce emissions from newly manufactured engines, clean diesel projects funded through these grants will work to address the more than 11 million older diesel engines that continue to emit higher levels of harmful pollution.

Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center set for early 2012 completion

Photo by J. Stephen Conn, Flickr

Construction continues to press-on for the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center. The center, located near Camanche, IA, is scheduled for a February completion. It will house an aquarium, reptiles and amphibians found on the Mississippi, information on river history and uses and an environmental education classroom.

The Quad-City Times reports that the center needs to raise more money in order to complete the final phase of the project:

The $1.8 million project still is short about $500,000 as fundraising efforts continue, said Walt Wickham, the executive director of the Clinton County Conservation Board.  

“We’re working on a couple of grants right now, but we can always use private donations, no matter how big or small,” he said. “They all add up.”

Sewage flows into Cedar, Mississippi rivers

Cedar River. Photo by Rachel Dale, Flickr.

Clinton and Cedar Falls both accidentally discharged waste into nearby rivers yesterday.

The Quad-City Times reports:

The city of Clinton has discharged about 100,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into the Mississippi River.

The state Department of Natural Resources told KCRG-TV that the city discharged the sewage while repairs were made Friday to a 65-foot section of pipe. Continue reading