Tamiflu passing through wastewater treatment plants could end up creating drug-resistant flu strains
October 1, 2009

As though municipalities didn't already have enough to worry about with the possibility of flu epidemics and how it could severely cut the available workforce to keep essential services operating, now there's a new problem: A study performed in Japan seems to indicate that virtually all Tamiflu taken by people ends up passing through wastewater plants and into rivers and streams while still fully active. That, in turn, could be causing wildlife to pick up just enough of a Tamiflu dose that it could, in turn, cause mutated forms of the virus to start to appear. That effect could be magnified even more if mutated strains of influenza, like H5N1, get exchanged between humans and birds. Given that the vast preponderance of treatment plants in places like Iowa and Nebraska are simply lagoons in which no particular treatment is added beyond the natural breakdown of wastewater in sunlight and fresh air, the steps that could be required to counteract the presence of leftover pharmaceuticals could be far more than most places can afford.

India's having its worst drought in almost 40 years
October 2, 2009

The average rainfall across India is 23% below average after the weakest monsoon season since 1972 in the world's second-most-populous country. Northwest India is actually 36% below normal precipitation. The shortage of precipitation is especially significant, since 60% of India's population relies on agriculture as a principal source of income; one analyst says the drought has set back farmers' well-being by ten years.

We can help you with many products for water control in agricultural settings, including portable pumps and canal gates for irrigation systems. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

House committee conducts hearings on CFAT
October 5, 2009

Municipal water and wastewater treatment plants have a particular interest in the application, enforcement, and ongoing revision of the proposed Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009, which would require site security plans and vulnerability assessments, employee background checks, and other measures intended to enhance safety around sites where hazardous chemicals are stored and used. Water plants use a range of hazardous chemicals -- perhaps most prominently, chlorine -- but there are concerns within the industry about at least two potential problems. First, many interested parties would prefer to see a single government agency overseeing security at water and wastewater plants alike; some of the proposals would split the duties between the EPA and the Department of Homeland Security. Second, the overall cost of some of the proposals could be prohibitive for small plants that are unlikely to be meaningful risks to the public at large, but if expensive new measures are required, they may be forced to shut down. This would, in turn, expose the public to a definite and real threat of environmental contamination, as opposed to the uncertain and indeterminate risk of a terrorist act. Plants serving small communities often face higher relative costs for compliance with regulations, including those for security. A House subcommittee hearing on the matter drew comments from several invited guests.

We can help you with chlorination tablets for those sites where chemical security prevents the use of gas chlorination. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Land application of sludge leads to a fight in northeastern Iowa
October 6, 2009

KCRG-TV featured a story the other day about a couple from Holy Cross who claim that a neighbor's land-applied sludge is making them sick. While it's possible that exposure to untreated sludge can be quite hazardous to human health, the sludge that is being applied to crop lands in this case comes from the Cedar Rapids Water Pollution Control Plant. The plant puts it sludge through an anaerobic digestion process. When sludge is passed through anaerobic digestion, it is passed through a very carefully-regulated process to ensure the destruction of pathogens. Land application of sludge is a "green" process, in that it recycles organic nutrients back into the soil, where it fertilizes crops organically. Moreover, in Cedar Rapids's case, anaerobic digestion and land application of sludge are exceptionally important right now, since land application is currently much more economical than sending the sludge to nearby landfills -- because the region's landfills have been filling up with all of the flood debris from last summer's disaster.

We can help you with anaerobic digestion projects as well as aerobic digestion. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Nebraska trees use far less river water than previously thought
October 7, 2009

A study by the US Geological Survey says that trees along the Platte River use about half as much water as previously thought -- about 22.2 inches per year, just a little bit less than both annual rainfall and water demand for irrigated corn in the same area. This is big news for Nebraska, because it's been thought for a long time that trees take lots of water from nearby rivers and streams -- and that was a big a problem for Nebraska, which is still engaged in a protracted legal dispute with Kansas over rights to the water in the Republican River. If trees are taking less from the rivers than previously thought, then it may not be useful to remove trees from streams and riverbanks as an effort to comply with interstate agreements about water allocations. Changes in water use have significantly changed the appearance of major rivers in Nebraska over the last century, and long-term planning requires a better understanding of how trees and other vegetation affect the rivers.

How fires can lead to flooding
October 8, 2009

Scientists and emergency planners are worried that the big wildfires that swept through parts of the Los Angeles area earlier this year could lead to dangerous flooding this year if any heavy rains fall over the burned areas. The US Geological Survey has been modeling what would happen if areas hit by the Station Fire were to experience heavy rainfall, and their conclusions give rise to concerns that the now-barren land could easily wash away in a strong rain, leading to mudslides filled with debris.

We can help you with portable pumps for firefighting. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Controlling erosion improves lake quality
October 9, 2009

A project at Suck's Lake in Grand Island is being undertaken to control erosion and improve the lake's quality. The lake was originally created with the help of sandy soil that tends to erode in the rain and wind.

We can help you with erosion-control geotextiles. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Last month's Atlanta floods were a once-in-500-year event
October 12, 2009

The floods that hit Atlanta last month were so exceptional that USGS researchers say there's only a 1-in-500 chance that they'd ever reoccur in any given year. The flooding was so bad that 20 stream gauges were destroyed in the process.

We can help you with stormwater-control equipment. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Plugging in Dubuque
October 13, 2009

IBM is working on a project in Dubuque to use sensors and interactive reporting for public services like water, electricity, and roads. They're calling it a "Smarter City Initiative", and one of the elements involves the installation of tools to reduce unmeasured water flows. Many municipal water systems find that large amounts of flow go unmeasured -- oftentimes due to leaks within the distribution system and slow leaks in households and workplaces that are too small for water meters to catch. But even a gallon of loss per person per day in a place like Dubuque (population 57,250) would represent 21 million gallons of unmeasured flow in a year -- or about a full day's worth of capacity at the Eagle Point WTP that serves Dubuque.

What's atrazine doing when it reaches our water?
October 14, 2009

The EPA is launching a "comprehensive new evaluation" of the effects that atrazine has on human health. Atrazine is a widely-used herbicide used to protect crops like corn (the biggest cash crop in Iowa and Nebraska). Syngenta, which manufactures atrazine, says that atrazine exposure meets extremely conservative standards in the United States, but the EPA is initiating the review to determine if previous studies have missed connections between atrazine and health effects like cancer and birth defects. The plan for the review will be issued in early November, and is supposed to be completed by next year.

We pay close attention to issues that may affect municipal drinking water supplies in Iowa and Nebraska, including reviews of water quality and health risks. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Chlorine-car derailment in North Platte
October 15, 2009

The North Platte Bulletin is reporting that a set of rail cars containing chlorine gas derailed at the Bailey Yard in North Platte early this month. The yard is the world's largest railroad classification yard, so it handles an unusually high volume of rail traffic. While chlorine gas is a very effective disinfecting agent that can be safely dispensed on-site, it does create a safety and health risk when transported in bulk. Many communities along rail lines train their hazmat crews and civil-defense crews to react to the danger of a major derailment and release of chlorine gas, and Federal officials have devoted considerable attention to the risk posed by chlorine-gas transport by rail throughout the country, especially in the post-9/11 era. But chlorine gas can pose a danger on a small scale, as well -- as it did in a spill in Clear Lake, Iowa, this week.

We can help you with toxic-gas detection equipment for many gases, including chlorine. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Three options for a Republican River plan
October 16, 2009

Nebraskans are hearing from the Department of Natural Resources about three proposed plans for managing water in the Republican River Basin so that the state can comply with its agreement to send more water downstream to Kansas. The options include a permanent reduction in groundwater use by all parties involved, a sharper reduction by targeted users, or an even sharper reduction by an even smaller number of targeted users. Well over 175,000 acres are affected by the plans, which are supposed to be finalized by the end of the year.

More water is used for agriculture in Nebraska than for any other purpose, and we sell a wide range of agricultural pumps and other products to farmers and ranchers, in addition to a number of products for improving water efficiency. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Grand Island fire hydrant set aflame
October 19, 2009

The Grand Island fire department encountered a fire hydrant that had been attacked by an arsonist who set it on fire using a plastic garbage can and some accelerant. It's a really strange incident, to be sure, but it does serve as a reminder that municipal water systems aren't just useful for public health, they also provide an essential public-safety service through fire protection.

We distribute a wide range of firefighting water pumps all over the United States. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Omaha upgrades water pipes from 1895
October 20, 2009

Omaha's Metropolitan Utilities District is upgrading water pipes under the Old Market portion of the city using high-pressure cleaning and plastic liners in order to bring the service up to contemporary standards without tearing up the neighborhood's streets. The age of many municipal water systems goes overlooked by the public and elected officials alike, but it can often be assumed that parts of towns that still have brick-paved streets (sometimes under a coat of modern asphalt) are still using pipes from the same era. Had the pipes ever been replaced, in many cases, so would have the streets as well. The modern use of directional boring and pipe liners is relatively new.

Grants available for stormwater management
October 21, 2009

The state of Iowa is offering $1.4 million in grants to encourage so-called "urban green stormwater practices", like the installation of rain gardens and permeable pavement materials in parking lots and driveways. Ultimately, stormwater management is still a much larger field than what can be handled through changes in pavement and landscaping alone, but efforts to reduce the amount of excess water flowing off roofs and parking lots and into combined sewer systems (and even dedicated stormwater management systems) could turn out to be helpful in reducing the overall cost of protecting natural water resources.

Small jet fuel spill raises alert at Quad Cities airport
October 22, 2009

The Quad-City Times reports that about 200 gallons of jet fuel spilled near the Quad City Airport, causing an alert that drew in five fire departments for assistance. Fuel spills at airports can be especially hazardous, since they typically involve larger volumes than spills at automotive service stations, and they ordinarily occur in areas where sprawling areas of concrete require large stormwater collection systems, which in turn can hold large amounts of water which the fuel could have contaminated. 200 gallons isn't an insignificant spill, either; the oil drums most people are familiar with usually hold 55 gallons of liquid, so the spill was nearly the equivalent of four drums of fuel.

We can help you with geomembranes for spill containment as well as fuel-transfer pumps and water-control gates for airport stormwater systems. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Nebraska state officials looking into the NRD model
October 23, 2009

The Nebraska legislature's Natural Resources Committee is holding public hearings about the natural resource district (NRD) model used to govern water resources and erosion control across the state. A proposal to study realignment of the existing districts has been put before the Unicameral.

Water pollution costs Exxon Mobil $105 million
October 26, 2009

Exxon Mobil has been ordered to pay just under $105 million in a product-liability court case in New York City, in which the city alleged that the oil company contaminated six water wells that help to serve the city. The alleged contamination came from MTBE, a gasoline additive used to enhance octane and reduce air pollution. But MTBE is also suspected of being a potential carcinogen when ingested at high doses through water. The EPA started pushing for a replacement of MTBE with ethanol and "renewable" fuel additives late in the Clinton Administration, and we've never seen much use of MTBE in the upper Midwest thanks to the prevalence of the corn ethanol industry here.

Aeration for pork-processing plant wastewater
October 27, 2009

SSI, makers of our fine-bubble aeration equipment, recently posted some photographs of a new installation at a major pork-processing facility here in the United States, where SSI's disc diffusers were installed to improve the efficiency of the plant's biological wastewater treatment. SSI offers a wide range of diffuser options to suit difficult applications like meat processing, including PTFE-coated diffusers and fluorinated EPDM.

Forecasters expect a warm winter
October 28, 2009

After last year's brutal cold, Midwesterners might be happy to hear that NOAA's 2009 winter weather outlook predicts a very good chance of warmer-than-normal weather for our part of the country this winter. El Nino patterns are expected to warm things a bit, and other factors and cycles point in the direction of warmer weather here, too. Seasonal weather patterns have several effects on the water industry, including the availability of time and conditions for winter construction at water and wastewater treatment plants, as well as a significant ongoing effect at wastewater lagoons, where temperature and density inversions arriving in the spring and fall can cause unintended instability.

Record-wet October closing with even more precipitation
October 29, 2009

The month of October has been an exceptionally wet one for the Upper Midwest, where Grand Island has already broken its monthly record for precipitation (the previous-wettest October was in 1914) and a huge section of central Iowa sits under a late-season flash flood watch. And a heavy winter storm is working its way across Nebraska today. On one hand, the good news is that the drought monitor is clear all across Iowa and Nebraska for once. But the wet weather is going to keep a lot of farmers from getting the crops harvested, which is bad for them and bad for the local economy. It's also going to make a mess of plans to land-apply sludge from wastewater lagoons around the region.

We can help you with agricultural products like portable sludge pumps. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

A reversal of fortunes upstream on the Missouri River
October 30, 2009

The Missouri River draws from a lot of tributaries throughout the Upper Midwest, including the James River in South Dakota. The James is at an unusually high late-season flow condition right now, and the evidence points to a continued high flow situation for some time to come. This could end up contributing to high flows on the Missouri River, which just a few years ago was well below normal, to a point of considerable concern for communities like Kansas City, which rely on the river to provide municipal water.

We can help you with products for municipal water supplies fed by surface water. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Past water and wastewater news updates

last revised October 2009