Scientists Fight Back Against Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals — Wired #PFAS

From Wired (Michelle Cohen Merrill):

Once a symbol of American ingenuity, PFAS were originally conceived as wonder chemicals that could resist stains, repel water, extinguish horrific oil-based fires, and keep eggs from sticking to the pan. Today, we know them as a Frankenstein-like invention, zombie chemicals that will not die.

Chemists created thousands of such compounds by bonding carbon to fluorine in chemical chains, forging one of the strongest bonds ever discovered. Now they have been found across the planet—even in the blood of arctic foxes and polar bears. Public health studies found PFAS in the blood of about 95 percent of Americans. While the health impact of low levels of exposure is less clear, the chemicals are linked to liver, thyroid, and immune effects, cancer, and low birth weight. It will take billions of dollars—and yet more engineering prowess—to remove PFAS from drinking water and the environment. The task seems bleak, even as the US Department of Defense prepares to spend more than $2 billion on cleaning up PFAS on its bases. Firefighting training sites, airports, and industrial sites are also big contributors.

On Friday, the US House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act, which would require the EPA to set drinking water limits for two PFAS (PFOA and PFOS) and to designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund cleanup program. Its path forward is uncertain. Even if the Senate passes the measure, the Trump administration has called its provisions “problematic and unreasonable” and threatened a veto.

But here’s a shred of optimism: Some new technologies show promise in breaking those ultra-strong carbon-fluorine bonds, which means the compounds known as “forever” chemicals could be removed from at least some groundwater. “I have actually started to feel a little bit of hope,” says Chris Higgins, an environmental engineer at the Colorado School of Mines and a PFAS expert. “We’re getting some technologies that seem to be working.”

The most promising approach involves an electrical reaction that looks like lightning striking water. Contaminated water goes through a plasma reactor, where argon gas pushes the PFAS compounds to the surface. Electrodes above and below the surface generate plasma—a highly reactive gas made up of positive ions and free electrons—that interacts with the PFAS and breaks the carbon-fluorine bonds.

“Our goal is to completely destroy the compound and not just transfer it from one phase to another,” says Michelle Crimi, an environmental engineer at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, who works on emerging technology to remediate PFAS. The plasma reactor technique was developed by her colleagues Selma Mededovic, a chemical engineer, and Tom Holsen, an environmental engineer.

Crimi is also using ultrasound waves to create cavities—essentially holes—in the water. When they collapse, they instigate physical and chemical reactions that break apart the PFAS chains. Other researchers are working on electrochemical techniques and even soil bacteria that may metabolize PFAS.

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org

#Drought news: High elevation areas of #Colorado, #Wyoming, N #Utah received precipitation this week, while lower elevation locations generally stayed dry

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

Warmer than normal temperatures were common this week over the eastern half of the continental U.S., while temperatures were primarily near normal over the western half, with a few exceptions. Moderate to heavy precipitation was common this week along and east of the Interstate 35 corridor, excepting parts of the Northeast and the Florida Peninsula. In the West, moderate to heavy precipitation also fell in some of the higher elevation areas. For more details on the geographic distribution of precipitation and temperature anomalies, please see the regional paragraphs below. The only exceptional drought occurring in the United States, on Maui, was removed this week after a major precipitation event in Hawaii, where other improvements were also made. Heavy rainfall in northern and eastern Puerto Rico also ended the moderate drought there. In the central and eastern continental U.S., drought conditions generally improved in areas that received heavier precipitation, while some degradation occurred in locations in Texas and Oklahoma that remained drier. The depiction of moderate drought and abnormal dryness also changed in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, where recent precipitation (or lack thereof) affected mountain snowpack and short-term precipitation deficits. For more details on changes made to the drought depiction, please see the regional paragraphs…

High Plains

Across the High Plains region, primarily dry and near normal or cooler than normal conditions occurred, with the exceptions of south-central and eastern Kansas, where warmer than normal temperatures occurred and over a half inch of precipitation fell. Temperatures mostly ranged from 5 to 10 degrees cooler than normal in South Dakota and North Dakota this week. Moderate and severe drought continued in south-central and southwest Kansas, respectively, and no changes were made to the drought or dryness depiction in the region…

West

Temperatures varied across the West region over the past week. Eastern Utah and north-central Montana had temperatures 5 to 15 degrees cooler than normal, while western Utah was 5 to 10 degrees warmer than normal. Warmer temperatures continued in the eastern and southeastern plains of New Mexico, and abnormally dry conditions were expanded where high evaporative demand combined with lower recent precipitation amounts. Heavy mountain snow occurred in the Cascades, where abnormal dryness and moderate drought slightly improved as short-term precipitation deficits slightly lessened and snowpack grew. High elevation areas of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, northern Utah, and northern California received precipitation this week, while lower elevation locations generally stayed dry. Moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions shifted in Idaho in response to changing snowpack and precipitation deficits over the past week…

South

Most of the South had warmer than normal temperatures this week, though widespread rainfall led to reduction in drought conditions in parts of the region. Temperatures ranged from 10 to 15 degrees warmer than normal in Mississippi and Tennessee to generally 5 to 10 degrees above normal in Oklahoma and Texas. Excluding south Texas, moderate to heavy rain fell across the portion of the region to the east of the Interstate 35 corridor. The highest rain amounts, with some locations exceeding 3 inches, fell upon north-central Texas, southeast Oklahoma, Arkansas, far northeast Louisiana, and northern Mississippi. The heavy rain in east Texas and adjacent portions of Louisiana, Arkansas, and southeast Oklahoma led to improvement in drought and abnormally dry conditions in these areas, where short-term precipitation shortages were lessened, and streamflow improved. In areas west of the more widespread precipitation in Texas and Oklahoma, some of the drought and abnormally dry areas were expanded where short-term precipitation deficits grew…

Looking Ahead

Another winter storm system is forecast to traverse the Central Plains, Midwest, and eastern continental U.S. from Thursday, January 16 into the weekend of Saturday the 18th, delivering widespread rain, snow, and a mix of winter precipitation types. For January 16-21, the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center is forecasting over three-quarters of an inch of precipitation in a widespread area from coastal central and northern California northward through the high elevation areas of western Washington and Oregon. Precipitation is also forecast in the central and northern Sierra Nevada, and in some of the high elevation regions of the Rocky Mountain Front Ranges and Intermountain West. Widespread precipitation is forecast from West Texas northeastward along and north of the Interstates 44 and 70 corridors and in the Ohio Valley and Northeast, where amounts may exceed an inch in some areas. Temperatures will vary in the High Plains and West during this period, while generally warmer than normal conditions over the eastern continental U.S during the first half of the weekend are forecast to be replaced by colder than normal weather afterward. For January 21-25, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is forecasting mainly warmer than normal temperatures from the High Plains westward, and below-normal temperatures in the South, Southeast, and Northeast. Below-normal precipitation is favored during this period in the Northeast, Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, while above-normal precipitation is favored in the Pacific Northwest, the Central and Southern Great Plains, and areas in between.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending January 14, 2020.

#Snowpack news: SW #Colorado basins = 116% of normal

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

[San Juan River Basin] Snow water equivalency (SWE) is 16.4 inches this week. Last week it was 15.5 inches.
SWE median increased from 16 inches to 16.3 inches this week.

This week, SWE data is 110.6 per- cent of median. Last week, it was 96.9 percent of median.

Precipitation data has slightly increased from last week, going from 16.5 inches to 16.6 inches.

The precipitation average has increased 1.5 inches from last week, going from 17.6 inches to 18.9 inches this week.

Precipitation data is 87.8 percent of median this week, a drop from last week when it was 93.8 percent of median.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map January 16, 2020 via the NRCS.

Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District is working up a strategy improve odor control

Oxidizing/Polishing Dry Air Scrubber provide a two stage chemistry for the control of odors from hydrogen sulfide (H2S), mercaptans, ammonia, amines and other odors generated in wastewater collection and treatment systems. They are easy to use, effective and economic. Photo credit: Syneco Systems

From The Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

At its Jan. 7 meeting, the board of the Pagosa Springs Sanitation Gen- eral Improvement District (PSSGID) again worked to deal with a stinky issue that’s plagued the district and some Archuleta County residents — odor control near the town’s two pump stations in the Timber Ridge area.

The odor issues in the area began when the town started using a force main to move its collected waste- water to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District campus for treat- ment. Construction of the pipeline was completed in 2016.

“The odor results from naturally high sulfur in the area, in waste, and the long detention times in the wet well and the force main,” an agenda brief prepared by Public Works Di- rector Martin Schmidt explains.

The PSSGID previously piloted an odor control project with little success, with Schmidt’s document stating, “it did not get close to the levels of H2S [hydrogen sulfide] that were stipulated in the contract.”

PSSGID staff, with engineering support, then brought back information on several options for the board to consider on Jan. 7, along with a recommendation to pair two of the technologies to best control odor and eliminate corrosion.

The four options brought to the board were an oxygen injection system, an aeration system with added ozone (the same technology as the pilot project), chemical dosing, an air scrubber system and an air-injector system that builds dissolved oxygen in the water to eliminate anaerobic bacteria.

Schmidt and Utilities Supervisor Gene Tautges recommended that the board combine the final two options.

The air scrubber system, manufactured by Syneco Systems Inc., has a small blower that creates a negative pressure in the wet well, the agenda brief explains.

“The removed air is scrubbed of H2S by a proprietary media that converts 100% of the H2S into a non-toxic polymer,” the document explains.
Schmidt noted the blower is not much larger than a bathroom fan, with Schmidt and Tautges indicat- ing it operates at a low decibel level, around 55 decibels.

Del Norte Riverfront Project update

Rio Grande River corridor near Del Norte.

From the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (Emma Reesor) via The Alamosa News:

The reach of the Rio Grande running through North Park has seen a lot of change in the last two months. Workers and machinery from Robins Construction have braved the elements as part of a plan to improve access to one of Del Norte’s most valuable natural resources.

North Park is one of the few public parks in Del Norte, situated on the Rio Grande just west of Highway 112. While featuring a fishing dock and riverside trail, the community thought more could be done to better connect residents to the river.

From this need arose the Del Norte Riverfront Project a community-led effort to improve access, create recreation infrastructure, and enhance wildlife habitat on the Rio Grande adjacent to North Park. Project partners, including the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project,

Town of Del Norte, Del Norte Trails Organization, Riverbend Engineering and Trout Unlimited have worked with the public over the past five years to plan and fundraise for the DNRFP.

Phase 1 of the DNRFP was completed during the winter of 2018 and included a new boat ramp and parking area located on the north side of the river.

In March of 2019, the DNRFP was selected to receive funding from Great Outdoors Colorado’s Local Parks and Outdoor Recreation grant program.

It was one of 22 projects chosen to receive funding in a highly competitive pool of projects.

This grant, along with support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Gates Family Foundation, SLV Conservation and Connection Initiative, Del Norte Bank, Rio Grande County, and community donors, helped realize Phase 2 of the project, which includes the in-stream construction of a boating Play Wave, fish habitat improvements and passage, and river access points.

Work on these structures began in November 2019 and will be complete in early 2020.

Still yet to come this spring is an ADA accessible picnic area, as well as other park amenities. All these improvements will help promote a deeper connection to the river for residents and visitors alike.

Emma Reesor, Executive Director of the RGHRP, has been integral in the planning and fundraising for the project, and is excited to see construction in full swing. “It’s been a joy to work with the community of Del Norte to make this vision a reality” Reesor said, “Improving connectivity between people and rivers will have a positive effect on the community as a whole”.

Marty Asplin with the Del Norte Trails Organization has been a part of the DNRFP from the very beginning and worked hard to bring partners together to benefit Del Norte. “The addition of access to the Rio Grande was part of the Del Norte Trails Master Plan which was adopted by the Town of Del Norte and Rio Grande County in 2007,” said Marty Asplin, “accomplishing this is a large piece of the plan.”

If you’d like to check out the progress of the project, the fishing dock is a great place to view the construction.

To learn more about the DNRFP, contact Reesor at info@riograndeheadwaters.org or visit http://www.riograndeheadwaters.org.

Report courtesy of Emma Reesor, Executive Director, Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project.

#LakeMead at its highest elevation since 2014, shortages still loom #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #DCP

Intake towers for power generation at Hoover Dam December 13, 2019.

From The Boulder City Review (Celia Shortt Goodyear):

The water at Lake Mead is projected to be at its highest level in years, but the drought is still not over, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

Lake Mead’s elevation is around 1,092 feet, which is the highest it has been since May 2014, but it is still only 42% full, said Patti Aaron, public affairs officer for the bureau’s Lower Colorado Basin Region.

“Drought isn’t determined by the amount of water in Lake Mead,” Aaron said. “We would need to see at least two to three back-to-back years of above-average hydrology, hopefully more, to say we are out of the drought. There isn’t a set definition of when drought ends.”

There have not been two back-to-back good years since the late 1990s.

Aaron said the higher water levels are due to a wet November and December, causing an above-average inflow into the lake.

“Regarding the rising lake levels, this is part of the normal seasonal trend in which cooler weather reduces water orders from Lake Mead,” she said.

She added that the water level will decline by nearly 20 feet in the spring and summer because water orders will increase before the elevation rebounds later in the year.

The higher water levels are also due to conservation by the lower basin states and Mexico. The Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, which took effect on Jan. 1, requires water savings contributions by the United States and Mexico.

Aaron said voluntary conservation activities added about 9 feet to Lake Mead’s elevation last year.

New Boulder Creek stretch through Eben G. Fine Park designated ‘impaired’ by state — The Boulder Daily Camera

E.coli Bacterium

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Sam Lounsberry):

State officials last month designated a new, and popular, stretch of Boulder Creek from the mouth of Boulder Canyon through the park as “impaired” due to elevated levels of E. coli.

But tubers, swimmers, fishermen and women will still likely be able to take a dip this summer if they wish.

The new designation by the state for the creek’s west Boulder stretch adds to the existing impairment of the waterway from 13th Street east to its confluence with South Boulder Creek, according to Colorado Water Quality Control Division spokesperson Ian Dickson…

The determination was made based on a “robust” data set of measurements for the E. coli bacteria, Dickson said.

“Every two years, the (state health) department works with the (Water Quality Control) Commission to examine water quality data and identify impaired waters,” Dickson said. “… The department thanks city of Boulder for this information, and we encourage communities to continue to send data so we can work together to protect the environment.”

Boulder spokesperson Meghan Wilson said the city is working on a communication strategy for informing residents and potential creek users of the newly designated impaired stretch of creek. But unlike a swimming beach at a reservoir or other body of water, local officials have little ability to restrict human access to a stream like Boulder Creek, Wilson said…

…earlier in the week, Dickson did offer a response to Boulder Waterkeeper data the advocacy group used to assert there is a that there is a “human waste footprint” to the detected E. coli.

E. coli is a bacterial marker for fecal pollution, which lives in the intestines of humans, wildlife, cattle and dogs, but is not always harmful to humans. However, one strand, known as 0157:H7, can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and even life-threatening conditions…

“The one sample taken does not provide conclusive evidence that human source bacteria were present. The strain of bacteria the lab tested for could also come from other animals, such as raccoons and geese. Again, the lab indicated more data is needed to determine whether the strain is from humans versus other animals. At this time, even with these E.coli and human fecal bacterial levels, there is no indicator of an illicit discharge or other noncompliance with the university’s permit.”