@USBR awards nearly $1 million for water purification and #desalination pilot projects

Photo shows the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility – BGNDRF, in Alamogordo, NM. Credit: Reclamation

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

Goals are to reduce costs, energy requirements, environmental impact for treating unusable water

The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded nearly $1 million for projects under an innovative pilot-scale water treatment technologies and desalination program. The selected projects will receive funding through cooperative agreements and will include a period of pilot testing at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and other sites across the country.

On April 30, 2019, Reclamation announced that it was seeking applicants looking for innovative technologies for reducing the cost, energy requirements and environmental impacts for water purification and desalination technologies. Innovative and promising technologies would be supported to move from the theoretical stage towards a practical application.

“In June, we received 29 eligible applications for review that included $4 million in requests for federal funding. Top applicants were invited to pitch their pilot studies in August,” said Yuliana Porras-Mendoza, advanced water treatment research coordinator. “We awarded grants to seven projects focused on innovative and disruptive water treatment technologies ready for pilot testing to accelerate knowledge transfer and provide new products that serve the water treatment community and attract commercial interest.”

Funded Pilot Studies

Garver, LLC: Innovative electro-coagulation membrane pretreatment with vacuum-assisted electro-distillation concentrate management for cooling tower blowdown recovery
Project goal: improve water quality, reduce chemical consumption, reduce the potable water demand of a water treatment system and eliminate dissolved solids loading to the local sewershed.
State: Colorado

AdEdge Water Technologies: Innovative high recovery flow-reversal RO desalination process for potable reuse providing essential physical barrier with higher recovery rate & reduction in concentrate flow
Project goal: test a flow-reversal reverse osmosis technology with the purpose to introduce this technology to the US market.
State: Georgia

WIST, Inc: The first affordable, easy-to-use silica pretreatment solution: Pilot scale validation of SiSorb-Nano
Project goal: scale up and test a new resin for silica removal from water that is less expensive, more efficient, and environmentally friendly.
State: New York

Eastern Shore Microbes: H.E.A.T A biologically, sustainable solar powered system to eliminate RO concentrate in order to improve the water supply for inland communities
Project goal: test the ability for a selected group of microbes to enhance evaporation of reverse osmosis concentrate, potentially reducing the size of current evaporation ponds and increasing the rate of evaporation.
State: Virginia

University of Arizona: Electrochemically enhanced high efficiency reverse osmosis (EE-HERO) for brackish water treatment
Project goal: test an electrochemically enhanced high efficiency reverse osmosis process for treating brackish groundwater for potable use.
State: Arizona

University of Utah: Disruptive transport/sand filtration pretreatment system for uninterrupted desalination water supply during harmful algal blooms
Project goal: test an innovative system as a last defense during a harmful algal bloom (HAB) before it reaches water treatment systems that are severely impacted and, in some cases, not able to operate during a HAB event.
State: Utah

EcoVAP: Enhanced evaporation using biomimicry for brine concentrate disposal
Project goal: minimize the cost and environmental impact of inland desalination.
State: Utah

The funding provided supports the Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West, including the goal of improving use of technology to increase water reliability and enabling broader scale deployment of desalination and recycled water technologies.

Project descriptions are available at https://www.usbr.gov/research/dwpr.

#ColoradoSprings: Prospect Lake open again after blue-green algae levels drop

Prospect Lake in Memorial Park. By Beverly & Pack – Colorado Ballon Classic 2009, Labor Day Weekend, Prospect Lake in Memorial Park in Colorado Springs, CO. Uploaded by Tomer T, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19191608

From KRDO (Kolby Crossley):

The City of Colorado Springs has finally reopened Prospect Lake after elevated levels of a microcystin toxin, or blue-green algae, prompted a 12-week closure…

So after three months, what exactly brought the levels down?

“Main reason is we’ve gotten the colder temperatures,” said Rodriguez. “The lower overnight lows and during the day the highs haven’t been as high so it’s really pushed that organism to stop growing.”

[…]

Now the question is: What will the city do to try to prevent this from happening again?

They’ll be trying a new water maintenance program.

Rodriquez said the maintenance will include several products that are “more food-safe, animal-safe, people-safe so that people recreating aren’t going to be exposed to anything that’s hazardous to them but it’s also going to keep our nutrient level in check and in line.”

Rodriguez also said that they are currently working on a protocol for when it comes to testing the water in the future.

Oil and gas wastewater used for irrigation may suppress plant immune systems — @ColoradoStateU #KeepItInTheGround

Oil and gas drilling derrick. Photo credit: Colorado State University

From Colorado State University (Anne Manning):

The horizontal drilling method called hydraulic fracturing helps the United States produce close to 4 billion barrels of oil per year, rocketing the U.S. to the top of oil-producing nations in the world.

The highly profitable practice comes with a steep price: For every barrel of oil, oil and gas extraction also produces about seven barrels of wastewater, consisting mainly of naturally occurring subsurface water extracted along with the fossil fuels. That’s about 2 billion gallons of wastewater a day. Companies, policymakers and scientists are on the lookout for new strategies for dealing with that wastewater. Among the most tantalizing ideas is recycling it to irrigate food crops, given water scarcity issues in the West.

A new Colorado State University study gives pause to that idea. The team led by Professor Thomas Borch of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences conducted a greenhouse study using produced water from oil and gas extraction to irrigate common wheat crops. Their study, published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters, showed that these crops had weakened immune systems, leading to the question of whether using such wastewater for irrigation would leave crop systems more vulnerable to bacterial and fungal pathogens.

“The big question is, is it safe?” said Borch, a biogeochemist who has joint academic appointments in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Have we considered every single thing we need to consider before we do this?”

Produced water experiments

Typically, oil and gas wastewater, also known as produced water, is trucked away from drilling sites and reinjected into the Earth via deep disposal wells. Such practices have been documented to induce earthquakes and may lead to contamination of surface water and groundwater aquifers.

The idea for using such water for irrigation has prompted studies testing things like crop yield, soil health, and contaminant uptake by plants, especially since produced water is often high in salts, and its chemistry varies greatly from region to region. Borch, who has conducted numerous oil and gas-related studies, including how soils fare during accidental spills, wondered if anyone had tried to determine whether irrigation water quality impacts crops’ inherent ability to protect themselves from disease.

The experiments were conducted in collaboration with plant microbiome expert Pankaj Trivedi, a CSU assistant professor in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, and researchers at Colorado School of Mines. The team irrigated wheat plants with tap water, two dilutions of produced water, and a salt water control. They exposed the plants to common bacterial and fungal pathogens and sampled the leaves after the pathogens were verified to have taken hold.

Using state-of-the-art quantitative genetic sequencing, the scientists determined that the plants watered with the highest concentration of produced water had significant changes in expression of genes plants normally use to fight infections. Their study didn’t determine exactly which substances in the produced water correlated with suppressed immunity. But they hypothesized that a combination of contaminants like boron, petroleum hydrocarbons and salt caused the plants to reallocate metabolic resources to fight stress, making it more challenging for them to produce disease-fighting genes.

“Findings from this work suggest that plant immune response impacts must be assessed before reusing treated oil and gas wastewater for agricultural irrigation,” the study authors wrote.

Read the study: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.9b00539

Study: #PFAS exposure and health outcomes

Anschutz Medical Campus. Photo credit. CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities

From the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry:

CDC/ATSDR announced on September 23 that they established cooperative agreements with seven partners to study the human health effects of exposures to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through drinking water at locations across the nation.

  • DRAFT Protocol – Human health effects of drinking water exposures to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): A multi-site cross-sectional study
  • This draft protocol representing the core research is undergoing review. All recipients must follow the final protocol to conduct the research at their sites. The final protocol will be posted on this site at a later date.

    The seven partners awarded the cooperative agreement to conduct the Multi-site Study and the location where they each will conduct their work are as follows:

  • Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, to look at exposures in El Paso County, CO
  • Michigan State Department of Health and Human Services to look at exposures in Parchment/Cooper Township, MI, and North Kent County, MI
  • RTI International and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to look at exposures in Montgomery and Bucks Counties, PA
  • Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences – School of Public Health to look at exposures in Gloucester County, NJ
  • Silent Spring Institute to look at exposures in Hyannis, MA, and Ayer, MA
  • University at Albany, SUNY and New York State Department of Health to look at exposures in Hoosick Falls, NY, and Newburgh, NY
  • University of California – Irvine to look at exposures in communities near the UC Irvine Medical Center
  • The multi-site health study was authorized by the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2018 and 2019 to provide information to communities about the health effects of PFAS exposure. The information learned from the multi-site study will help all communities in the U.S. with PFAS exposures, including those that were not part of the study.

    @USBR reduces salinity and improves water quality in western slope canals

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Liff, Lesley McWhirter):

    The Bureau of Reclamation is reducing salinity and improving water quality in the Colorado River Basin by reducing salt loading into the river from the Crawford Clipper Center Lateral in Delta County and the Gould Canal in Delta and Montrose Counties. Naturally-occurring salts in the sediment along the canals are picked up by water leaching from the earthen ditches and entering the Colorado River system. The resulting reduction in water quality creates a negative economic impact to downstream infrastructure and crops. The purpose of the projects is to prevent seepage and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.

    The Crawford Clipper Center Lateral Pipeline Project will replace approximately 4.3 miles of open irrigation ditch with buried pipe. The Gould Canal Improvement Project will convert 12.4 miles of the canal to pipeline and geomembrane lining. These improvements will reduce seepage along the canals, enhancing water supply and improving water quality by preventing approximately 8,303 tons of salt per year from entering the Colorado River.

    “Reducing salt along the Clipper Center Lateral and the Gould Canal will help improve the water quality, crop production and wildlife habitat in the Colorado River Basin,” said Ed Warner, area manager for Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office.

    Copies of the final Findings of No Significant Impacts and Environmental Assessments on the projects are available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html or by contacting Reclamation. Historical and photographic documentation on the canals is available at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/rm/cr/index.html.

    Piping and lining of the projects tentatively scheduled to begin in November 2019.

    Piping an irrigation ditch. Photo credit NRCS via the Julesburg Advocate.

    #NM Environment Department: Silver Wing Mine incident summary — No hazard to human health or the environment in New Mexico

    Moab uranium tailings pile removal update

    From Aspen Public Radio (Molly Marcello):

    In a park, nestled in a red rock canyon outside Moab, Utah — a short drive from a giant pile of uranium tailings — a crowd gathered for a celebration. Elected officials and community members mingled, and enjoyed refreshments.

    Volunteers placed pieces of yellow cake in small paper bowls.

    It was a facetious nod to the gathering’s purpose: to celebrate the removal of 10 million tons of toxic uranium tailings from the banks of the Colorado River.

    “You never would have thought you would have all these people congratulating themselves in the community on moving 10 million tons,” said Sarah Fields, executive director of the nonprofit Uranium Watch. “They seem to be really dedicated to getting this done.”

    […]

    Before cleanup efforts began about 10 years ago, elevated levels of uranium and ammonia were showing up in the river’s water near Moab. The contamination alarmed officials downstream in Nevada and California, and they called for the Department of Energy to step in.

    Getting the pile out of the floodplain became a community rallying cry as well, Fields said.

    “The (Department of Energy) pretty much from the beginning realized that if they decided to leave it in place they would be standing alone because the town, the city, most of the members of the community, the state, the EPA all said, ‘Move the pile,’” Fields said.

    Workers began moving the pile in 2009. The tailings are loaded into train cars, and sent 30 miles north where they’re stored away from the river in the middle of the desert. With the 10 millionth ton moved, more than 62% of the pile is gone, which means many Moabites could see completion in their lifetimes.