Posted on December 20, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Microplastic pollution from the Rhine River. Photo courtesy University of Basel.
New law seen as big win for aquatic environments
After years of studies showing how plastic microbeads are polluting streams, lakes and oceans, the U.S. is set to adopt a new law that will phase out the manufacture of plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017 and the sale of beauty products containing plastic microbeads by July 1, 2018.
Similar to California’s historic microbead ban signed into law earlier this year, the Microbead Free Waters Act (H.R. 1321) bans all plastic microbeads, including those made from so-called “biodegradable plastics,” the majority of which do not biodegrade in marine environments.
The law is a big win for the environment, where the microbeads have been found in birds, crabs and fish, making their way through the food chain.
One recent study found that up to 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested plastic microparticles. In Australia, researchers say that plastic pollution adds insult to injury for already stressed corals along the Great Barrier Reef. And the problem won’t disappear with a ban — the plastic particles are also building up in ocean sediments. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, rivers, water, water quality | Tagged: Environment, H.R. 1321, Microbead Free Waters Act, plastic microbeads, plastic pollution, U.S. Congress, water quality | 1 Comment »
Posted on December 18, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Water pollution from waste pharmaceuticals is becoming ubiquitous, to the detriment of the environment. @bberwyn photo.
Watchdogs offer suggestions to beef up regulation
After years of studies showing how pharmaceutical wastes are polluting streams and lakes, the EPA has finally proposed a modest rule to start curbing the contaminants.
A proposed rule published in August would create new standards for healthcare facilities (including pharmacies) and reverse distributors. According to the agency, the rule would prevent the flushing of more than 6,400 tons of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals annually by banning healthcare facilities from flushing hazardous waste pharmaceuticals down the sink and toilet.
More Summit Voice stories on pharmaceutical pollution:
Filed under: Environment, rivers, water, water quality | Tagged: Environment, EPA, pharmaceutical pollution, water quality | Leave a comment »
Posted on December 16, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Freshwater streams disturbed by human activity are significant sources of heat-trapping methane pollution. @bberwyn photo.
Protecting water quality has climate benefits
Climate models may be significantly underestimating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by fresh water streams, researchers said in a new study released this week.
Published in the journal Ecological Monographs, the findings suggest that human disturbances on watersheds are a key factor in raising concentrations of methane, a particularly potent heat-trapping pollutant. Based on the research, the world’s rivers and streams pump about 10 times more methane into our atmosphere than previously estimated. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, global warming, rivers, water quality | Tagged: climate change, Environment, global warming, greenhouse gases, methane, water quality | 1 Comment »
Posted on December 9, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
3.9 million plastic items per square kilometer …
A sample from the Rhine near Duisburg shows the variety of plastic pollution found in the water. Photo courtesy University of Basel.
Given the fact that microplastic debris is so widespread, it’s probably no surprise that the Rhine — Europe’s workhorse river — has been found to be among the most polluted by plastic.
The Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area has the highest concentration, at about 2,333,665 particles per square kilometer, with a peak at Rees on the Nederhijn, where 3.9 million plastic items per square kilometer (or 21,839 particles per 1000 cubic meters) were found in a single water sample. In general, extreme peaks may be reached after heavy rain or accidents. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, rivers, water, water quality | Tagged: Environment, microplastic pollution, Microplastics, plastic pollution, rivers, water quality | Leave a comment »
Posted on November 27, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Traces of medicine in freshwater streams have a wide range of impacts on fish.
New study documents wide range of impacts
Fish exposed to remnant traces of medicines, including pain relievers, muscle relaxants and antidepressants, grow more slowly and have a harder time escaping predators, say scientists who carefully studied the effects of pharmaceutical pollutants.
The study analyzed effects from nine individual pharmaceuticals, as well as varying mixtures of these chemicals, on both juvenile and adult fathead minnows. It was conducted by the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory at St. Cloud State University and the U.S. Geological Survey, with the findings published in a special edition of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, rivers, water, water quality | Tagged: Environment, pharmaceutical pollutants, water pollution, water quality | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 1, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Agricultural runoff has left many major rivers polluted with nitrates.
‘Unfortunately, there is no widespread evidence of improving conditions …’
Massive efforts to improve water quality haven’t been effective in many large U.S. rivers, where nitrate levels remain at high levels after surging in the second half of the 20th century.
Between 1945 and 1980, nitrate levels in large U.S. rivers increased up to fivefold as chemical fertilizer use increased dramatically in the Midwest. In some urbanized areas along the East and West coasts during the same period, river nitrate levels doubled.
In recent decades, nitrate changes have been smaller but nitrate levels have remained high in most of the rivers examined in a new U.S. Geological Survey study. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, rivers, water, water quality | Tagged: agriculture, fertilizers, nitrate pollution, rivers, water pollution, water quality | 1 Comment »
Posted on October 26, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Beavers can help improve water quality by reducing levels of nitrogen. @bberwyn photo.
Beaver ponds remove nitrogen pollution from streams
Long-known as beneficial ecosystem engineers, beavers not only build important wetland habitats for plants and animals, but also help reduce the amount of harmful nitrogen downstream of their ponds.
A team of scientists, led by Arthur Gold at the University of Rhode Island, took a close look at how beavers help reduce pollution. The research is important because nitrogen levels have been increasing in Northeast waters for years. The use of nitrogen fertilizers has risen and urbanization has brought in influences such as septic systems. This nitrogen is released into small streams and ponds and eventually travels to estuaries, where rivers meet the sea. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, water, water quality | Tagged: beavers, Environment, nitrogen, water pollution, water quality | Leave a comment »