Georgia Institute of Technology Receives EPA Safe Drinking Water Research Grant

4 09 2008


Contact Information: Dawn Harris-Young, (404) 562-8421,

(Atlanta – Ga. – Sept. 4, 2008) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the award of a $600,000 research grant to Georgia Tech to improve the detection of known and emerging drinking water contaminants; including the harmful substances produced by blue-green algae in algal blooms and noroviruses. Georgia Tech is one of six recipients (four universities, one non-profit and one research institute) to share a total of $3.6 million in research grants announced today.

The goal of Tech’s research is to develop a rapid and sensitive sensor that can be used in the field to detect, identify, and measure cyanotoxins, poisons produced by some blue-green algae.

Water is essential to life, and one of EPA’s highest priorities is ensuring America has drinking water safe from pathogens and other waterborne contaminants. The agency presently regulates 90 harmful chemicals, microorganisms and even radiation in water. To ensure even healthier drinking water, EPA is encouraging research into other possible contaminants and with faster technologies.

In the United States, it is often difficult to link the incidence of waterborne diseases with their exact causes, due to the need for ever more sophisticated tools to monitor waterborne contaminants. These newly funded research projects will help improve the agency’s ability to pinpoint potential problems using innovative new technologies and methods.

More Information on the Grants:

List of Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants:

Group Says Clean Air Standards Will Cut Summertime Smog Pollution, Protect Kids’ Health

4 09 2008
WASHINGTON, Sept 04, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today took action to cut pollution from a major source of summertime smog and to protect human health by finalizing clean air standards for nonroad gasoline engines. These include smaller gasoline engines that power lawn equipment and personal marine watercraft.
“Cleaner lawn mowers means less summertime smog and healthier air for millions of kids,” said Environmental Defense Fund Deputy General Counsel Vickie Patton. “These new clean air standards will reduce dangerous smog pollution from high-emitting gasoline engines while helping to cut costs at the gas pump.”  EPA’s new standards will protect human health through a combination of limits on the evaporative pollution from gas tanks and emission standards that require cleaner engines.
The new standards will be phased in beginning in 2010, depending on engine type, and will annually cut smog-forming volatile organic compounds by 600,000 tons and smog-forming oxides of nitrogen by 150,000 tons when fully implemented.
These gasoline-powered engines release up to 25 percent of the gasoline unburned in their exhaust, so cleaner emission standards also help save fuel costs at the pump.
Read on here.

Sixth Circuit rules on challenge to EPA regulation of Kentucky waters

4 09 2008

Abigail Salisbury | The Jurist

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] on a suit brought by several Kentucky environmental groups, including a chapter of the Sierra Club [advocacy website], against Stephen L. Johnson [EPA bio] in his official capacity as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website]. The plaintiffs filed suit under the Clean Water Act [text], seeking to compel Johnson to fulfill his duty to implement antidegradation requirements for Kentucky. In a complex order, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the EPA on the challenge to the EPA’s approval of Kentucky’s selection of regulated waters, reversed the grant of summary judgment to the EPA on the its approval of Kentucky’s exemption of six types of pollution discharges from review, and remanded the matter to the EPA. Judge Clay authored the opinion, stating “In my view, the EPA acted contrary to law by relying on [Kentucky’s] unenforceable commitments.”

In recent months, the EPA has been sued by a number of states seeking either the promulgation of regulations or effective response to petitions. In August, twelve states filed suit [press release; JURIST report] against the EPA for its alleged failure to enforce provisions of the Clean Air Act [text; EPA materials] requiring oil refineries to adopt measures curbing the pollution contributing to global warming. In July, California Attorney General Jerry Brown [official website] formally notified [letter, PDF; press release] the EPA that the state had petitioned the EPA three times seeking a regulatory ruling and would file a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the agency if it refused to issue rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from various vehicles and types of machinery.

Dahlonega Hopes for Water Fix by Next Week

4 09 2008

By Stephen Gurr |

The Gainsville Times

Dahlonega city officials are now hoping to replace a broken filter that cut its water plant’s pumping capacity in half by next Tuesday or Wednesday.  Dahlonega City Manager Bill Lewis said the replacement schedule is “an optimistic target date,” though he added there could be uncertain variables in procuring the parts, which are coming from Idaho. Initially engineers thought it could be as long as a month before the filter could be replaced.

The collapse of the 32-year-old filter on Friday put the city’s water supply in a perilous situation, with the 1.5 million gallons per day capacity cut in half and at risk in the event of a major fire or large water main failure. In response, the city imposed a total outdoor watering ban.

Lewis said under the requirements of state law, the city must get permission for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to extend that watering ban beyond seven days, if necessary. Lewis drafted a letter to the EPD this morning seeking that authorization.

Lewis said the city is maintaining water pressure for its approximately 2,700 customers by doubling shifts at the plant to 24-hour operations.

“What people need to know is there is a potential for problems,” Lewis said. “Our concern is for fire protection and water for basic human needs.”

He said local industry Timken, a bearing plant on Torrington Road, is “on standby” should it need to reduce its water usage.

“Fortunately, we’re heading into a time when the demand for water is not as great.”

Read on here.

Georgia Artificial Turf Poses Lead Risk, California Attorney General Says

4 09 2008

LA Times

There’s more to artificial turf than meets the eye, according to California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown. The A.G. has sued several manufacturers of the ersatz grass, saying they failed to disclose lead hazards, as staffer Marc Lifsher reports.

The lawsuit, which has been joined by Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and the Solano County Dist. Atty. David W. Paulson, names Beaulieu Group of Georgia, AstroTurf of Georgia and FieldTurf USA Inc. of Florida.

All three companies said they were working with California officials to settle the lawsuit and stressed that their products were safe. AstroTurf, an artificial turf pioneer, said in a statement that it “has demonstrated its industry leadership by proactively developing new products that are below the most stringent standards for lead in consumer products.”

The turf is less dangerous when new, according to the A.G. But as it ages, it breaks down to dust that contains lead.

Read on here.

Study: Climate Change Likely Made Storms Even Stronger

4 09 2008


By ERIC BERGER | Houston Chronicle

The strongest hurricanes have gotten stronger in nearly all oceans around the world, likely in response to global warming, a new study concludes.

Scientists say the research is noteworthy, because it uses only satellite observations.This may eliminate some of the bias in the historical hurricane record that has made it all but impossible to determine whether monster storms such as Hurricane Katrina are stronger or more frequent than they were a few decades ago.

After reanalyzing 25 years of satellite data from the North Atlantic and the other five ocean basins where tropical cyclones form, the study’s authors found that the top 30 percent of each year’s storms became measurably stronger between 1981 and 2006. The intensity change was equivalent to about 5 mph for the strongest storms.

“I think this makes the argument much more compelling that climate change is really affecting the most rare, powerful storms by making them even stronger,” said James Elsner, a hurricane scientist at Florida State University and lead author of the study published in Nature.

In recent years, especially since the record 2005 tropical season, some hurricane scientists have believed that warmer oceans were producing stronger hurricanes.

But other scientists have said the record of past hurricanes couldn’t be compared to that of the modern era, when storms are analyzed in minute detail from space, air and sea. Prior to the use of satellites and aircraft reconnaissance, the ability to measure sustained winds at sea was severely constrained.

One of those researchers, Chris Landsea, of the National Hurricane Center, said the new paper overreaches in its conclusion that global warming has caused the apparent rise in hurricane intensity.

The new paper finds the sharpest rise in intensity for the North Atlantic, Southern Indian and Northern Indian oceans. The trends are more modest in the Western North Pacific and Eastern North Pacific basins, and nonexistent in the South Pacific.

Read on here.

Fay Brings Needed Rainfall to State

4 09 2008

Rain from Tropical Storm Fay brought much needed moisture to Georgia August 22-26. According to the University of Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network, many places got more than 10 inches of rain from the storm’s slow trek across the Southeast.

The weather station in Cairo got 16.8 inches, the highest recorded. Other Georgia cities receiving significant rain include Attapulgus with 16.3 inches, Newton with 13 inches, Camilla with 10.8 inches and Dixie with 10.8 inches.

Disease pressure high, pastures


Crop diseases are expected to flourish across the region as a result of the significant rainfall. In Georgia, there are concerns about diseases in cotton, peanut, corn, soybean and forages. In particular, we might see an increase in incidences of leaf spot, white mold and Rhizoctonia limb rot in peanut, soybean rust in soybean, southern corn rust in corn and Stemphylium leaf spot in cotton.

On a positive note, the moisture will improve forage conditions. While it is too late to provide extra forage production, the rain will allow for a good late cutting of Bermuda grass and extensive late-season grazing.

It will also help tall fescue pastures rebound and allow warm-season perennials to approach the dormancy with some significant growth. This will enable them to better survive the winter.

We anticipate good planting conditions for winter annuals because of the good moisture conditions. Lack of moisture was one of the biggest problems last fall when it was too dry to plant.

Forage diseases like Helminthosporium leaf spot on Bermuda grass could be an issue, particularly if we get cool night temperatures. Later, cool-season annual plantings will be problematic with moist conditions.

Peach trees broken and battered

Some peach trees in south Georgia were damaged by Fay’s rain and strong winds. Growers expect to lose trees that were pushed over by heavy winds. Wounded trees will be susceptible to boring insects and fungal problems that are associated with tree stress and wet conditions.

Peach growers will need to take steps to reduce further tree damage and ensure that soil is replaced and adequately tamp down around all trees. To maintain good tree health next season, this should be done for all trees, even those that are not toppled over.

Assuming that a good spray program is in place, apples will likely not be hurt by Fay. Growers may see an increase in late-season rots such as bitter rot.

Read on here.