Here’s a controversial headline: Fracking not a problem! (at least not in Texas)

15 November 2011

Will hydraulic fracturing damage the Karoo? (Photo: Bill Harding)

The pros and cons, mostly cons, of fracking in South Africa’s karoo have been much in the news lately.  There have been several reports from the US that have indicated that the process has resulted in the serious contamination of groundwater.

Now a counter-theory has emerged: Read more »

The more things change, politically, the more they stay the same!

15 November 2011

This is a personal rant but I believe that it has bearing on the devastating lack of compassion that some South Africans have for their fellow man. Read more »

Blue-green algal science: Where it all began…

14 November 2011

I am often asked where the science behind cyanobacteria and their toxins began.  Well, it all began in Australia, interestingly enough – but cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) are not another of the invasive plant pests imported to South Africa from that big island.

George Francis made the first links between cyanobacteria and toxins

The first awareness that cyanobacteria produced toxins is attributed to observations made by George Francis, back in 1878 or thereabouts.  His discovery was made at Lake Alexandrina, near Adelaide in South Australia.  This event is summarized in a paper published by Geoff Codd et al in 1994, the abstract of which reads as follows:

Early accounts by European explorers and settlers of South Australia contain numerous references to scums or discoloured water that are consistent with cyanobacterial blooms. Documented reports refer back to at least 1853. The first detailed scientific account of toxic cyanobacteria appeared in 1878. In a perceptive and prescient paper in Nature, the Adelaide assayer and chemist George Francis reported on stock deaths at Milang on the shores of Lake Alexandrina in South Australia. Francis attributed the deaths to the ingestion and toxicity of scums of the cyanobacterium Nodularia spumigena. Reports of cyanobacterial blooms, scums and associated problems in Lake Alexandrina and in the River Murray between about 1851 and 1888 are discussed and comparisons are made with the reactions to blooms a century later. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 45(5) 731 – 736. Read more »

Duck doo can make ponds look like green goo

13 November 2011

There can be a downside to lots of ducks in a pond! (Photo: Bill Harding)

Waterfowl produce a lot of nutrients in a day of feeding and excreting.  Those interested can search back in Droplets (Lots of P in Waterfowl !) for details of just how much.  All too often, attracting too many ducks, by feeding them on a regular basis, can have devastating effects on the water quality.  Its not always the ducks that are at fault, mostly its man, as is the case with Brooklyn’s Prospect Lake: Read more »

Val de Vie acquires floating islands

11 November 2011

A new appearance at Val de Vie! (Photo" Lynda Muller)

The prestigious Val de Vie polo estate near Paarl has started to install BioHaven floating islands in some of its ponds.  Today saw the launch of the first units!

Blue-green algae cause AND cure Alzheimers???

11 November 2011

Readers of Droplets will have followed the debate on the possible role of beta-methyl-amino-alanine (BMAA) in neurodegenerative diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Alzheimers.  BMAA is a metabolite produced by all species of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). Read more »

Morbid acceptance that eutrophication is here to stay

11 November 2011

Living with the problem (Photo: Bill Harding)

We see more and more evidence that little is being done to prevent algal blooms from developing, i.e. by preventing nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, from getting into our waterways, mostly from our sewage treatment plants.  By the same token, we see money being expended to try and find ways to address the symptoms (the aspirin against cancer approach), rather than the cause. Here’s another example: Read more »

Climate change will bring poorer water quality and increased health risks

11 November 2011

Water quality is going to become much worse! (Photo: Bill Harding)

A French review of monitoring requirements aligned to climate-change induced changes in water quality, has been published.

Three types of climate change-related impacts were identified: changes in raw water quality, changes in water treatmentprocesses and changes in human determinants of exposure in relation to consumers’ behaviour. This framework was applied to existing risks and exposure situations in France.

An increase in the health burden attributable todrinking water intake is expected due to increased exposure to faecal pathogens, disinfection by-products and cyanobacteria as a result of a combination of natural, technical and human factors. Read more »

Common carp a threat to our rivers and dams

11 November 2011

Carp are ecologically unfriendly! (Photo: Bill Harding)

There is legio evidence that the common carp, Cyprinus carpio, is a major no-no when it comes to aquatic ecosystems.  Regrettably, this coarse and destructive species has been widely introduced for decades, as an angling fish.  The legacy of this error in judgement is now coming home to roost in many countries.  Australia’s Manning River is no exception. Read more »

Another town to go phosphate-free

10 November 2011

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has asked towns along the Passaic River and its tributaries to keep those waterways clean. New Jersey State encourages Verona residents to use only phosphate-free lawn care products. Read more »