Lake fix roadshow a dam(n) good idea

17 February 2012

Historically, New Zealand has been renowned for excellent quality lakes.  In recent years, however, they have become increasingly concerned about the ravages of pollution.  Now a group of researchers from Waikato University is to travel the country to bring local and regional councils up to speed on the dangers.  This is a seriously good idea that someone in the know in South Africa (where is this person?) should grasp: Read more »

Fixing pollution more of an issue than just turning off a tap, even in Switzerland

17 February 2012

This week I gave a lecture to a gathering of 80-odd water and wastewater engineers – the water engineers being the guys that have to provide you with water you can drink, after treating out all the rubbish the wastewater guys don’t.  In South Africa its not the fault of the wastewater engineers – they are simply not required to do better. Read more »

On and off algal blooms in Australia

17 February 2012

Here are some odds and ends from the CyanoAlert world:

New Zealand’s Hutt River posed algal problems last year – and its doing it again!  Nothing odd in this though.  Repeat performances are entirely common if people keep dumping their waste into rivers and streams!  The Hutt City Council reports that:

River users should avoid parts of the Hutt River due to widespread growth of potentially toxic cyanobacteria.

Monitoring by Greater Wellington shows that coverage of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) is now high in the Hutt River from Birchville downstream. Detached algal mats are also present on the river’s edge. River users, particularly those with dogs, should avoid contact with these parts of the river. Read more »

Death lurks in pet’s water dishes

15 February 2012

Onset of blue-green algal growth, the dark green bits amongst the green (Photo: Bill Harding)

Dishes and bowls used for providing water for dogs can be a death sentence for your dog if they are not kept clean.  Dog’s transfer lots of food to their dishes when they drink, enriching the water and creating an environment conducive to algal growth, including toxin-producing cyanobacteria.

This problem occurs in both metal and plastic dishes, as well as in cement troughs and birdbaths – the latter often a source of water for pets.

Close-up of the furry mat of blue-green algae in one of the dark spots (Photo: Bill Harding)

These photos show the onset of a furry growth of the blue-green alga, Oscillatoria, in a stainless steel dish.  If not cleaned, i.e. simply refilled, the growth will spread to the point where it could easily provide a lethal dose of toxins to a pet lapping up the last drops of water and the algal cells.

Microscope image of the blue-green algal filaments, with scale bar (Photo: Bill Harding)

Please ensure that you change your pets water regularly, clean out the dish with bleach or just a good wash at least once a week, and scrub out those birdbaths if they have a black or dark-green layer in them. Also, be aware of the symptoms of poisoning by algal toxins (see here for link).


Obama not meeting his promises on Great Lakes restoration

14 February 2012

OK, what politician does keep his promises? The USA’s Great Lakes are deteriorating rapidly.  Back in 2008, President Obama, promised $5 billion for the projects – but so far just over a million USD have materialized.  Now that they are no longer spending obscene amounts of money in Iraq, perhaps they can redirect some USACE funds towards more important issues (unless… Iran gets in the way).  Of course, BO might not make it past the end of the year and then the promises are moot anyway.  I don’t see any environmental stalwarts in the set of GOP jokers lining up for the job! Read more »

South Africa gets shocking environmental score

14 February 2012

South Africa is knee-deep in well-intentioned, well considered, laws and guidelines designed to govern and protect the environment.  Trouble is, many of these are administratively-cumbersome and are not backed up by a parallel level of skills, or inter-departmental cooperation and integration, amongst the gate-keepers.  Too much time and effort has been spent creating rules, with a near-complete lack of implementation and testing.  This unbalanced approach gives the lie to the often subjective, arbitrary nature of some assessment practices, plus the fact that it may take a quarter of a decade or more before it is clear whether they truly work or not.  Allied to all of this has been a deliberate requirement to ‘dumb-down’ much of the testing, such that non-specialists can perform the work.  This makes no sense at all – but there it is. Read more »

Cape Town’s water has a smell again. Is it safe?

14 February 2012

Anabaena catenula, a geosmin-producing blue-green alga, in Theewaterskloof Dam (Photo: Bill Harding)

For many years, Cape Town’s water supply has been plagued by the seasonal occurrence of tastes and odours.  These are produced by cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that develop low-level blooms in the City’s largest storage dams, Theewaterskloof, near Villiersdorp and Voelvlei, near Gouda.  Press reports today indicate that it’s that time again! Read more »

DH Environmental reaches 600th contract milestone

13 February 2012

DHEC reaches new heights! (Photo: Bill Harding)

With the commissioning of three new projects this week, DH Environmental Consulting has flown past the milestone of 600 contracts!  Number 600 came with an appointment to undertaken an assessment of the Saratoga Fishing Lodge development near Greyton.

Effective lake management requires dedicated focus

12 February 2012

Clear focus on lake management problems...

...usually reaps rewards (Photos: Bill Harding, with help from Toby)

Water quality issues in lakes are, typically, allowed to progress to the point where the problems become so awful that clarity of thought dulls and panic, knee-jerk solutions are attempted.  These solutions focus, most often, on the wrong end of the problem, i.e. the effects or symptoms, rather than the cause – the nutrients that allowed the algae to grow in the first place. Read more »

Lakes in Crisis: A wake-up call is needed!

10 February 2012

During the past two years there has been an increasing, albeit localized, awareness of the dangers of inattention to the pollution of rivers and lakes.  When the penny drops, it is more often than not too late for anything other than drastic measures, as the problem has been ignored for too long.  In many cases, willfully ignored. Read more »