“Forcing farmers and industry [and municipalities] to stop using waterways as private sewers would be a good first step”

28 November 2012

Not good for rivers, but it ends up there… (Photo: Bill Harding)

Today’s title comes from an article from New Zealand, suggesting that the authorities have been somewhat less than open and honest about the state of the country’s waters.  The article makes, inter alia, the following telling observations:

Of 134 lakes monitored, 56 per cent are “eutrophic” or worse. This means they suffer from nutrient enrichment that promotes frequent algal blooms, including blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, a type of algae that has plagued central North Island and some South Island lakes over the past decade.

None of this is new, as is nothing in the recent New York Times article, which quotes Massey University environmental scientist Mike Joy saying “there are almost two worlds in New Zealand … the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality”.

You’re not alone, New Zealand.  This type of truth obfuscation occurs in many countries – and has done for decades. By the way, today’s press shows that your Hutt River is a bit dodgy again!

Toxic algae can kill dogs and make people sick.  Together with Greater Wellington, Regional Public Health and other local councils we’re urging you to protect yourself and your dogs this summer when you visit the Hutt River.

Also coming from NZ is a report of money being allocated to try and find out why periphyton (a.k.a. the algal biofilms that grow on rocks and stuff in streams and rivers), are a problem in the Manawatu River.

“Once the causes of the periphyton growth are better understood the Council will be in an improved position to make decisions about operational changes or any new facilities required.”

Maybe the report is a bit skewed but I would have thought they would know the reason already – seems pretty obvious and no need to waste a million-odd NZ$ to find the cause.

Around the world plans are being formulated to tackle the “Big P”, a.k.a. phosphorus pollution getting into surface waters:  In Hartford, Connecticut, a [public] meeting [the first of two] on new rules for controlling phosphorus run-off into water supplies is scheduled for today (Wednesday).  As has been the case for a long time, the obvious need to treat wastewater properly is fought by municipalities whining about costs!  I wonder how long this short-sighted argument will persist? (read the title of this post again and include the word ‘municipalities’).

The need to reduce phosphorus loading at source, rather than waste money trying to hide the effects in the rivers and streams impacted by wastewater, constitutes a fundamental premise of the European Union Water Framework Directive – which acknowledges that

Phosphorus is the primary cause of freshwater eutrophication, hence more efficient phosphorus use and phosphorus recovery from waste streams is paramount.

In Minnesota,

The Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District is finishing a project this month that will reduce phosphorus loads to Goose Lake in Scandia, one of the District’s 10 impaired lakes.  The District awarded the job to a local contractor who was the low bidder.  He has made repairs to a severely eroding ravine, installed stone ditch checks to slow water velocities, and excavated dry retention areas to hold back maximum rain events that will cut down on the amount of sediment to Goose Lake.

This project will reduce annual phosphorus loads to the lake by as much at 19 pounds with each pound of phosphorus producing as much as 500 pounds of algae.  Overall, Goose Lake needs an annual reduction of 70 pounds to satisfy EPA pollution standards.

And in Australia,

Goulburn-Murray Water (G-MW) is warning the public to avoid direct contact with water in No 7 Channel between Loddon River and Reedy Lake; the Loddon River from Kerang Weir to the Little Murray River; and Reedy Lake after monitoring detected high levels of blue-green algae. The warning for Kow Swamp and water sourced from the Pyramid Creek (including the No.6 Channel) and Macorna Main Channel Systems also remains current.







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