Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
Strengthened Federal Regulations for Clean Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recently finalized the Clean Water Rule.  This rule is aimed at protecting our nation’s water resources from pollution and human ruin, especially the smaller streams and wetlands.

This rule is an attempt to make a difference in larger waterways by cleaning the smaller upstream streams and wetlands that feed them.

There is no expanded authority with the instatement of the Clean Water Rule, because the EPA already has the authority to impose these regulations based on the authority granted in the Clean Water Act.

Some farmers and property owners have expressed concern about regulations regarding smaller streams, but environmental groups laud the new rule as long overdue.

WETLAB continues to test water for EPA compliance.  See how we can help you comply with the new regulations by calling us at (775) 355-0202, or emailing us at info@wetlaboratory.com

 

More information about the Clean Water Rule can be found here, via the Environmental Protection Agency.

According the Reno Gazette-Journal, the recent rains experienced by northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe will ultimately have little impact on lake water levels.  The recent precipitation has pushed Lake Tahoe up to its natural rim, but will drop as the weather continues to warm.

There has been a reported 1.42 inches of rainfall in South Lake Tahoe between May 14 and 25, and just about one inch in Reno-Sparks.

While any rain is good for our local water table, the amount we received in May is simply not enough to make a large difference for the rest of the summer. By the end of the summer, Lake Tahoe is expected to be several feet below its rim.

The long standing drought in California and Nevada shows few signs of stopping anytime soon.

More about this story can be found here.

2015 Seasonal Drought Outlook, Courtesy of the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

On January 8, 2014 the water supply for one of the largest water treatment plants in West Virginia was contaminated.  The contaminant was 4-methylcycolhexene methanol, a chemical used to remove impurities from coal. It leaked from a storage container at Freedom Industries, a company that specializes in making chemicals for the coal and steel industries.  The leak was caused by barrier failures that allowed the chemical to flow down a bank and into the Elk River where it traveled one mile downstream to the water treatment plant.

The chemical spill caused a pungent odor to overtake the surrounding area resulting in lead officials from the EPA Air Quality division to discover the leak. Upon investigation, Air Quality division officials notified the EPA Water Quality division, along with management at the treatment plant. A non-use order was immediately put in place for all residents.

The non-use order prohibited water use for all purposes including drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry or cleaning, affecting businesses such as hospitals, motels/hotels, restaurants, schools and grocery stores. And while the water treatment plant serves just 100,000 customers, reports estimated that up to one-fourth of the state’s population was affected by the spill.

TIMELINE

Jan 8th – Spill Occurred; Non-Use Warning Issued

Jan 9th – News and Radio Reporting on Issue

Jan 10th – West Virginia Governor and President Obama declare a state of emergency for 9 Counties

Jan 13th – Limited Use of Water Allowed After Water System Flush

At the time of the spill the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did not have a healthy concentration consumption standard for 4-methylcycolhexene methanol; therefore, the chemical was not regulated and had been deemed “non-hazardous.”  The CDC is currently working on the total maximum daily load (TMDL), which is a “calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards” (EPA).

Some interesting points that are highly relative to WETLAB work:

The chemical has a low odor threshold which helped the detection of the leak

A representative from the West Virginia Water Research Institute said the closest thing he could find to 4-methylhexene methanol for water quality are foaming agents (MBAS).

The CDC decided that a “safe” level for the contaminant is less than 1p.m.

 

References:

NPR.org

Huffington Post EPA

 

A recent water quality story caught our eye out of Southern Nevada – mysterious brown foam found floating on Lake Mead.

According to an Associated Press Report, officials urged people to avoid the Overton Arm, a northern area of the lake, when several dozen carp were found dead in the foam, which extended for about eight miles from the mouth of the Virgin River to Echo Bay.

Water quality testing is underway, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife is investigating the fish deaths, according to the article, but the Southern Nevada Water Authority, monitoring water quality at two intakes, hasn’t found any problems.

The article quotes Southern Nevada Water Authority Spokesman Bronson Mack as saying no pollutants have been found at the intakes.

“It really is a massive body of water, and that’s one benefit from a drinking water perspective,” he told the Associated Press in regards to dilution, adding that water from the Overton Arm takes about a month to make it to the intakes.

In an www.8newsnow.com story, there was speculation of a virus killing the fish and an increase in water temperatures killing off algae to create the foam, meaning the two could be unrelated.

But in an editorial on lasvegascitylife.com, Peabody Award-winning reporter George Knapp raised some concerns.

“I would probably feel a bit better about drinking tap water from the lake if I hadn’t heard so many similar statements from our water officials in years gone by. SNWA and the Water District have spent millions over the years on touchy-feely TV commercials that assure all of us how great our water tastes and about all of the incredibly rigorous tests which are conducted thousands of times each month to ensure that every drop is perfectly safe,” Knapp wrote, referring to missed pollutants in Lake Mead like perchlorate that went undetected by testing for decades.

This will be an interesting story to follow, and one that drives home the importance of water quality monitoring.

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In this blog, we spend much of our time talking about water quality testing news, science and politics that we find interesting; but with this month’s blog, we decided to do something a little different.

Here at WETLAB we care about maintaining and improving water quality, above and beyond our roll in monitoring it. When we came across some tips for average citizens to help from www.cleanwateraction.org, we thought it was a great fit.

First is some news that’s been getting quite a bit of attention in the last few years: Don’t flush medicines, pharmaceuticals or personal care products down the toilet or down the drain. That includes anything from over-the-counter drugs to cosmetics and even sun screen or vitamins. They can all impact both the environment and our drinking water down the road.
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Don’t use antibacterial soaps when you don’t need to. These products often contain chemicals that harm aquatic life, and can lead to antibiotic resistant germs.

Don’t put motor oil, detergents, fertilizers, pesticides or anything but water down storm drains. And speaking of motor oil, fix any drips or leaks on your car or truck so it doesn’t wash into the water supply with the rain.

Try to use natural gardening products over pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The same goes for inside the home–stay away from toxic household products in cleaning and home care.

Pick up after your pets! Their waste contains bacteria that can end up in the water supply when it’s washed down the storm drain.

Pave less of your property. The more water runs across pavement instead of seeping down into the soil, the greater chance it has to pick up pollutants, pick up speed and cause flooding or erosion.

These are just a few tips we thought were worth sharing. Please add your ideas by commenting on this post or on our Facebook page.

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Earlier this winter, we took a look at a promising beginning to the winter’s snowpack and corresponding water storage after big December storms.

Our January WETLAB blog reported end-of-December totals of 112 percent water content in the Sierra Snowpack that feeds the Truckee River and the Reno-Northern Nevada area downstream. At the time, that put us at 53 percent of the year’s total.

Fast forward to the end of February, and the picture is a little different – because the water is about the same. Yes, the months of January and February were the driest ever recorded for the Northern Sierra since modern records were first kept in 1920, according to the San Jose Mercury News, putting us at only 66 percent of normal to date.

Snowfall, stored in the Sierra to melt throughout the spring and summer as one of the major water sources for both Nevada and California, has been blocked by a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast for the last two months, driving storms up into Canada, and dropping them into the Midwest.

And accordingly, water officials are tightening their belts. The Walker River Irrigation District said farmers might receive about half of what they received last year, even though last year was also a below average year for water in the Sierra snowpack, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

That – despite this year’s snowpack holding more water than last year – is due to drawn-down reservoir levels, according to Federal Watermaster Jim Shaw.

“I hate to bear crappy news, but being an old farmer, it doesn’t look very good,” Shaw said in the RGJ article. “If it’s any consolation, it’s this way clear across the U.S., from the Mississippi River west.”

While the April 1 deadline for measuring Sierra snowpack and water stored therein is quickly approaching, some local forecasters aren’t quite ready to write this winter off.

Snow Forecaster Bryan Allegretto of opensnow.com writes that, depending on which forecasting model you look at, there’s still a chance at feet of snow before the month of March is up.

The bottom line – if you’re an optimist, it’s not over until its over, but if you’re not, we’re unlikely to make up for the ground lost in January and February.

WETLAB’s Insight into Water Wars

A Little Bit of History Repeating: California Water Wars

Look throughout history, and water’s vital importance has played a key role in shaping our planet, our societies and our politics. That’s why making sure what water we have is useable is so important, and why we take our water quality work seriously at Wetlab. Just look to our neighbor to the west – California’s history with water has occasionally been a contentious one. The center of the conflict is just a few hours south on Highway 395 along the Eastern Sierra.

In the beginning of the last century as Los Angeles started to outgrow local water sources, William Mulholland, head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, acquired water rights throughout the Owens Valley and up to Mono Lake.

This heavily impacted agriculture and ranching in the area, turning Owens Lake into a dust bowl, leading farmers to try to destroy the aqueduct.  This was the backdrop for the 1974 film Chinatown, staring Jack Nicholson, which fictionalized unscrupulous dealings that brought water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles via the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Environmental groups worked to mitigate the damage, and the Mono Lake Committee through litigation was able to stop Mono Lake from the same fate as Owens Lake to the south in the 1990s with a plan that should partially restore the receding body of water.

But tension still exists over the century-old water dispute, with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power recently challenging the Mammoth Lakes Water District, filing suit over water rights to Mammoth Creek, according to www.sierrawave.net.

“The Mammoth Creek flow is approximately 25% of the City’s water export from the Eastern Sierra,” says the agency in a complaint filed in Mono County Superior Court, as quoted in www.courthousenews.com.

“The citizens of Los Angeles depend on flows from Mammoth Creek, and the L.A. Department of Water and Power has a responsibility for protecting the city’s water rights,” said DWP Director of Operations Marty Adams, in a written statement as quoted by the www.northhollywood.patch.com. “Taking water from Mammoth Creek reduces the volume of water to which Los Angeles has prior rights, that can be delivered to the citizens of Los Angeles, directly translating to our customers who pay our water rates.”

The head of Mammoth’s water district Greg Norby disputed the claim in the same article: “It’s fundamentally false and without merit,” he said. “Less than 1 percent of their water is exported from here. We’ve told them the amount is immeasurable, but they won’t listen.”

But the effects on Mammoth would be more damaging, Norby said. We’ll have to wait and see what the resolution is to this latest chapter in just one of the ongoing water rights sagas of the west.

Water is celebrated in HCM #742 the aqueduct c...

Image via Wikipedia

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