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Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Karyn Ehmann, makes the connection here…

The news article titled “The Microbes That Clean Up Contaminated Mine Sites” was reported by the Pacific Standard on December 2nd, 2015. The article relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the issue of mine wastewater treatment and the movement of contaminants through the hydrologic cycle. In summary, the article is a basic overview of Dr. Amelie Janin, a scientist with the Yukon Research Center,  and her work with small scale bioreactors (Figure 1) to design a more efficient and cost effective method for removing heavy metals from mine tailing ponds in the Yukon Territory, Canada. Currently, the mines use a chemical treatment process in order to remove heavy metals from the wastewater before the tailing ponds are drained into nearby rivers. This is costly, energy intensive, and inefficient. Dr. Janin’s bioreactors, when scaled up to treat the mine tailing wastewater, will recreate the natural processes occurring in the Yukon Territory’s soil in order to efficiently remove heavy metals. The bioreactors use native sediment, gravel, and a carbon source, either woodchips or biochar, as a medium for heavy metal precipitation. The microorganisms naturally present in the native sediment facilitate reactions that are able to precipitate dissolved heavy metals out of water. Amazingly efficient, the bioreactors have shown the capability to removing more than 99% of copper, more than 99% of zinc, and 94 to 95% of arsenic from the contaminated water. Even more unique is that the reactors have shown no reduction in efficiency at lower temperatures. Native microorganisms are likely psychrotolerant; adapted to survive in the cold temperatures of northern Canada. In effect, the bioreactor is a small scale treatment wetland.

In 1978 the Army Corps of Engineers wrote a technical report on the uptake of heavy metals by wetland plant species grown in contaminated soil. Results of the report were inconclusive as most plants showed very little heavy metal contamination, whereas some species of plants showed a heavy metal concentration an order of magnitude greater than the others. (Lee et. al, 1978) Since then, community concern over heavy metals entering the food chain through plant uptake has led to skepticism over the reports that state plants do not significantly uptake the heavy metals. (O’Sullivan et. al, 1999) Dr. Janin states that 99% of heavy metals are maintained in the soil of a treatment wetland.

In a broad context, water resources engineering influences global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Mines occur all over the world and significant impacts on health of humans and environment have been connected to mine tailings. Regulations have been implemented in several areas, forcing mine operators to comply with health and safety policies regarding their waste. Operating a wastewater treatment facility causes mining to become even more costly, thus reducing the profits of the mining industry. Metals and other materials are potentially forced into a supply deficit, driving up the price of the raw material and all products that contain the raw material. However, in developed nations the increased cost of a product is acceptable if it means increased protection of land and water resources. Social issues become important in mine waste decontamination when the environment and human health are impacted. In the article, the Yukon Territory is of focus. Many of the communities in the Yukon are Native. If contamination from the mine’s wastewater impacts the health of the water, soil, or air used by the community members, a social injustice occurs. The rapid growth of the mining industry in the Yukon Territory has increased wages for local workers, but decreased morale, time available for hunting and home life. Overall, the Native communities lost some of their basic beliefs, such as collective responsibility and reciprocity between community members and the land. (Gibson and Klinck) Unfortunately, the people affected by the social injustice, particularly regarding Native communities, do not have a strong enough voice in government or business to protect their land sufficiently.

 

Figure 1. Small scale bioreactors. (Janin et. al, 2015)

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URL: http://www.psmag.com/nature-and-technology/the-microbes-that-clean-up-contaminated-mine-sites

 

References:

Gibson G, Klinck J., “Canada’s Resilient North: The Impact of Mining on Aboriginal Communities” A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 3(1). Available from: http://caid.ca/JAICH2005v3n1p115.pdf

Lee CR, Smart RM, Sturgis TC, Gordon RN, Landin MC., “Prediction of Heavy Metal Uptake by Marsh Plants Based on Chemical Extraction of Heavy Metals From Dredged Material” Dredged Material Research Program: Technical Report D-78-6. February 1978. Available from: http://el.erdc.usace.army.mil/elpubs/pdf/trd78-6.pdf

O’Sullivan AD, McCabe OM, Murray DA, Otte ML., “Wetlands for Rehabilitation of Metal Mine Wastes” Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol 99B, No 1, The Ecology of Old Mine Sites (Sept 1999) pp. 11-17. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/20500041.pdf?acceptTC=true

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Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Natalie Rodrigues makes this connection here…

The article, “Honeywell’s cap to seal in Onondaga Lake toxins has broken loose three times”, was published by Syracuse.com on January 28, 2016. The topic of this article is related to WRE in the hydrology domain as it focuses on a natural water system and specifically addresses water quality. This article discusses the Onondaga Lake cleanup plan and how at least three of the caps implemented as part of this plan have failed in the past few years. The caps are made of a sand mixture and are meant to act as a barrier between the mercury deposits and the rest of the lake.  The failures occurred on steep sloped areas of the lakebed and spread the toxic sediments to previously uncontaminated portions of the lakebed as shown in figure 1. It is stated in the article that Honeywell already has plans to cover the newly contaminated portions of the lake and they have identified other areas that may fail in the future, though they are not sure why the caps collapsed in the first place. I was unable to find any information about the capping failures on the official Onondaga Lake Cleanup website, EPA website, NYSDEC website, or on Honeywell’s website, though the cap failures have been reported on several different news sites including an NPR affiliate. The Onondaga Lake Cleanup website reports that the cleanup is “progressing as expected” (U.S. EPA, 2014). The DEC also reports that the cleanup has been successful thus far in improving water quality and diversity of the lake (DEC, 2010). Most of the articles pertaining to the cap failures were published in late January, so it seems like the Onondaga Nation recently reached out to news sources to get the word out. I do believe these articles are accurate on the occurrence of the cap failures, but it is unclear how urgent this issue is since Honeywell, NYSDEC, and the Onondaga Nation may all hold biases that are affecting how they are relaying information. Missing information includes how Honeywell and the DEC determined the right steps to fix the problem and why they withheld information from the Onondaga Nation for so long.

In the WRE broader context, this article covers the impacts of this hydrology issue on environmental, economic, and societal areas. The environmental context refers to the impacts of WRE issues on the health stability of the environment, the economic context refers to the costs associated with these issues, and the societal context refers to the impacts these issues have on communities and society as a whole. The effects of the cap failures on the environment and whether or not the re-capping of contaminated sediments will be successful is unknown. This situation shows how often times there is a tradeoff between cost and the quality or effectiveness of a solution. The article talks about how the Onondaga Nation was not satisfied with Honeywell’s cleanup plan from the start since they believed it would not be adequate to clean up the lake and that it would just cover up the problem instead of fix it (Onondaga Nation, 2014). A more thorough cleanup would cost more money, but less thorough cleanup may leave people distrustful of the safety of the lake and loss of trust and respect from Onondaga Nation. It also seems like Honeywell and the DEC were reluctant to disclose the information on the failures, even though they have an agreement to update the Onondaga Nation every month which brings up some moral issues.

 

Images:

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Figure 1. Graphic showing the two of the cap failure locations and the region where the toxic sediments spread to. The red outline is where the cap failed, the red shaded area is where the contaminated sediments have spread.

 

 

URL:http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2016/01/honeywells_cap_to_seal_in_onondaga_lake_toxins_has_broken_loose_three_times.html

References

Coin, G. (2016, January 28). Honeywell’s cap to seal in Onondaga Lake toxins has broken loose three times. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2016/01/honeywells_cap_to_seal_in_onondaga_lake_toxins_has_broken_loose_three_times.html#incart_article_small

 

Department of Environmental Conservation. (2010). Onondaga Lake Superfund Site. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8668.html

 

Onondaga Nation. (2014). The Onondaga Lake “Cleanup” Plan. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.onondaganation.org/land-rights/the-onondaga-lake-cleanup-plan/

 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Report: Onondaga Lake Cleanup Is “Progressing as Expected” (2015, October 14). Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.lakecleanup.com/u-s-environmental-protection-agency-report-onondaga-lake-cleanup-is-progressing-as-expected/

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Jessica Brewer makes this connection here…

 

The news entitled “Storm Water, Long a Nuisance, May Be a Parched California’s Salvation” was reported by the New York Times in their February 19th, 2016 online news. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of storm water capture and draught mitigation. To summarize, the state of California is missing out on usable water in the form of added rainfall due to the El Nino experienced this year. An estimated 200 billion gallons of storm water could be captured, but most is running into waterways and eventually into the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, storm water capture projects particularly in urban areas like Los Angeles are becoming increasingly important. These projects include spreading plots, underground cisterns, new drainage systems on streets parking lots, and driveways, and issuing more fifty gallon rain barrels. Based on my engineering education my informed opinion is the WRE facts in the news are accurate as I show with the following research citations. According to the Los Angeles Times, the State Water Resources Control Board has approved revisions to Los Angeles County’s storm water discharge permit in order to move forward plans for an aquifer recharge system and other forms of green infrastructure such as bio-swales (Morin, 2015). Also, researchers at Stanford Engineering Research Center are developing a project to convert 46 acres of abandoned quarry into a park with storm water capture and treatment capabilities (Jordan, 2016). This eighteen billion dollar project is one of many that the Los Angeles County Flood Control District and City of Los Angeles are funding for green infrastructure and storm water capture (Jordan, 2016). Based on my critical thinking the news story was missing critical information on specific projects that are being planned in California and how citizens can be involved in storm water capture.

 

This article also has an economic broader context. The overall need for money to satisfy the storm water capture projects of the state of California far exceeds the money available. The cost effectiveness of six different storm water collection designs has been investigated and published in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management (Weiss et al, 2007). According to their research constructed wetlands are the most cost effective to remove pollutants from run-off (Weiss et al, 2007). However, the drawback of wetlands, according to their research, is the large land area they require menaing a higher land cost (Weiss et al, 2007). Meaning, constructed wetlands may be a viable option to cut costs for storm water capture in California.

 

Images:

Figure 1: A greenway on the Los Angeles River designed to absorb storm-water runoff and remove pollutants from the water. Credit Monica Almeida/ The New York Times

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Figure 2: The director of park operations for TreePeople, at the opening of a cistern in Los Angeles. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Figure 2

 

 

 

References:

 

Jordan, R. (2016, September 16). “Stanford researchers look to storm water as a solution for

semiarid regions” Stanford News, Web.

 

Morin, M. (2015, June 17). “L.A. County’s plan to capture storm water could be state model.”

Los Angeles Times, Web.

 

Nagourney, A. (2016, February 19). “Storm Water, Long a Nuisance, May Be a Parched

California’s Salvation.” The New York Times, Web.

 

Weiss, P. T., Gulliver, J. S., & Erickson, A. J. (2007). Cost and pollutant removal of storm-water         treatment practices. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 133(3), 218-         229.

 

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Kirsten Scherrer makes this connection here…

The news article entitled “Bridge project could ‘dry up’ Niagara Falls” was reported by CNN on January 25, 2016. Niagara Falls is a series of three waterfalls, the American as seen in Figure 1, the Bridal Veil Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls, located on the Niagara River that flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. There is currently a proposal to temporarily dry up the American side of Niagara Falls in order to demolish, remove, and possibly replace two 115 year old stone bridges. These bridges connect the US mainland with Goat Island, which is between the American and Bridal Veil Falls. If the proposal goes through, the water that would flow over the American Falls would be diverted to the Horseshoe Falls and also to the Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station. The construction could potentially take up to nine months to complete. This was done previously when the Falls were dewatered in 1969 by the Army Corps of Engineers as seen in Figure 2 to study the effects of erosion and the stability of Niagara Falls with the use of a cofferdam. The article relates to the water resources engineering domain because Niagara Falls is a major source of hydropower in the United States and Canada. Niagara Falls is currently the largest electricity producer in the entire state, generating 2.4 million kilowatts (Niagara Power Plant, 2013). The production of steady supplies of clean, carbon-free hydroelectricity saves the state’s residents and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The article also relates to WRE because the completion of this project would require proper engineering design and water resources engineering techniques to redirect the flow of the Niagara River. A cofferdam would definitely need to be constructed to block off the flow of water and ensure that the area under construction is safe. Cofferdams are temporary enclosures built within or across a body of water to permit the enclosed area to be dewatered by pumping out the water to have a dry construction zone (Nemati, 2005). Information that was missing from this article includes potential dates that the construction would begin, contractors and companies involved, and where the funding for the project would come from.

In a broader sense, this water resources engineering issue also relates to global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts. Niagara Falls is a huge tourism draw, and temporarily drying up the American sided would have significant impacts on the number of tourists visiting the parks. While the American Falls going dry would initially draw some attendance to see the once in a lifetime event, the overall number of tourists would decrease on the New York side, especially during summer months. In contrast, tourism on the Canadian side of the Falls would increase and benefit from the American Falls loss of attendance. Tourism from Niagara Falls impacts the local economies of both countries. With less people visiting the American side of Niagara Falls, local restaurants, hotels, and businesses that rely on Niagara Falls tourism would lose customers and suffer. Again, the opposite goes for the Canadian side, which would experience a greater influx of tourists and people spending money in their city, and as a result would get a boost in the local economy. In addition, there’s a possibility that more water than usual would be directed to the Niagara Falls Power Authority, so more hydroelectricity could be generated than on average. The economy of New York State could also be affected if more hydroelectricity than average is produced due to this project and drying up the American Falls. If state residents and businesses save money on their electric bills, they’ll have more money on hand to spend on other items, which would benefit the economy. This water resources issue also can be related to environmental contexts. Drying up the Falls also provide a rare opportunity for scientists and engineers to study Niagara Falls. If the project goes through then the Falls would be dry for months, which would give researchers time to learn more about the river. The effects of a decrease in sediment transport over the American Falls could be looked into along with the erosion of the river banks. In conclusion, drying up even just one of the three waterfalls of Niagara Falls would require different water resources engineering efforts and have a significant impact on other issues such as the local economy and science and research.

 

Figure 1 Current view of American Falls (Leopold, 2016)

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Figure 2 Niagara Falls previously dewatered in 1969 (Niagara falls, 2010)

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URL: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/25/travel/niagara-falls-dewatering-bridge-feat/

References

Leopold, T. (2016, January 25). Bridge project could ‘dry up’ Niagara Falls. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/25/travel/niagara-falls-dewatering-bridge-feat/

 

Nemati, K. M. (2005). Temporary Structures Cofferdams. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.cv.titech.ac.jp/~courses/atce2/Lesson4.pdf

 

Niagara falls without water as seen in 1969. (2010, December 16). Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2010/12/16/5661928-niagara-falls-without-water-as-seen-in-1969

 

Niagara Power Plant. (2013). Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.nypa.gov/facilities/niagara.htm

 

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Allison Cronk makes this connection here…

Droughts are a severe issue in the hydrologic domain, as the water demands of humans and the environment must be sustained by the occurrence of precipitation. The article, “These 4 Things Need to Happen to End California’s Drought” aims to form a solution for the ongoing drought in California. It was reported by Brian Clark Howard in National Geographic on January 17, 2016. In summary, this article reflects on the recent El Nino driven weather patterns that have caused rain and snow in California. With this increase in precipitation, the question has been raised, “Will California see an end to the drought?” The solution is not quite that easy because California has seen diminishing reservoirs and water supplies for approximately four years now. The article presents a four-step solution that relies on the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. This solution requires four more months of snow, storms in the right place, below-freezing temperatures in the mountains, and time. California needs this snow in the mountains because much of the precipitation that occurs over the state flows into the sea rather than water supply systems. This will take time, as years of drought will not be recovered from a recent increase in precipitation. This idea is supported by Michael Casey (2015) who conveys that low-snowpack will force California into further drought and wildfires. His article also discusses more practical solutions such as desalination, wastewater reuse, or an extended pipeline, as the snowpack values cannot be controlled (Casey, 2015). Furthermore, the protection of the Sierra Nevada Forests and Meadows was emphasized by Brian Stranko (2014) when he states that those areas are “where 60 percent of our water typically comes from.” He looks for long-term solutions that relate to the Sierra snowpack and protection of the mountains and surrounding areas for California’s water supply (Stranko, 2014). Based on these supporting ideas, the statements in this article appear accurate. Some supplementary information, however, would be the steps we can take to increase and protect snowpack. It appears to be a favorable solution, but how can we rely on it if we cannot control it?

In the broader sense, water resources engineering has effects on environmental, societal, economic, and global levels because water must be utilized through hydrology and hydraulics to be distributed for a variety of uses. The environmental context refers to the protection of the natural world, the societal refers to human relationships, the economic indicates the movement of money within the system, and the global context refers to a worldwide scale. The drought in California resulting in a lack of snowpack is an issue in all of these areas. It impacts society by not allowing human water demands to be met. On the environmental end, droughts increase the risk of wildfires, and, on the economic side, agriculture, tourism, and other such features in California are not earning money and solutions can be costly. Moreover, it is a global issue because agricultural products from California cannot be shared with the rest of the world and an outside water source or solution may be required. These broader issues are supported by Mieszkowski (2014), as she discusses that farmers will lose billions of dollars in the attempt to provide water for their crops. This also causes an increase in food prices, thus having effects on a global scale. She also conveys the ideas that fish evacuations and wildfires are occurring, and people must conserve water in their homes (Mieszkowski, 2014). Therefore, she supports every context area related to the drought. The cause and effect relationships presented by this problem are as follows: California does not obtain enough water from the Sierra Nevada snowpack resulting in the inability of farms to produce food for people, people are not sustained, and food prices must rise. The rise in food prices affects the rest of the world, and the lack of water also causes wildfires and other issues that must be dealt with. Overall, resupplying the California reservoirs is crucial for various reasons, so the Sierra snowpack must be measured and other solutions must be sought if the hydrologic demands are not met.

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Figure 1: A water supply system in California after several years of drought. Source: CBS News

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Figure 2: The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range that holds snow that is a major source of California’s water supply. Source: National Geographic

URL: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/160107-california-drought-snowpack-el-nino-rains/

References:

Casey, M. (April 22, 2015). Crazy and not-so-crazy ideas for solving the California drought.             CBSNEWS. Retrieved February 18, 2016 from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/crazy-        and-not-so-crazy-ideas-for-solving-the-california-drought/

Howard, B.C. (January 17, 2016). These 4 things need to happen to end California’s drought.        National Geographic. Retrieved February 12, 2016 from:        http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/160107-california-drought-snowpack-el-         nino-rains/

Mieszkowski, K. (July 24, 2014). Why the California drought affects everyone. Reveal News.        Retrieved February 19, 2016 from: https://www.revealnews.org/article/why-the-          california-drought-affects-everyone/

Stranko, B. (2014). Drought: How to fix California’s water woes. The Nature Conservancy             California. Retrieved February 18, 2016 from: https://www.conserveca.org/our-      stories/all/2-blog/131-drought-how-to-fix-californias-water-woes

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Stephanie Vasteno makes this connection here…

The article, “Fixing Our Broken Water Systems” was reported online by the New York Times Editorial Board on February 13, 2016. This article related to the WRE domain of hydrology as it is concerned with water quality after passing through old pipes.  This article brings up concerns about Americas aged water pipes in light of the recent consequences from heavy metals such as lead corroding into Flint, Michigan’s water supply. It is estimated that anywhere from 3.3 to 10 million lead water pipes ae still in use in America even though they were banned by Congress in 1986. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a document outlining the ban of lead pipes on public and private water lines (EPA, 2016). The American Water Works Association predicts that there will need to be 1 trillion dollars in spending in the next 25 years to replace the pipes and hold up the standard of water quality. This article is quite accurate. The EPA’s document proves the accuracy along with the article, “Flint mayor says $55 million needed to replace lead pipes.” This article tells us about the elevated lead levels in the drinking water in Flint, MI and the health and economic consequences. The information missing from this article is how will the pipes be replaced, where will the money come from and is the government going to pay for it all? This information will most likely be presented over time when the government makes a final decision about what to do to replace the pipes.

In a broader sense, this WRE hydrology issue is also a societal, environmental, and economic issue. The societal context refers to humans and their relationships to the community and their government. The environmental context refers to the safety and stability of the natural environment. The economic context refers to money and if or where to spend it. This WRE issue effects the environment due to the pollutants that are being released into the water supply. It is a societal issue because people are becoming sick and blame the government who allowed this to happen. Overall, this is mostly an economic issue because the problem can be solved with a large amount of money. In Lansing, MI lead pipes have been being replaced since 2004 and the local government has spent $42 million so far (Lacy, 2016). Multiple water quality tests are done a day to keep up the health standard and make sure the drinking water is lead-free. Due to the fact that the government did not want to pay to replace lead pipes after they were banned, people became sick and the water quality became unacceptable.

Images

Figure 1 – Water polluted with lead leaving the leaded pipe system through a fire hydrant, this water also goes to the faucet for people to drink.

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URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/opinion/sunday/fixing-our-broken-water-systems.html?_r=0

References

EPA. (February 15, 2016). “National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP)

Document Display.” Retrieved from http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/10003GWO. TXT?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=1986+Thru+1990&Docs=&Query=&Time=&EndTime=&SearchMethod=1&TocRestrict=n&Toc=&TocEntry=&QField=&QFieldYear=&QFieldMonth=&QFieldDay=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&XmlQuery=&File=D:\zyfiles\Index%20Data\86thru90\Txt\00000003\10003GWO.txt&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&SortMethod=h|&MaximumDocuments=1&FuzzyDegree=0&ImageQuality=r75g8/r75g8/x150y150g16/i425&Display=p|f&DefSeekPage=x&SearchBack=ZyActionL&Back=ZyActionS&BackDesc=Results%20page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=1&SeekPage=x&ZyPURL

Fantz, A. Sgueglia, K. (February 9, 2016). “Flint mayor says $55 million needed to replace lead

pipes.” Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/09/politics/flint-mayor-cost-replace-

pipes/

Lacy, E. (January 22, 2016). “Lansing BWL’s push to remove lead water lines continues.”

Retrieved from http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2016/01/22/lead-

water-line-removal/79108766/

The Editorial Board. (February 13, 2016). “Fixing Our Broken Water Systems.” Retrieved from

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/opinion/sunday/fixing-our-broken-water-systems.html?_r=0

 

Water resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, societal issues. Our student Evan Comilloni makes this connection here…

The news entitled, “State offers solutions for water contamination in north New York Village” was reported by CNN news network on February 12th, 2016. This issue is relatable to WRE domain of hydrology because the quality of the drinking water in this village is contaminated and needs to be addressed properly. In summary, the town of Hoosick Falls in eastern New York is dealing a contaminated drinking water source. Saint-Gobain Performance plastics is a factory located in Hoosick Falls that deals with the production of plastic polymers. A waste product from the process, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), was being released into the drinking water. PFOA is a toxic chemical and is linked to cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the PFOA in the drinking water at levels higher than the health advisory of the U.S. PFOA has been used heavily at Saint-Gobain since it opened in 1996. Before Saint-Gobain opened, Honeywell owned the property and also contributed to contamination. The Department of Environmental Conservation is holding Saint-Gobain and Honeywell liable for the contamination. Villagers will be provided with water filtration systems and potentially deeper wells in order to have potable water. The improvements to the village is being paid for by the state, about $10 million, and then the state will be reimbursed by Saint-Gobain and Honeywell. A temporary treatment system is being implemented and being tested. Once the testing is complete, it will eventually be able to provide safe drinking water. Residents of Hoosick Falls cannot drink the water. In my opinion, the facts stated in this article about WRE are valid. Doing further research of governmental websites on the topic, it is apparent of the severity and credibility of CNN’s reporting. Those links are http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/hoosick-falls-water-contamination and http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/105069.html, each one validates the WRE facts stated in the article. I believe the article is missing statistics about the rates of cancer that is occurring in Hoosick Falls. CNN just states about PFOA in high levels causes cancer but failed to compare to other samples in order for the reader to understand how severe the issue is.

Water resources engineering is an important factor in dealing with global, economic, environmental and societal context because of the management of hydrology and hydraulic systems in order to provide more effective usage of water resources. For this particular issue global, economic, environmental and societal aspects are all impacted. The restoration of the potable water and all the resources needed to be purchased for the residents of Hoosick Falls costs money. New York State initially has to pay $10 million for this restoration, but Saint-Gobain and Honeywell are supposedly going to reimburse the state, but if the companies go bankrupt then odds are the state is not going to receive its money back. For the environmentally, this contamination is a huge issue. The quality of the water is diminished and engineers will be hindered by this design constraint. Wildlife and agriculture, among many other aspects of the environment, are impacted by the high levels of PFOA and WRE’s need to design around it. For the societal aspects, the village of Hoosick Falls may be subjected to residents emigrating out of the area. It also adds a new dynamic to the village, which can leave the residents fell like that have been abused and lied too. After all, these residents have been drinking water that causes higher risk of cancer for about 20 years. Globally, it reminds us not to forget about regions with smaller populations. Hoosick Falls is not a large place with a big population, but their safety should be held paramount just as a larger population would be. Unfortunately, issues of these small villages get forgotten about and this situation shows us we need to be mindful and aware of problems occurring throughout the world. Given the circumstances, the relationship between Hoosick Falls and WRE’s has changed, given that there will be more of a dependence on engineers to correct the issue that has occurred. WRE’s are going to play a huge rule in cleaning up the contamination EPA.gov (http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/hoosick-falls-water-contamination), states the danger at which the PFOA poses for residents in Hoosick Falls and states that the drinking water is not safe to drink. Future designs from WRE’s will be very important for this region of New York to provide a situation that is not detrimental to the health of the residents.

Images:

Figure 1: Map of New York, and location of Hoosick Falls, NY.

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https://www.google.com/maps/place/Hoosick+Falls,+NY+12090/@42.1805051,-79.8981859,6z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x89e098dcdfdf50ab:0x366954d76d2a7d66

Url: http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/12/us/new-york-hoosick-falls-water/

References:

  1. Ellis R, Assefa H. New York offers solutions for Village of Hoosick Falls – CNN.com.CNN2016. Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/12/us/new-york-hoosick-falls-water/. Accessed February 15, 2016.
  2. Hoosick Falls Water Contamination.EPA2016. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/hoosick-falls-water-contamination. Accessed February 15, 2016.
  3. Disclaimer.DEC Requires Companies to Fully Investigate and Clean Up Hoosick Falls PFOA Contamination2016. Available at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/105069.html. Accessed February 15, 2016
  4. Map of New York .Google Maps. Available at: https://www.google.com/maps/place/hoosick falls, ny 12090/@42.1805051,-79.8981859,6z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x89e098dcdfdf50ab:0x366954d76d2a7d66. Accessed February 17, 2016.

 

 

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Amanda Chudow makes this connection here.

The news entitled, “Green Bay has a $150 million stormwater problem” was published on February 5, 2016 by the Green Bay Press Gazette. Storm water is an important issue in both the hydrology and the hydraulics domains because it combines water quality issues with conveyance issues. This article discusses the flooding and sewer backup issues associated with storms that are becoming more prevalent in the city as the aging storm water sewer system continues to break down. Water levels in the Fox River, East River, and Bay of Green Bay, where most of the Green Bay’s storm water drain to, have risen several feet from the levels they were at when the storm sewer system was built. Some outfalls are underwater due to the water level rise, not allowing the pipes to drain fully. This past December was the wettest on record for Green Bay according to the National Weather Service, so storm water is becoming more serious in the minds of residents. In December alone, there were 125 complaints of flooding and sewer backup, mostly from six low-lying neighborhoods. People have been abandoning their homes in this area as water pours into their homes. The current system can only handle 3.8 inches of rain in 24 hours, which is the 10 year storm for the area. In a portion of the city that used to be the town of Preble, it can barely handle the two year storm, 2.5 inches in 24 hours. The system does not need updating, but total replacement with larger drain pipes, more pump stations, and more annual maintenance. The city currently funds upgrades and annual maintenance out of its $5.2 million storm water utility budget, which comes from Green Bay residents as part of their quarterly water bill. To sufficiently maintain the storm sewer system, the storm water fee would need to double or triple. There is hope that some improvements will be done by local businesses when they do construction, so all of the funding will not have to come from the city. An example of this would be the underground storm water storage basin roughly the size of a football field that the Green Bay Packers are planning to install later this year. There are many other cities in North America, including Toronto and Memphis, TN that have or are facing similar problems with storm water (Kessler, 2011), including Syracuse (Mahoney, Coburn, & Legnetto, 2010).  There were a few items missing from the article that would be of importance to this sort of water resources engineering issue. There was no mention of any treatment of the storm water or quality of the water before it enters the rivers and bay.  The article also did not mention if the city is considering any green infrastructure, like Syracuse has through Save the Rain, to reduce runoff values and delay the water reaching the sewer system right away during and after the storm (Mahoney, Coburn, & Legnetto, 2010).

This WRE issue is also a societal issue since communities across the continent face the same problem as Green Bay trying to keep up with a changing climate with aging infrastructure. This is an environmental problem because storm water is dirty and affects wildlife and recreation. Green Bay seems to recognize that water quality is an issue with storm water upon further research because there are quality standards in Chapter 30 of the Green Bay Municipal Code for storm water, including that 80% of suspended solids must be removed before it can be discharged to the bay. Also Chapter 31 of the same code says “The City of Green Bay finds that polluted storm water runoff from lands within the City of Green bay has a significant impact upon water resources and the health, safety, and general welfare of the community”. It states that specifically, polluted storm water runoff can diminish the capacity of water bodies to support fish, aquatic life, recreational, and water supply uses by increasing loadings of nutrients and other urban pollutants. Green Bay also recognizes that storm water can alter wetland communities by changing the hydrology by increasing pollutant concentrations and reduce the quality of groundwater (City Attorney’s Office, 2016). Koch et al agree that storm water runoff severely degrades downstream water bodies by carrying sediment and contaminants into streams. This changes the shapes of the streams and reduces biodiversity. Management practices that slow down and treat the storm water, like the green infrastructure in Syracuse, are best for limiting detrimental effects.

 

Images

Figure 1: Rain caused street flooding on the 300 block of S. Maple Avenue in 2010. (Source: USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

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Figure 2: Six areas identified as having priority needs for storm-water management improvements. (Source: Karl Ebert/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

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URL: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/local/2016/02/05/green-bay-has-150-million-storm-water-problem/79777206/

 

References

City Attorney’s Office. City Of Green Bay Munipal Code. Green Bay, WI; updated 2016.

Kessler R. Stormwater Strategies: Cities Prepare Aging Infrastructure for Climate Change. Environ Health Perspect Environmental Health Perspectives 2011; 119 (12):A514–A519. Available at: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/119-a514/. Accessed February 16, 2016.

Koch B, Febria C, Gevrey M, Wainger L, Palmer M. Nitrogen Removal by Stormwater Management Structures: A Data Synthesis. Journal Of The American Water Resources Association [serial online]. December 1, 2014;50(6):1594-1607. Available from: Scopus®, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 16, 2016.

Office of the Environment, Mahoney JM, Coburn D, Legnetto PJ. Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) Plan. Syracuse, New York: Onondaga County; 2010.

Rodewald A. Green Bay has $150 million stormwater problem. Green Bay Press Gazette 2016. Available at: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/local/2016/02/05/green-bay-has-150-million-storm-water-problem/79777206/. Accessed February 5, 2016.

“Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Nidhi makes this connection here…

In a country divided by war and conflict what could further obliterate life of civilians in Syria? The article titled “Water a ‘weapon of war’ in Syria’s divided Aleppo” published by Reuters on October 15th 2015 addresses the issue of civilians struggling for water in the city of Aleppo where water distribution has become a tool of negotiation used by the warring parties against each other.

Syria has been under a civil unrest for almost half a decade now. The fight between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the insurgent rebel groups has already consumed over 250,000 lives and displaced about 11 million civilians. Now with the presence of Islamic State (IS) the situation of the country has become even more susceptible as the country turns into a battleground for both political and religious motives. Aleppo, the largest city in Syria is divided politically with government controlled west and rebel controlled east. Furthermore the water supply system of the city is in the hands of three separate entities making it a strong case of hydropolitics.

The journey of water from Euphrates River through three pumping stations to reach the final consumer, a common Syrian citizen, is no less than an obstacle course. With first pumping station in control of Islamic State, second by rebel forces and the final station in the hands of government, each group has a power to unleash hell on civilians by depriving them of the most basic human need of water. In July last year Islamic State decided to cut supply for three weeks to 40% of the original and down the line rebel groups reduced the supply further. With almost no water reaching the final station owned by the government, there was no water to run power plants and hence there was no electricity to pump water from the Euphrates River. Without any power for pumping, water is often lost to rivers nearby.  Seeing how this problem goes around in a circle I believe it is a pressing issue especially for a region already under constant conflict. The possession of water supply systems should not be able to serve such motives and a better design of such systems need to be put into place that does not allow any singular party to have power over the entire supply.

A larger picture of the water crisis can be seen through the documentation of the Tigris-Euphrates river basin by a pair of satellites called the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) operated from Germany by NASA. The satellite images have found that the river basin is losing water faster than most parts of the world. The region has lost about 117 million acre-feet of freshwater due lack of rainfall and conflicting water management practices. From my understanding of water resources and research paper from NASA (Voss 2013) acknowledging the ‘alarming rate of decrease in total water storage’ in the basin, it would be reasonable to conclude that the information from the article is reliable. Drop in water levels in Syria have already caused mass urban migrations as farmers abandon cropland and move into cities. However, now with cities devastated by war and water systems divided there is nowhere for civilians to find a healthy source of water. In desperation many have build makeshift wells but unfortunately due to high contamination, the groundwater is unfit for consumption and has caused several diseases like typhoid and salmonella. Moreover, with regular attacks and bombings the city’s infrastructure has all been destroyed specially the water and electricity supply lines. It is hard for engineers to reach the pipelines as the opponent party denies them access from the lines and makes repair a cumbersome and almost impossible activity. Overall the current situation does not have a probable solution but interference from an outside party is needed and a peaceful treaty needs to be reached upon for humanity to survive in the midst of war. Leaving water out of the conflict is the first step that needs to be taken.

Figure 1 Children in Aleppo collect water from the side of the road

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Figure 2 Variations in Total Water Storage in Tigris and Euphrates Basin as measured by GRACE

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URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-aleppo-idUSKCN0S91EM20151015

Malla, Naline, and John Davidson. “Water a ‘weapon of War’ in Syria’s Divided Aleppo.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

 

Voss, Katalyn A., and James S. Famiglietti. “Groundwater Depletion in the Middle East from GRACE with Implications for Transboundary Water Management in the Tigris-Euphrates-Western Iran Region.” Water Resources Research Water Resour. Res. 49.2 (2013): 904-14. Web.

 

Hammer, Joshua. “Is a Lack of Water to Blame for the Conflict in Syria?” History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places | Smithsonian. Smithsonian, June 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Jessica Kobus makes this connection here…

The “battery technology could charge up water desalination” was published February 6, 2016 from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by engineering professor Kyle Smith, and graduate student Rylan Dmello. This news relates to WRE in the hydrology problems of salty water, the lack of freshwater. In summary, this technology has enabled the use of a battery to take salt of out the water. The battery will use the materials in it to draw the salt charged ions out.  These batteries were influenced by the sodium ion battery because it contained salt water. The batteries have two chambers, one positive and one negative side. There is a space in between for the ions to pass through. Once in contact with the water, it will draw out the sodium and chloride ions in the salt water into one chamber. When the battery is charged they flow to the positive side and the salt accumulates there. The other chamber then only has the desalinated water left from that. In a normal battery, the ions just flowed back and forth to the chamber, so Dmello and Smith had to ensure the ions didn’t flow back into the now freshwater, so they put a selective membrane in between to block only the sodium. Today’s current method of doing this is reverse osmosis, which pushes water through a membrane that takes a lot of pressure and energy to keeps the salt out but it is relatively expensive, inefficient and costly(Mohamed). The battery seems to be a better alternative because it uses the least amount of energy and is more efficient because there is less pressure needed for pumping the water through a membrane because now the ions just flow freely. Which results in less energy needed and less cost. Since this battery will run on low voltages they also have the option of running it with solar power (Dexter). This battery method is also has the ability to be small or large depending on the application. In my opinion is that this is not only a cool idea but surprisingly, a good one. At first the article caught my eye because normally when you hear batteries and water, you think electricity and how they don’t go well together, or that once a battery is in water it no longer works. But, this battery that works in and for the water. The only thing missing that I’m curious about is how they are going to take out other pollutants, and is there going to be any negative effect to keep a battery in the water (could it add some kind of pollutant or decompose?) Also, it hasn’t been tested in the actual ocean yet so there definitely needs to be more research and tests done.

This could be a huge positive for the water resource engineers and the world. With the increase threat of loss of fresh water  this can help either slow down the threat, or recycle and use the saltwater now to have the freshwater. This will also decrease our energy consumption.  This is only a prototype right now and still needs further research and testing. They have done test runs on concentrations as equal as seawater environments and have shown to retrieve 80% of the desalinated water. The next step is to try it in actual seawater because they haven’t accounted for other contaminants yet.  In the journal The Future of Seawater Desalination: Energy, Technology, and the Environment, focuses on the main point that water scarcity is one of the biggest challenges our world has right now. This effects all life on earth negatively and is has no easy fix, yet it needs to be fixed for survival. They say how water supply can only be fixed by desalination or water reuse. So this is where the battery comes in and is important because it is a cheaper, and less energy consuming way of desalination than the current method of reverse osmosis. Us as humans are extremely consumptive and not very humble in our use of water. We caused this problem by not thinking beforehand of how to extend water supply or that it will run out eventually. So instead of doing something to prevent this we now have threat of water scarcity which leaves us with the only the option of desalination for a solution. This is a very scary and threatening issue that I feel like people still sweep under the rug because they still have water coming out of their sink they can drink, and that attitude is the reason we have this problem.

Images:

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Figure 1. The two chambers in the battery, separated by the membrane. This is before the sodium ions move chambers.

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Figure 2. Salty water on the left and fresh water on the right after the ions moved.

URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160204175630.htm

 

References:

Johnson Dexter. Nanotechnology used to create a “Desalination Battery”. http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/nanotechnology/nanotechnology-used-to-create-a-desalination-battery. 2012.

Kyle C. Smith, Rylan Dmello. Na-Ion Desalination (NID) Enabled by Na-Blocking Membranes and Symmetric Na-Intercalation: Porous-Electrode Modeling. Journal of the Electrochemical Society, 2016; 163 (3): A530 DOI: 10.1149/2.0761603jes

Pascual Katrina. Battery Technology Could Transform Seawater to Freshwater (http://www.techtimes.com/articles/131232/20160206/battery-technology-could-transform-seawater-to-freshwater.htm.   2016

Phillip W. Elimelech M. The Future of Seawater Desalination: Energy, Technology and the Environment. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/333/6043/712.article-info.2011

Mohamed E et al. Desalination. A direct coupled photovoltaic seawater reverse osmosis desalination system toward battery based systems-a technical and economical experimental comparative study. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0011916407006741. 2008

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2016, February 4). Battery technology could charge up water desalination. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 12, 2016 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160204175630.htm