In the Pipeline
EPA Water Security Grants Fund Vulnerability Assessment
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman announced the first round of water security grants, part of $53 million to help large drinking water utilities across the nation assess their vulnerabilities. It is expected that in upcoming weeks, approximately 400 grants will be provided to assist utilities with security planning.
At a June 7, 2002, event, Whitman presented the first water security grant of $115,000 to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in Laurel, Md., to help conduct water security planning.
"Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, EPA redoubled efforts already underway to promote security at America's 168,000 public drinking water facilities," said Whitman. "These grants will help ensure that the water people rely on is safe and secure."
"For more than 80 years, our mission has been to supply safe, clean water to our customers," said Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission General Manager John R. Griffin. "Our vulnerability assessment, with EPA's guidance, will help strengthen our already solid foundation of safety and security measures. By analyzing security issues at every level of our water and wastewater operations, this extensive assessment assures our customers of our vigilance in preserving their health and safety every day."
Whitman also announced that checks are being sent to the San Juan Water District in Calif. ($115,000); Rend Lake Conservancy District in Benton, Ill. ($96,000); city of Elgin, Ill. ($115,000); city of Naperville, Ill. ($115,000); city of Wilmette, Ill. ($115,000), and the Orlando Utilities Commission in Orlando, Fla. ($115,000).
EPA also will work with states, tribes and appropriate organizations to further develop and disseminate tools and support security efforts at small and medium drinking water and wastewater systems, officials said.
AWWA Launches New Web Site
The American Water Works Association, the authoritative resource on safe drinking water, announced the launch of its new Web site designed to be the primary information resource for issues relating to the drinking water profession.
The newly redesigned Web site has received the highest rating of five stars from the international publisher Emerald. The AWWA site, www.awwa.org, was praised as "well-organized, well-resourced" in the Emerald review. Emerald publishes the world's widest range of management and library and information services journals. They also specialize in a range of engineering, applied science and technology journals.
AWWA launched its newly designed and restructured Web site to meet the growing demand for information on drinking water issues, including the increasing security and drought concerns. The new site highlights AWWA's extensive technical and scientific resources, including books, monthly periodicals, seminars and conferences.
"We're constantly striving to provide timely and applicable information on the drinking water profession," said Cha Snyder, AWWA Web Operations Manager. "The AWWA site is accessed 2.5 million times a month, and it's crucial that users can easily find the information they need. This new site is easier to use and serves as a better resource."
AWWA's six core competencies serve as the site's main content areas, and each competency has its own front page. The site is divided into the following competencies: advocacy, communications, conferences, education and training, science and technology and sections. There are also "Community Pages" that provide the drinking water profession with a forum, links to a calendar and events, the Career Center and links to other drinking water Web sites.
AMSA Releases New Security Software for Wastewater Utilities
The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) has released its Vulnerability Self Assessment Tool (VSAT?) for wastewater utilities.
Funded by the EPA, VSAT was developed by AMSA in collaboration with PA Consulting Group and SCIENTECH Inc.
The creation of the software was prompted by concerns regarding the potential danger of chemical storage at wastewater treatment plants, the threat of an attack via the large underground collection system's pipes and tunnels beneath city centers and environmental terrorism.
VSAT is free of charge to all public wastewater utilities and provides a comprehensive, intuitive system for wastewater utilities seeking to analyze their vulnerability to both intentional threats and natural disasters. It organizes data, supports vulnerability analyses, documents the analyses and presents complex information in an easy-to-understand format for the full suite of potential utility assets including physical plant, employees, knowledge base, information technology and customers. VSAT also includes reference libraries of both potential threats and security countermeasures, and provides an enduring method for managing the information generated by security vulnerability assessments.
Training opportunities and user information on VSAT software is available on the Web at www.VSATusers.net. This site also includes technical support, software upgrades for downloading as they become available and a Web page devoted to frequently asked questions regarding VSAT.
AMSA is also currently in the discussion phase with EPA to develop VSAT software for joint public drinking water-wastewater agencies, as well as for small and medium sized drinking water agencies, which will go far toward helping to further secure the water/wastewater critical infrastructure sector.
For more information on AMSA's VSAT initiative, visit AMSA's Web site at www.amsa-cleanwater.org or EPA's water security Web site at www.epa.gov/safewater/security.
Research Council Recommends Army Corps of Engineers Seek External Reviews
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should solicit external scientific reviews of its most costly, complex and controversial planning studies, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. The reviews should be made available to the public, and the Corps should respond in writing to each key point, added the committee that wrote the report.
'The highest degree of credibility will be achieved if responsibility for external review is given to an organization that is independent of the Corps," said committee chair James K. Mitchell, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.
The Corps conducts planning studies to determine if there is federal interest in projects proposed for America's waterways and, if so, whether those projects are justified on technical, economic and environmental grounds. The U.S. Congress asked for the Research Council report after public controversies erupted in recent years over the assumptions and analyses found in certain Corps studies, especially a draft feasibility study of a $1 billion plan to enlarge locks on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway.
Congress should direct the secretary of the Army to establish a small professional staff to administer the Corps' review process, the committee said. This project review group would decide on a case-by-case basis whether reviews of Corps planning studies ought to be conducted externally or internally. The group should be housed either in the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, who oversees the Corps, or within the office of the chief of engineers, the Corps' highest-ranking official. Congress also should create a review advisory board to provide periodic advice to the project review group, helping to ensure that reviews are consistent, thorough and timely.
All Corps studies that are expensive, very controversial, affect a large geographic area or involve a high degree of environmental risk warrant an external review, the committee said. External review panels should not be selected by the Corps or include Corps staff or others with a conflict of interest. Instead, the reviews should be overseen by an independent organization. Decisions about whether a review will be external or internal need to be open to public appeal, the committee said.
Corps and Environmental Groups Partner to Improve Nation's Dam Operations
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be working with an environmental group in an effort to improve the management of dams on various rivers across the country.
Under the new partnership, titled the Sustainable Rivers Project, the Corps and the Nature Conservancy will work together to improve dam operations, helping to restore and protect the health of rivers and surrounding natural areas, while continuing to meet human needs for services, such as flood control and power generation. The partnership is one that both organizations expect will improve the quality of America's waterways.
"At the heart of this agreement is a shared vision of restoring and protecting hundreds of river miles and thousands of acres of some of our nation's most important natural habitats," said Steven McCormick, president of the Nature Conservancy. "This agreement is a result of conservationists and dam managers sitting down at the table together, stating our objectives openly and agreeing to work together to find solutions that are acceptable to all involved."
"We intend to build sustainability into the planning, construction and operation of our projects, and it is critical that we adapt our management of America's rivers to meet the needs of the human and natural communities," said Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers, the Army's Chief of Engineers. "The Nature Conservancy has a great deal of expertise to help us make that possible."
The Army Corps of Engineers operates 630 dams for flood control, navigation and other purposes on numerous rivers across the United States.
The Sustainable Rivers Project will consist of a coordinated review and alteration of dam operations. There are, at this time, 13 candidate dams on nine rivers in nine states. Other dams may also become part of this project.
The Conservancy and the Corps are basing their expectation for success at these sites upon their ongoing collaborative efforts to improve the quality of habitat and other conditions along the Green River in Kentucky. The Green River ranks as the nation's fourth most diverse river in terms of variety of fish and mussel species, and provides water and recreational opportunities to thousands of people from around the state and throughout the region.
The Conservancy and the Corps collaborated to identify more ecologically compatible releases from the Green River Dam. These include delaying fall reservoir releases until after the spawning period for certain fish and mussel species and using the releases to mimic natural variations. These changes will provide significant benefits to plants and animals, without sacrificing the dam's primary purpose, the ability to prevent downstream flood damage. And the changes actually extend recreational access to the reservoir by more than a month. The initial changes the Conservancy and the Corps proposed for the management of the Green River Dam recently passed a period of public review, and will be implemented this fall.
The Conservancy and the Corps have begun or will soon begin discussions at the other project sites. While the variables at each site will be different, the approach will remain one based on collaboration.
Florida, Georgia and Alabama Agree to Extend Water Talks
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced that representatives from Florida, Georgia and Alabama agreed to extend the Apalachicola- Chattahoochee- Flint River Compact until Jan. 31, 2003.
"Florida agrees with our colleagues in Georgia and Alabama that all parties can use this time to make a final attempt at reaching a verifiable allocation formula," said Department of Environmental Protection General Counsel Teri Donaldson. "If there are answers to the remaining questions before us, we will work as hard as we can to find them."
The Apalachicola River and Bay are essential to sustaining the environment and economy of the state's Panhandle region, Florida officials said. In terms of flow, the Apalachicola is the largest river in Florida and provides a natural habitat for many rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal species.
Apalachicola Bay supports an excellent recreational and commercial fishery -- producing 90 percent of Florida's oysters and the state's third largest shrimp harvest.
A 60-day public comment period would precede formal adoption of any proposal by the ACF Commission. A unanimous vote of the ACF Commission is required before a proposal can be adopted. At the conclusion of the comment period, all three governors must sign the final agreement and submit it to the federal commissioner, who would then have 255 days to review and modify it.
Plan Outlines Cleaner Future for Great Lake
An updated action plan addressing the needs of Lake Huron is available from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) Office of the Great Lakes.
The Lake Huron Initiative Action Plan Update is an action-oriented process for addressing Lake Huron and identifying priority issues and future efforts needed to ensure a sustainable Lake Huron watershed.
It identifies trends regarding specific critical pollutants and actions that can be taken to address the impairments. Numerous state, federal, provincial and local agencies developed the action plan update.
"Even though critical pollutants are a cause of use impairments and are of concern, the focus of the Lake Huron Initiative Action Plan Update has been toward habitat restoration and protection," said David K. Ladd, director of the Office of the Great Lakes. "For Lake Huron, the key to restoring the lake is the protection of existing and restoration of degraded habitat."
The DEQ is working with federal and local agencies to restore the chemical environment of Lake Huron through targeted pollution prevention and ongoing sediment remediation efforts. The agencies are working toward the removal of contaminated sediments in the Saginaw and Pine rivers. These and other initiatives in the Lake Huron watershed are important components of the action plan update.
Companies Face State and Federal Penalties for Washington State Pipeline Disaster
The Washington Department of Ecology fined two companies $7.86 million each for the rupture and explosion of the Olympic pipeline that killed three people and caused severe property and environmental damage near Bellingham in June 1999.
A year ago, Ecology charged three companies -- Olympic Pipeline Co., Shell Pipeline Co. and IMCO General Construction Inc. of Bellingham -- with negligence in causing the spill. The department calculated and announced a likely penalty of $7.86 million and has attempted to negotiate a settlement with the companies.
According to Ecology officials, the agency has been coordinating closely with EPA, which, in addition to civil fines, is negotiating comprehensive pipeline management, maintenance and repair measures to avoid future spills from the pipeline. Because of the coordination with EPA, Ecology delayed settling with Shell and Olympic.
"It has taken longer than we would have liked to impose these penalties, but it will be worth the extra time if we can prevent this disaster from ever happening again," said Ecology Director Tom Fitzsimmons. "The tragedy in Bellingham deserves the full enforcement of both federal and state laws."
According to Ecology officials, the two companies couldn't agree on how to split the fine. So Ecology is issuing the full penalty amount to both Olympic and Shell, as authorized by state law, and will resolve the matter separately with each company.
The penalty calculations by Ecology are based on a combination of factors, including the size of the spill, the degree of harm on public health, the compliance history of the companies, the speed and thoroughness of the cleanup, the sensitivity of the environment that was damaged, the number of days water quality was impaired and the degree of culpability, an agency official said.
Ecology is waiting for a report by the National Transportation Safety Board on the cause of the rupture before deciding whether to penalize IMCO. The report is expected later this summer.
Shell and Olympic also are facing a federal civil suit in connection with the June 1999 gasoline pipeline rupture. The complaint, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, alleges that the rupture was caused by gross negligence in the operation and maintenance of the pipeline. The rupture resulted in the discharge of more than 230,000 gallons of gasoline into Whatcom and Hanna Creeks.
The lawsuit alleges gross negligence on the part of Shell and Olympic and seeks civil fines of up to approximately $18.6 million against each company, based on the quantity of gasoline discharged. The lawsuit also seeks to impose pipeline management, maintenance and repair requirements on Olympic to prevent or minimize future oil spills.
Along with the three people who were killed, at least nine others were injured. In addition, one home was completely destroyed. The gasoline spill and resulting fire killed more than 100,000 fish and other aquatic organisms in the impacted area. Other species of wildlife also were killed.
Olympic owns the pipeline. At the time of the rupture, Shell's corporate predecessor, Equilon Pipeline Co., along with ARCO and GATX, owned Olympic. Equilon managed the pipeline under an operating agreement with Olympic. In 2000, BP/Amoco Corp. acquired ARCO and GATX's shares of Olympic, became Olympic's controlling shareholder and took over operations. Shell still owns over one-third of Olympic.
Washington State Ecology Department Triples its Water-Right Decisions
In the first year since the legislature increased funding and provided the Washington State Department of Ecology greater flexibility to process water-right changes, the agency has approximately tripled its water-right decisions, agency officials said.
In the period from July 1, 2001, when the new water-reform law took effect, through June 30, 2002, Ecology processed 456 requests to change an existing water right -- compared to 151 in the previous 12 months.
Of the 456 applications processed in the past year, the department approved 223 and denied or cancelled 105; another 128 were withdrawn by the applicants. The agency also processed 185 applications for new water rights, approving approximately 33 percent.
Nearly all change requests come from water-right holders seeking approval to transfer a water right from one party to another or to alter where the water is diverted, where it is used, when it is used or what it is used for.
"In many cases, businesses, farmers and others can put their existing water rights to new, more productive uses in new locations where it is needed most. This supports economic goals without pulling more water out of the environment," said Ecology Director Tom Fitzsimmons.
From 1995 through 2000, the department processed an average of 120 change requests a year, not enough to keep up with submitted proposals let alone reduce the backlog of approximately 2,000 applications for water-right changes.
In July 2001, the legislature addressed the application logjam by increasing the agency's funding and creating a new "two-line" system that puts requests for water-right changes in one line and requests to make new water withdrawals in another. Previously, Ecology was legally obligated to treat all applications the same way, in the order received.
Lawmakers also gave the department greater authority to move past applications at the head of the line that were not ready to proceed.
By expanding the agency's budget by about $5.6 million for the 2001-03 biennium, Ecology increased the number of staff devoted to processing water-right applications from about 20 to nearly 50 statewide -- 39 of whom work solely on water-right changes.
Hooray for Hollywood
On July 27, 2002, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) marked the completion of the Hollywood Water Quality Improvement Project, an award-winning water quality initiative that will now supply a safer and more dependable water supply to more than a half million residents in the Hollywood service area.
The $85 million project, coming to a conclusion after more than a decade of working with Hollywood residents and four years of construction, was developed in compliance with federal and state water quality regulations. It is the largest LADWP water project completed since the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct Filtration Plant in 1986.
"The Hollywood Water Quality Improvement project was an enormous endeavor that would not have been possible without the support from the residents of Hollywood and the dedication of LADWP employees," said David Wiggs, LADWP general manager. "This innovative undertaking allows LADWP to provide the Hollywood community with safe, reliable water that complies with drinking water regulations."
As part of the comprehensive project, one million cubic yards of soil was unearthed and two 30-million gallon Toyon water tanks -- two of the largest of their kind in the world -- were constructed and buried at the Hollywood Reservoir. They are now taking over the function of storing treated water that will be served directly to Hollywood residents -- a role previously played by the Upper and Lower Hollywood Reservoirs. The two reservoirs, while remaining full, will no longer be used for drinking water purposes, but will be available for emergency supplies only.
As part of the project, LADWP and project construction company Kiewit Pacific constructed a 5,474-foot underground pipeline. The pipeline bypasses the two Hollywood Reservoirs and carries treated water directly to the underground Toyon tanks from the water distribution system network that flows from the Los Angeles Aqueduct Filtration Plant and San Fernando Groundwater Basin.
Other major infrastructure improvements included the construction of a utility tunnel, inlet/outlet vault structure, regulator station and inlet line.
Since 1992, when the project was conceived, LADWP has worked closely with volunteer representatives from the Hollywood community to develop a water quality improvement project that now meets both residential and environmental needs and the mandated regulatory requirements.
"This ground-breaking water quality project is an example of what can be accomplished when the local community joins together and works closely with the city to address its needs," said Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. "LADWP has demonstrated a strong commitment to the residents of Hollywood, and we appreciate the department's tireless efforts to make this multimillion-dollar project a reality."
"This project is truly a win-win situation for the LADWP and Hollywood community," said Chris Hesse, Lake Hollywood Homeowner's Association representative. "From day one, LADWP involved the Hollywood community in the planning process, and we maintained an open dialogue throughout the project's development. As a result, more than a half million Hollywood residents will be ensured the delivery of quality water for years to come, and the integrity of this beautiful environment remains available for the community to enjoy."
To dedicate the project and express appreciation to the Hollywood community for its support during the construction period, Kiewet Pacific sponsored a dedication ceremony at the Hollywood Reservoir. Starting at 4:00 p.m., the event featured live music, food, drinks and remarks from Councilmember LaBonge, LADWP officials and Hollywood community representatives.
Sea Grant Research Shows Electric Barrier May Stop Asian Carp
The electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal may effectively prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, according to preliminary research results. In the early stages of an Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant-funded study, researchers found that more than 99 percent of bighead carp were deterred by a simulated electric barrier modeled after the actual one.
Using fish raceways to do controlled experiments, John Chick and Mark Pegg of the Illinois Natural History Survey are testing the potential effectiveness of the present electric barrier, as well as exploring additional barrier technologies as they relate to Asian carp. Two species of Asian carp, bighead and silver, are migrating closer to the actual barrier site, located near Romeoville, Ill., and have been spotted as close as 25 miles from Lake Michigan.
Thus far in the study, there were 381 attempts by bighead carp to pass through the simulated barrier -- 379 times the fish turned around. Only one fish went through the barrier, and in fact, did it twice.
"This was a smaller carp, which was not surprising. Smaller fish are less susceptible to the electric current," said Pegg. These tests were done for six continuous hours per day for three days.
Asian carp, which have grown to 50 pounds in U.S. waters, were brought here for use in aquaculture in the 1970s and escaped into the Upper Mississippi River System. The populations of these species have increased dramatically in some areas.
"Asian carp consume zooplankton, which all fishes typically feed on in their juvenile stages, so they have the potential to adversely affect every species of fish in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes," said Pegg.
The electric barrier was turned on in April in an effort to stop non-native fish from moving between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. The idea is that as fish pass through the barrier, they feel increasing levels of electricity, which leads them to turn around. "Because the 60-feet wide barrier is not as strong higher up in the water column where Asian carp are typically found, there has been some concern that the electric field may not effectively repel the fish," said Pegg.
Recently, the International Joint Commission has recommended that a second barrier be installed as a backup to ensure that the carp and any other invasive fish species are stopped. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has asked Congress for funding to strengthen the electric barrier and to study ways to keep invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.
Next, Chick and Pegg will explore different scenarios using the present electric barrier technology, varying the strength and width of the electric pulse within the recommended safety guidelines. They will also experiment with other barrier methods including "fish guidance systems" that use sound and a "wall of bubbles." "We will test the effectiveness of these technologies and then try them in combination. Perhaps the fish can become used to one or the other, but in combination, they may prove successful," added Pegg. They will also test the effectiveness of these technologies in augmenting the electric barrier.
Carp have been migrating on their own towards Lake Michigan, but there is also a risk that anglers and others who harvest and fish with wild bait may inadvertently transport these species. "When minnows are harvested for bait, smaller or newly-hatched carp may tag along," explained Pegg.
There are precautions that anglers can take to reduce the risk of spreading exotic species, such as the Asian carp. "Never dispose of your bait by putting it into a waterbody," said Pat Charlebois, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant biological resource specialist. "Throw unused bait away on land or in the trash."
This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2002 issue of Environmental Protection.