Saturday , 18 November 2017

April 19, 2017 E-News

WISCONSIN BUSINESS LOBBY FIGHTS FUNDING PLAN TO REMOVE LEAD FROM DRINKING WATER – Wisconsin’s business lobby spoke out publicly Tuesday against a bipartisan legislative proposal to replace thousands of underground pipes that leach toxic lead into drinking water. Businesses aren’t against removing lead water lines that can cause permanent brain damage in children, but the current proposal should be changed to make cities — not water utilities — cover costs that will run in the millions of dollars, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce told a state Assembly committee. Backers of the bill countered that if cities were responsible there would likely be years of additional delays because state limits on local tax revenue have left most straining to pay for basic municipal services. Assembly Bill 78 and Senate Bill 48 would allow water utilities to help water customers remove lead water pipes. The assistance could come in the form of grants and low-interest or no-interest loans that target low-income homeowners.

RURAL WATER FUNDING IN BUDGET CROSSHAIRS; TRUMP WANTS TO ELIMINATE USDA PROGRAM – A federal program that has funded more than $428 million worth of rural Wisconsin water and sewer projects — including dozens in the Coulee Region — is among those targeted for elimination in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. Part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the water and waste disposal program provides grants and loans for the construction of water facilities in rural communities. According to the USDA, the 945 projects funded last year “will improve the quality of life for more than 2.2 million rural residents.” Trump has proposed eliminating the program, which he calls “duplicative,” saving $498 million in a $1.2 trillion discretionary budget that cuts $54 billion in programs while increasing defense and homeland security spending by about $60 billion. Since 2006, the water program has authorized nearly $131 million worth of subsidies for sewer and water projects in rural Wisconsin communities and an additional $297 million in low-interest loans. That includes more than $38 million for more than two dozen Coulee Region municipalities, including Arcadia, Cashton, Ettrick, Hixton, Independence and Whitehall.

DNR INVESTIGATING ‘LARGE’ MANURE SPILL AT ST. CROIX CAFO – The Department of Natural Resources says it’s investigating a large manure spill in St. Croix County that happened in December but wasn’t reported until March 29. The DNR reported Wednesday the spill occurred at the Emerald Sky Dairy in the Town of Emerald, which is currently permitted to have around 1,700 cows. A statement from DNR Spokesman Andrew Savagian said the agency is still investigating. “The majority of the release is contained in a wetland area, downslope from the farm’s waste storage facility,” Savagian said. “The wetland drains through a ditch and enters a storm water pond about 1,200 feet away. The storm water pond is impacted by liquid and solid manure, and the outlet has been closed to prevent additional impacts to a wetland area downstream from the storm water pond.”

MILWAUKEE LOOKS AT HOW TO PROTECT MORE THAN 1,400 CITY EMPLOYEES – Milwaukee officials are considering ways to better protect city employees who work in the field. But, allowing the workers to carry weapons doesn’t seem to be an option. The city of Milwaukee is reviewing safety procedures for about 1,400 non-police or fire department employees who regularly work on streets, at homes or in businesses. The review follows the fatal shooting last month of a building inspector, Greg Zyszkiewicz, during an apparent carjacking. City decals for employees’ private vehicles, and more city logos on clothing are being considered. But Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker frowns on nurses or other employees carrying weapons, including guns. Meanwhile, the city of Milwaukee may study whether to equip employees with so-called “panic buttons” in case, they’re threatened while doing field work. A city committee has endorsed the study. Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski said the panic button would have a GPS tracking device.

SPINOFF THAT PUTS PHOSPHORUS IN ITS PLACE SIGNS KEY CONTRACT – In a bit of high-tech judo, a UW–Madison spinoff has started selling a technology to transform phosphorus at wastewater treatment plants from a major headache into an asset. A process invented in the lab of Phillip Barak, a professor of soil science, extracts phosphorus from the treatment plant and forms the calcium phosphate mineral brushite, which can be sold as dry fertilizer. Removing the phosphorus makes pipes in the plant less prone to clogging. And the solid leftovers from sewage treatment are easier to recycle on farm fields because they carry less phosphorus, which is both a critical plant nutrient and a major cause of algal pollution in waterways. In 2011, Barak and two of his former students, Tabanpour and soil scientist Mauricio Avila, formed Nutrient Recovery and Upcycling (NRU) to develop and sell the patented phosphorus technology. To date, NRU has installed one pilot system, with two more on the boards for 2017. The company is also developing a process to recycle nitrogen from wastewater plants.

BY 2050, OUR OCEANS WILL HOLD MORE PLASTIC THAN FISH – Use of plastic has increased 20-fold in the past half-century; production of the ubiquitous material is expected to double again in the next 20 years (and nearly quadruple over the next 50). And, CNN Money reports, nearly a third of all plastic packaging “escapes collection systems.” As for where the rest goes, more than 8 million tons of plastics end up entering our oceans each year, where the pieces can survive for hundreds of years. There are believed to be 165 million tons of it in the ocean right now. We’re dumping the equivalent of one garbage truck’s worth into the ocean per minute; that’s projected to jump to four per minute by 2050, according to a report released Tuesday by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation. And that report has an ominous warning: We’re on track to have more plastic than fish, by weight, in the world’s oceans by 2050.

QUOTE– “Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.” – George Carlin

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David Lawrence
WRWA Executive Director
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