Monday, May 30, 2011

Stephen Carpenter and the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize

American environmental scientist Stephen Carpenter won the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize – given to someone who’s worked to improve the state of the world’s water resources. Carpenter’s focus – freshwater lakes.

In March 2011, an American environmental scientist, Stephen Carpenter of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, won the Stockholm Water Prize. It’s given each year to someone who’s worked to improve the state of the world’s water resources. Carpenter’s focus – freshwater lakes. He told EarthSky:

I have focused particularly on the over-enrichment of freshwater with nutrients.

That is, runoff from farms into lakes. Dr. Carpenter has studied the American Midwest for nearly 40 years. These lakes suffer from an influx of nutrients from fertilizers and manure. Carpenter said:

Pollution of rivers and lakes and reservoirs with those materials lead to blooms of toxic algae, loss of oxygen, fish kills and related problems.

Dr. Carpenter tries to address these problems at their source – the farmer’s fields. He said the major culprit, at least in the upper U.S. Midwest, is manure and over-fertilization – people using way too much fertilizer on the land. He said:

Decreasing fertilizer use is mainly a matter of giving farmers accurate information about how much fertilizer they need often they don’t need to spend so much money adding fertilizer, once they know that, they’ll add less.

The manure problem is much harder to deal with, because this is dairy country and there’s a lot of manure up here, and it’s a waste product that farms have a difficult problem disposing of. We have worked to develop manure containment facilities, for example, that keep the manure from running off, there are certain times of year when it is much more harmful to apply the manure to land, and we try to identify those times of year. Right now we’re experimenting with manure digesters that actually convert the manure to natural gas, which makes energy.

The manure problem is hard to deal with, said Carpenter, because Wisconsin is dairy country. Image credit: Royalty-free image collection

A number of Wisconsin lakes have restored health – more big fish, fewer toxic blooms – thanks to Dr. Carpenter’s work. He explained why he thinks his team has been able to take their scientific work from theory, into community practice:

I think an important part of what we do is to help people understand that no one really understands. These huge complex systems, and anything we try is to some degree experimental. But doing something is way better than doing nothing.

Dr. Carpenter said that another vital part of his work with Wisconsin’s lakes involves collaboration with fisheries managers and the general public, to control what’s being fished in local lakes. He said:

Fisheries are managed by setting limits on the sizes of fish that can be removed, and on the numbers of fish that can be removed. If the size limits are adjusted so that only the very largest fish are removed – in other words, you cant take a fish unless it’s a very big one – then the effect is to increase the overall size of the individual fishes in the population, you end up with a lot more big fish. You end up with more grazers, and less algae.

He said that no two technological solutions for lake pollution across the world look exactly alike.

Technology is basically the application of human knowledge to solve a problem. In many cases, these are just farming smarter in a given place.

For example, in Wisconsin, there are ways of using manure on farms that increase the water-holding capacity of the soil, so those methods decrease flooding, wastage of water, and they decrease runoff of nutrients. A simple thing, but it has to be developed region by region. The practices that work for Wisconsin are probably not the practices that will work for Arkansas. It takes a lot of local work but it can be done.

Dr. Carpenter added that local lake problems add up to global ones.

I think the biggest issue facing freshwater, globally, is agriculture. Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater among human activities. It is the largest polluter of freshwater among human activities.

Agriculture is also one of the largest drivers of climate change, he told EarthSky.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Researchers find eco-friendly chemical for toxic algae control - CSMCRI

Researchers find eco-friendly chemical for toxic algae control

Fish can die on consumption of Amphidinium Cartarae, such is its toxicity. Further, the seafood with traces of this algae can make humans sick, mainly with stomach-related ailments. File Photo
The HinduFish can die on consumption of Amphidinium Cartarae, such is its toxicity. Further, the seafood with traces of this algae can make humans sick, mainly with stomach-related ailments. File Photo

Researchers at the Central Salt Marine and Chemical Research Institute have standardised a new, cheaper and eco-friendly process to deal with toxic marine algae which can be fatal to fish as well as humans who eat sea-food.

The process uses ‘amino-acid derived ionic liquid surfactants’ (AADILSes).

They are eco-friendly compounds, having an edge over the conventional liquid organic solvents like Benzene, Toulene and Chloromethane.

AADILSes also find use in drug delivery processes, making of bio-molecular devices, and nano-material synthesis.

“We have standardised a process to convert natural amino acids into ionic liquid surfactants which are very versatile in nature and highly bio-degradable,” said Dr Arvind Kumar, a scientist at the Bhavnagar-based institute.

“The ionic liquids are ten times more surface-active compared with the conventional surfactants. They have been found suitable for removal of harmful algae from sea water,” Kumar said.

“We exposed AADILSs to a toxic marine algae -- Amphidinium Cartarae -- to test its ability to prevent algal bloom. The results show that small concentration of it was enough to kill algae without side-effects on the surrounding environment.”

Fish can die on consumption of Amphidinium Cartarae, such is its toxicity. Further, the seafood with traces of this algae can make humans sick, mainly with stomach-related ailments.

The researchers used natural amino acids such as glycine, alanine, valine, glutamic acid and proline to produce the eco-friendly AAIDLSes, which are cheaper than bio-surfactants derived from micro organisms.

“The amino acids which we used cost around Rs 1,000 per kg, which is cheaper than the bio-surfactants available for prevention of growth of harmful marine algae,” Kumar said.

Bio-surfactants such as phospholipids are difficult to obtain and expensive to produce.

“The process of deriving bio-surfactants takes weeks or even more, whereas deriving ionic liquid surfactants from amino acids only takes a few hours,” he said.

A lot of research is currently underway to find ways to replace hazardous chemicals in various chemical processes with ionic liquids, the researchers at CSMCRI said.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hutt River, New Zealand

Hutt River clogged with ooze and toxic algae


The Hutt Valley's treasured river.

The river is under pressure. Toxic algae blooms plague it during summer and are believed responsible for the deaths of nine dogs.The Hutt River is bordered by paths, lined with parks, and peppered with swimming spots. It is the Hutt Valley's playground, but its duties do not end there. It is also the source of most of the drinking water for the Hutt and Wellington.

Wastewater still flows into the river during wet weather about six times a year when the amount of water exceeds the capacity of the stormwater system.

A proposal to take up to 17 million extra litres a day from the Hutt River may pose a new threat.

Greater Wellington regional council has applied to cut the river's minimum flow for three years during work on water storage lakes at Kaitoke. The work will increase storage by 13 per cent and earthquake-strengthen the lakes.

Hutt city councillors backed the proposal with several caveats, including a halt to the extra take if the river's health suffers.

Councillor Max Shierlaw opposes the plan. "It is likely to reduce the water quality of the river, lead to increased instances of algal bloom because the conditions needed . . . - low flow and warm water - will happen more often."

It highlights a lack of planning for extra water needs by Greater Wellington, he says. "They have no medium-term options and are resorting to trashing a significant regional asset."

CONCERNS about the health of the river led to the formation of the Friends of the Hutt River group this year. "You don't live in the Hutt Valley for the shopping. You live there because of the hills, the beauty of the place, and the river flowing through it," member Pat van Berkel says.

Toxic algal blooms, pollution and low water flows are the group's main worries.

"People are always saying when they were growing up, the Hutt River was full of water."

As the population grows, pressure on the river will increase. "They will all need water, and that's where it all comes from."

Toxic algal blooms stop people using the river at the height of summer. "It's quite a subtle effect, but it's taking away something that is very important," Mr van Berkel says.

Waiwhetu means "star-reflecting water". But poisoned by years of industry waste, the Waiwhetu Stream became the most polluted waterway in the region.

Once home to eels, whitebait and watercress, the stream instead hosted "Waiwhetu ooze", a black sludge, thick with traces of lead, copper, arsenic, zinc and mercury.

A $21 million project to scrape the ooze from the stream's banks wrapped up a year ago, with 56,000 tonnes of contaminated waste removed.

However, Hutt City Council still discharges wastewater, containing untreated sewage, into the stream during storms.

This week, 50,000 litres of treated effluent a day was pumped into the lower Waiwhetu Stream, after a joint in the main sewer pipeline failed at Eastbourne. From there, it flowed into Wellington Harbour. Repairs took four days.

Ted Taylor, Greater Wellington's environmental monitoring and investigations manager, says the Hutt River is "one of the better rivers in the region". Its upper reaches are in "excellent" health, its middle section "excellent to good", and its lower reaches "good to fair".

"You see a decline in clarity, and an increase in algal growth."That is typical for a river flowing from the hills through farmland and an urban area to the sea, he says.

Threats to the river include runoff from stormwater drains, likely to increase as the population grows.

People need to realise that whatever goes into the stormwater system ends up in the river, and ultimately, Wellington Harbour, Mr Taylor says.

"If that can happen, we like to think we can maintain the water quality of the river."

Despite the $21m cleanup, the Waiwhetu Stream's quality remains poor. It has low levels of dissolved oxygen, poor clarity, and high levels of ammonia, zinc and nutrients.

Although the cleanup scraped thousands of tonnes of contaminated sludge from its banks, the stream still passes through industrial and suburban stretches, picking up contaminants along the way.

Zinc comes from car-tyre fragments, or washes off galvanised roofs. The presence of ammonia is a tell-tale sign of cross-connections - wastewater systems hooked up to stormwater drains, Mr Taylor says.

"It can be through poor plumbing practices. It may be done deliberately as an easy way out, or it can be a mistake."

Te Atiawa iwi representative Teri Puketapu says the Hutt River and Waiwhetu Stream are of great importance to Maori.

The Hutt River is feeling the strain of a growing population. "When I grew up, all of Naenae was market gardens."

The Waiwhetu was once an important source of food, such as eels and watercress.

"But I don't take anything from it now, and I don't know anyone who does," Mr Puketapu says.

- The Dominion Post

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ford Lake, Michigan - Whole Lake Experiment

Whole Lake Experiments to Control Harmful Cyanobacteria

I like the 3rd page, slide 5 and 6.

Cyano are the villains and Diatoms - The Heroes.

Dr Lehman and his team caused a bloom of Diatoms in Ford Lake by changing the way water is released from the reservoir. This solved thecyano bloom problem.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Harmful Algal Blooms

The number of harmful algal blooms has increased over the last 40 years, especially in regions with large increases in coastal populations and over fishing.

Pyrite - nano iron in oceans

May 8, 2011

Similar to humans, the bacteria and tiny plants living in the ocean need iron for energy and growth. But their situation is quite different from ours--for one, they can't turn to natural iron sources like leafy greens or red meat for a pick-me-up.

So, from where does their iron come?

New research results published in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience point to a source on the seafloor: minute particles of pyrite, or fool's gold, from hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.

Scientists already knew the vents' cloudy plumes, which spew forth from the earth's interior, include pyrite particles, but thought they were solids that settled back on the ocean bottom.

Now, scientists at the University of Delaware and other institutions have shown the vents emit a significant amount of microscopic pyrite particles that have a diameter 1,000 times smaller than that of a human hair.

Because the nanoparticles are so small, they are dispersed into the ocean rather than falling to the sea floor.

Barbara Ransom, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research, called the discovery "very exciting."

"These particles have long residence times in the ocean and can travel long distances from their sources, forming a potentially important food source for life in the deep sea," she said.

The project also received support from another NSF program, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCOR.

The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, has a metallic luster and brass-yellow color that led to its nickname: fool's gold. In fact, pyrite is sometimes found in association with small quantities of gold.

Scientist George Luther of the University of Delaware explained the importance of the lengthy amount of time pyrite exists suspended in its current form in the sea, also known as its residence time.

Pyrite, which consists of iron and sulfur as iron disulfide, does not rapidly react with oxygen in seawater to form oxidized iron, or "rust," allowing it to stay intact and move throughout the ocean better than other forms of iron.

"As pyrite travels from the vents to the ocean interior and toward the surface ocean, it oxidizes gradually to release iron, which becomes available in areas where iron is depleted so that organisms can assimilate it, then grow," Luther said.

"It's an ongoing iron supplement for the ocean--much as multivitamins are for humans."

Algal bloom photos

Collection of 5000 plus photos of algal blooms worldwide.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Algae blooms creating a Canning River in Australia

Algae blooms creating a pongy river
Lucy Rickard May 6, 2011
    Blooming algae can produce nasty odours.Publish Post

    Blooming algae can produce nasty odours.

    The Canning River could get a bit smelly if an algae bloom continues to worsen between Riverton and Cannington.

    The Swan River Trust is monitoring elevated levels of single-cell algae, gymnodinium, which can bloom to reach high numbers.

    Trust principal scientist Kerry Trayler said while this particular species is not known to be harmful to humans or produce toxins; it can strip the water of oxygen and produce foul odours.

    Dr Trayler said fish and other animals in the river could be affected if oxygen levels continue to drop in the areas between Riverton and Bacon Street, Cannington, however tidal movements could push the bloom significantly downstream.

    Fish that are affected by low oxygen levels will be slow-moving and sluggish.

    The Department of Health has maintained its long-standing advice to the community not to eat mussels, cockles or oysters from the Swan and Canning Rivers.

    Mass. bans shellfishing in parts of Cape Cod - due to Red Tide

    Mass. bans shellfishing in parts of Cape Cod

    May 6, 2011


    Among the areas included are Nauset Harbor, Town Cove, and Mill Pond in Orleans and Salt Pond in Eastham.

    Digging, harvesting or collecting and/ attempting to dig, harvest or collect shellfish and the possession of shellfish, including carnivorous snails, from the defined areas is prohibited.

    The state said experts from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have seen increasing levels of the toxic plankton in the marsh system.