Which is dirty: The water or the study?

One of the recurrent themes in today’s round-up of the news highlights of the week carries troubling contradictions. Two reporters who do exemplary jobs covering their local water beats, Staci Matlock of the Santa Fe New Mexican and Janet Zimmerman of the Riverside Press-Enterprise, quote local water managers saying that their water quality tests do not jibe with the ratings reported on December 12th by the Environmental Working Group, which were then later widely broadcast by the news media.

In the case of Riverside, the water authority contends that the group ranked the city based on tests of untreated groundwater. Santa Fe is still investigating what its water department sees as a discrepancy. Once shot out of a cannon into the press, even subjects as important as municipal water quality rarely get the follow-up that they deserve. This post-script to The week that was, 12/13-19/2009 is to urge

Running Dry (the project)

MEETINGS are too often paid vacations for professionals who already know what they think but want to think it in a new city. Yet next Tuesday’s gathering in Washington DC of leading water managers, US Congressional delegates and state delegations looks like stage setting for the announcement of a new integrated water policy. At least that’s what the organizers, the Running Dry Project, hope.

For more information about the Running Dry Project, which sprang from the 2005 documentary by Jim Thebaut, click on the rain drop.

Drink from the sink

THE TITLE of a Government Accountability Office reportBottled Water: FDA Safety and Consumer Protections Are Often Less Stringent Than Comparable EPA Protections for Tap Water” released yesterday underscores what inside water people have said for years: forget bottled water, drink from the sink.

From the Associated Press via the Denver Post today, “The GAO and the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, recommend in reports released Wednesday that bottled water be labeled with the same level of information municipal water providers must disclose. The researchers urged Americans to make bottled water ‘a distant second choice’ behind filtered tap water because there isn’t enough information about bottled water. But the working group recommends purifying tap water with a commercial filter.”

Lake or dump? You decide


Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest, Alaska. Photo: Sierra Club.

FOR THOSE wondering about whether there is recourse to the Supreme Court’s  Coeur Alaska ruling last Monday, there is.

The decision, which by a 6-3 vote upheld the legality of dumping gold mine waste into Lower Slate Lake in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, “can be undone in one of two ways,” said Ed Hopkins, Director of Sierra Club Environmental Quality Program. “One is the Obama administration could issue a rule-making and overturn a rule that the Bush administration did in 2002, which essentially created this problem. Or Congress can pass the the Clean Water Protection Act, which would also overturn the 2002 Bush administration rule.”

The Clean Water Protection Act would return the definition of “fill” to its original meaning (ie: not including pollutants), but it has been stymied in the past by advocates of mountain top removal

Mixed message to mining: Clean up, says Obama Cabinet. Mess up, says Bush-era Supreme Court

IT’S AS SCREWY as it sounds.

On Monday, in a 6-3 vote, the US Supreme Court upheld the legality of dumping gold mine waste into Lower Slate Lake in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest instead of disposing of it in a special tailings pond. The next day, the Agriculture Secretary announced nearly $20m dollars of federal stimulus funds to be spent on mine waste clean-ups, including $2.8m to Alaska. Meanwhile, the Clean Water Act in any of its various guises does not apply to the Alaskan lake about to receive 4.5 million tons of highly contaminated mine tailings.

First to the Supreme Court decision:

 “The ruling clears the way for as much as 4.5 million tons of mine tailings — waste left after metals are extracted from the ore — to be dumped into the lake,” reported the  Associated Press.

Not all of the justices were behind it. AP reported

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