The Pure Water Occasional for January 27, 2014
In this late-January Occasional you’ll find out how many pounds of urine and manure are produced each day by a single dairy cow and learn the percentage of North Carolina sewage lagoons that have leaks. You’ll hear how street sweeping machines are essential tools for water treatment. You’ll marvel at the news that water may be found on the dwarf planet Ceres, hear of China’s ever-worsening water woes, and delight at the news that underground rivers are being revived. Finally, you’ll hear of Mexico City’s new water filter law and its attempt to break its bottled water addiction. And, as always, there is much, much more.
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Numerical water facts from B. Sharper, the Pure Water Gazette’s numerical wizard.
by Gene Franks
More than a decade ago the Agriculture Committee of the U. S. Senate, directed by chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), performed an extensive study of the state of our nation’s manure. Although the findings of Harkin’s committee were called “staggering” by the Associated Press, the story was essentially ignored except for a few page 22 newspaper stories. Our numerical columnist, Bee Sharper, intrigued by the big numbers that figure into animal manure statistics, decided to turn the committee’s findings into a column. Her numerical facts are taken from an excellent article on the Harkin findings, Pamela Rice’s “Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Manure,” which appeared in the Fall 1999 issue of Vegetarian Voice. Here are Bea’s findings. Keep in mind that the numbers, though gigantic, are based on figures that are now a dozen years old, so the manure is bound to be deeper now.
- Pounds of waste produced each year by farm animals in the United States: 2.74 trillion.
- If this waste were loaded on the boxcars of a single train (Heaven forbid!), the number of times this train’s length would reach around the earth: 12.5.
- Human population of a city that would create the same amount of excrement as the dairies in California’s Central Valley: 21,000,000.
- Estimated number of manure-generating animal-feeding operations in the United States: 450,000.
This aerial photo shows winter application of livestock manure on a snow-covered farm field in Michigan. Farmers spread manure on frozen and snow-covered fields to fertilize soil. Critics say the practice threatens nearby surface waters. State officials say it’s safe when done properly.
- Percentage of rivers that have been identified by the EPA as “impaired” in which agricultural runoff from animal waste is the largest problem: 60%.
- Number of Olympic-size swimming pools that would fit into one of the innumerable large “lagoons” (temporary excrement storage facilities) spread throughout the United States: 200.
- Percentage of the older lagoons in North Carolina that are leaking enough to contaminate groundwater: 50%.
- Number of separate noxious gasses that contribute to the foul odor which emanates from hog barns: 150.
- Number of dead birds that are composted or incinerated by the poultry industry each year: 160,000,000.
- Factor by which U.S. animal excrement exceeds human: 130 times.
- Pounds of manure and urine produced in a single day by one dairy cow: 100 to 120.
Street Cleaning Machines Are Essential Tools for Maintaining Clean Water
Introduction: What’s in the streets eventually gets into the water. Keeping streets clean is the first stage of water treatment. Nevertheless, efforts to set standards and improve the quality of street cleaning seem to be hopelessly bogged down in lawsuits and legislation. See The Role Street Sweeping Must Play in Achieving Numeric Pollutant Limits. The piece below from the Pure Water Gazette makes the case for the importance of street sweeping. –Hardly Waite.
We usually think of street sweepers as big noisy machines that stir up dust and pick up some dirt, leaving the street looking a little nicer. What we don’t consider is that street sweepers are an essential part of water treatment.
What we call ‘street dirt’ is composed of heavy metals and other pollutants—items that may be killing fish when they get into waterways via stormwater runoff. Cities use media filters to clean stormwater, but it is estimated that effective street cleaning can greatly lessen the cost of filtering. Cleaning the street as compared with filtering costs about one-forth as much, in fact.
Heavy metals like cadmium, copper, lead, zinc are specific pollutants that are found in abundance in “street dirt.” In 1972, in the first USEPA publication ever on stormwater, street dirt was named as “the primary source of contamination, in terms of mass.”
Much of the toxic debris that washes to storm drains from the street is from automobiles. Brake pads, for example, especially cheap brake pads, deposit large amounts of copper into the streets. This copper ends up in the water supply unless it is caught in a filter or, more economically, swept up by a street cleaning machine.
Street sweeping machines vary in sophistication. Early models, which go back centuries, were used for picking up horse manure before the advent of the automobile. In the early 20th century, many US cities used them, but they were of limited effectiveness.
Mechanical machines, which use a main broom and conveyor belt to pick up material, have been around at least 100 years. Their basic design hasn’t changed that much, although impressive improvements have been made, such as the broom design and speed, and the conveyor belt speed and alignment. The mechanical machines are still the most popular, and perhaps 90% of the sweeping machines in operation are of the mechanical broom design.
Most street sweepers are still of the mechanical broom design.
Newer designs include “regenerative air” units which in one motion blow air down on the pavement to dislodge debris then immediately vacuum the dirt into a hopper. These are sometimes unpopular because unless they include air filters they stir up lots of dust. Vacuum machines can be very effective.
Even more advanced designs use water. One machine features “rotary arms with nozzles on the end that blow water down on the pavement; the back end of the machine features a powerful vacuum and a squeegee that sucks up the water and the debris it contains.”
The “state of the art” machine called the Schwarze A7000 costs in the neighborhood of $170,000.
The effectiveness of the machine, of course, is determined by how much dirt the machine actually picks up. Ineffective machines simply move some of the dirt to a different location. The worst street cleaner of all time, of course, as well as probably the stupidest machine ever devised, is the common leaf blower, which does not remove dirt but simply moves it to a less visible spot.
Current Water News
Water Found on Dwarf Planet Ceres, May Erupt from Ice Volcanoes. Astronomers have discovered direct evidence of water on the dwarf planet Ceres in the form of vapor plumes erupting into space, possibly from volcano-like ice geysers on its surface.
US coal’s new focus on exporting leaves a cloud of dust over Louisiana. Looking overseas for profits, industry giants have turned their attention to the Gulf of Mexico, and are building shipping terminals that pollute nearby communities.
Clammers sue city for post-Hurricane Sandy sewage pollution that tainted shellfish. The Baymen’s Protective Association says in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit that the city allowed billions of gallons of raw sewage to spill into the Hudson River and New York Harbor after the storm, leading to two months of shellfish that couldn’t be harvested.
West Virginia leak inquiry will take about a year. The federal Chemical Safety Board has not discovered any holes in Freedom Industries’ secondary containment wall, but the agency’s investigation probably will last a year, and it’s too early to know if the wall failed, officials said Friday.
Microbeads a major problem in L.A. River
Environmentalists are expressing concern about “microbeads,” bits of plastic no bigger than salt grains that absorb toxins such as motor oil and insecticides as they tumble downstream and into the Pacific Ocean.
The tiny polyethylene and polypropylene beads are an emerging concern among scientists and environmentalists. The beads come mostly from personal care products such as facial exfoliants and body washes. They are not biodegradable, however, and because they are not removed easily by wastewater treatment plants, they flow out to sea and enter the food chain.
“Microplastic is now a ubiquitous contaminant in the Pacific Ocean — and seas around the world,” said Markus Eriksen, a scientist with the 5 Gyres Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to researching plastics in the world’s waterways. “We believe that 80% of it comes from coastal watersheds like Los Angeles.”
Pollution at the heart of China’s water woes. While China may recognise the scale of its water crisis, it is not doing enough to clean up its polluted waterways or reduce demand, focusing instead on costly diversion projects.
Michigan rivers polluted by human, animal waste more than double previous estimates. Pathogen pollution in Michigan’s lakes and rivers – caused by human and animal waste draining into surface waters – is far more widespread than previously documented, according to new state data.
More cities bring buried streams back to life. New urban waterways are making a come back. Cincinnati is following the lead of Seattle, Kalamazoo, Mich., and other cities by bringing back a buried stream that has been underground for a century. Uncovering these streams have environmental and economic benefits.
Backers of sewage spill bill are baffled. Proponents of a bill to ensure that the public is notified when raw sewage spills into local rivers were at a loss Wednesday about why Governor Christie did not sign the legislation, even though it had been amended to address concerns raised by his administration.
Mexico City Bets on Tap Water Law to Change Habit
By Adriana Gomez Licon
“Drink the water.”
It’s a suggestion alien to Mexico City residents who have long shunned tap water in favor of the bottled kind and to the throngs of tourists who visit the city each year, bringing with them fears of “Montezuma’s Revenge.” But a law recently approved by Mexico City’s legislators will require all restaurants to install filters so they can offer patrons free, drinkable water that won’t lead to stomach problems and other ailments.
“We need to create a culture of water consumption,” said Dr. Jose Armando Ahued, health secretary for Mexico City. “We need to accept our water.”
Bad tap water accounts in part for Mexico being the world’s top consumer of bottled water and — worse — soda, some 43 gallons per person a year.
With an obesity epidemic nationwide, the city’s health department decided to back the water initiative.
Mexico City officials say 65,000 restaurants will have six months to install filters once the bill is signed later this month. Health inspectors will make periodic visits and impose $125 to $630 fines to those not complying. The law doesn’t cover thousands of food stalls along Mexico City’s streets.
Some restaurants already have filters. But when business consultant Jose Frank recently ate tacos with two colleagues at Yucatan Cravings in the Zona Rosa tourist district, they all had bottled water.
“I’m afraid to drink the water for everything they say. I don’t feel secure. I prefer bottled,” Frank said.
A general distrust of tap water is not without reason. The city’s giant 1985 earthquake burst water pipelines and sewers, increasing waterborne diseases, and officials blamed water supply systems for a spread of cholera in the 1990s.
Tourists still dread getting diarrhea from the microbes in untreated water. It’s a phenomenon so infamous, the bad water even starred in a “Sex and the City” movie, when Charlotte suffered the runny results of accidentally opening her mouth while showering in a Mexican resort.
Mexico City’s health secretary said 95 percent of the capital’s drinking water is clean, based on daily checks of chlorination at various treatment plants. But experts note that while Mexico City water leaves the plant in drinkable form, it travels through old underground pipes and dirty rooftop water tanks to the consumer.
Mexicans consume 69 gallons (260 liters) of bottled water per capita each year, mostly from 5-gallon (20-liter) jugs delivered by trucks to restaurants and homes. The number in the U.S. is 31 gallons (116 liters), according to Jose Martinez-Robles, of the New York City-based consultant Beverage Marketing Corp.
It’s not cheap. The large jugs can cost more than $2 in a country where the minimum daily wage is $5. One-liter water bottles range from 50 cents to a dollar.
Giants such as French Danone, and Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are finding that bottled water is the fastest growing segment of their business.
Martinez-Robles estimates the bottled-water market in Mexico reached $5 billion in 2012, suggesting it will be hard to get Mexicans to change their habits and trust what comes out of their taps, even if it is filtered.
“It’s a huge market,” he said. “We don’t trust our water distribution system. I’d say it’s more of a cultural thing than hygiene.”
High consumption of bottled water does not translate to healthier lifestyles, though. Seven out of 10 Mexicans are overweight and the country has surpassed the U.S. in obesity rates, according to a United Nations report, mostly due to a diet of fatty foods and sugary sodas.
Legislator Jorge Gavino thought requiring restaurants to offer free water from the tap would help Mexicans downsize while saving money.
The president of Mexico’s restaurant chamber, Manuel Gutierrez, says making the ordinance punishable is a mistake.
“In almost every restaurant, if you ask for a glass of water or a pitcher, they’ll give it to you. What we can’t accept is that it should be an obligation, one that will draw sanctions, if you don’t give it away for free,” Gutierrez said. “The majority of the customers prefer bottled water. They will continue to be wary.”
Luis Najar of Las Magaritas restaurant said installing an ultraviolet-light filter, visible to customers from behind the bar, has changed their drinking habits.
More people ask for pitchers of water.
“We put it out here so everyone can see it’s filtered and pure,” he said.
Source: ABC News.
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