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“Nutrients in Our Streams”

Presentation by John Dunn

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 7:00 pm

1. Larry O‘Donnell:
Introduction to Speaker, John Dunn, of the EPA,
for Healthy Rivers Partnership Big Muddy Speaker Series

All we are is walking water. That is why we have this affinity for it. You explain to parents why their kids want to jump in the mud puddle: because it is just water attracting itself.

Tonight we present John Dunn, from the EPA, to talk about nutrients in the water.

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2. John Dunn:Introduction to Nutrients in Our Streams

Nutrients in Our Streams

At another meeting with this group, I talked about the history of water and waste water pollution in the Kansas City area, one of the first talks in the series. This time, we are broadening the scope, moving from the local area to the national issue: nutrients in water.

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3. Kansas City Treatment Plants Late 1800's through 1970's

If you look back years ago, and as recently as the 1960's, we had zero treatment in Kansas City. In the suburbs, we had treatment plants: Johnson County built a plant in the 1940's, but Kansas City, proper, did not treat sewage until the 1960's. This area, where we are sitting now, had been discharging directly to the river. For the West Bottoms, the meat industry, and the West Bottoms, operating in the late 1800's, upwards through the 70's, we had zero treatment. I have chosen not to show you a terrible image from the 1970's, of a cow, floating near Kaw Point.

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4 Clean Water Act Limits Discharge of Pollution

Clean Water Act Limits Discharge of Pollution

In terms of the Clean Water Act, we had a basic mission: to clean up the nation’s waters, physical, chemical, and sewage. Our Clean Water Act gave us plenty to do, and we have actually done most of it, with great success! We set up a program to limit discharges of pollution, called MPDES. Basically, we set limits and required treatment for raw sewage and industrial waste.

Congress gave us specific marching orders back in the 1970's, with guidelines for primary industries: You will create criteria for existing pollutants; and for toxics, there will be controls on toxicity. " Congress set priorities. Congress decribed our job exactly: what our job was, how we were to do it, and when we were going to do it. We were pretty successful.

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5. Clean-Up Industrial Treatment -- Success Stories and More

Most, if not all, industry in America now has treatment of some sort, with some industries beginning second levels of treatment, going further than the basic treatment. We are requiring water quality controls and permits. so we have a handle on that. Much of the job is done.

Nutrients are the problem

Today, we are in round two, and this has no charter.?* Nutrient and nutrient pollution is a major national challenge to our sustainable waters. We have all seen such horrible images, such as these. Go to the Wakarusa River, middle of summer, and you may find something like this, maybe not that bad. But these are the horror stories.

National Scope of Nutrient Problem

Consider some of the figures that the EPA and the states have assessed for our water. It is what we do ; we keep tabs on the rivers and streams. 47% of all streams have medium to high levels of phosphorous. More than 53% of all streams have medium to high levels of nitrogen. Basically, half the streams checked have high numbers. Specifically, 5 million acres of lakes are identified as impaired and these are just the ones assessed. ?They are the big boys but that is a lot of acreage, coastal and actuary? areas.

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6. Hypoxic zones

Hypoxic zones are areas where oxygen gets so low that it kills stuff. I will explain this later, but the problem of hypoxic zones is something we are seeing up and down our coast. It is a worldwide issue, not confined to just the United States, although the U.S. is a kind of leader in the pack, due in part to our agriculture and farm belt. I will discuss this later, too.

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7. Worldwide Problem

Worldwide we see hypoxic zones in areas of high fertilizer content. For instance, when a person buys shrimp in Thailand, an area with heavy shrimp production, we realize that a mangrove was taken out. After producers start growing shrimp in an area, soon the production spreads to areas around it. Finally, we see nutrification and dangerous impacts result in these waters, in these coastal areas.

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8. Identified Hypoxic Zones

Yes, we have identified 300 hypoxic zones. While some zones are just little backwater areas, other hypoxic zones are very large. Hypoxic zones are related to levels of nutrification, with 78% of continental US coastal areas showing nutrification, or elevated nutrients. Nutrification, the elevated nutrients in water, is a common situation today, which can be seen through such horrible images as in these pictures.

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9. Algal Blooms to Detect Nutrification -- Coastlines and Inland Waters

Algal Blooms to Detect Nutrification

To find nutrificiation, we look at algal blooms. These algal blooms are identified on the coast, a small subset of what we have seen. Before 1972, a few blooms were there, and we could see red algae, of red tide and stuff like that, even then. Now look at what we are seeing all over, in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and our coastlines. We also see this for interior waters. For instance, a couple of years ago, in Nebraskan lakes, there was a drought condition, resulting in fairly warm water conditions, with blue-green algae growth. When dogs drank the water, the dogs started dying in the lakes of Nebraska. advisories were posted: "Do not let your dog swim in the lake."

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10. Nutrification: Hard to Estimate the Problem
Fatal to Babies at Greater than 10 Parts/Million

Again, the problem of nutrification is coming home. When we talk about nutrification and nutrients, mostly we are talking about nitrogen, which is not just surface water, but ground water, as well. Around here are the wells with high nitrate; basically, this well is sitting out in farmland. Fertilizers are being applied around it.

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11. Unsafe Well Water for Babies Ground Water Affected

Occurrence of Nitrates in Wells Nationally

To drink the water, we must pull the water up, out of the Aquaphor. To find the high nitrate wells, we look for big spots that show nitrate. On the picture, red dots show greater than 10 parts per million. That calls for a health advisory. If we feed water like that from a well to an infant, our infant gets blue baby syndrome, a condition in which nitrogen ties up the oxygen. This means the baby does not get full oxygen, and nutrification results in killing a child.

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12. High Nitrates in Fertilizers Collect In Drinking Water

We have places where well water is unsafe to drink. We have an underestimation of such places due to generalized information, masking individual wells from discovery. Consider the rural water system in Nebraska, where the landowners has three or four wells strung out across the landscape, with a hot one, the one with the high nitrate. By mixing high nitrate well water with water from wells with lower nitrate, water quality standards in the feed water going back into the rural water supply seems to meet the standards. The result: we have an underestimation of nutrification.

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13. Ground Water Affected

In different parts of the nation, where drier areas with any irrigation have irrigation waters returning to the groundwater, not just as surface water. If you look in the western parts of Kansas and Nebraska, where you see the hot wells, that is because any water put on the soil goes down, into the ground water, instead of to the river. Notice the MR340 route from here to here.

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14. The Gulf Dead Zone

Hypoxia -- A Growing Problem

Here is a big watershed. We focused on the Big Muddy, so we focused on this part of the watershed. Middle Missouri is kind of our turf but when we are looking at the big nutrient issues in the United States, we are looking at the larger watershed. It is still higher than the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and the tributaries to those. That big watershed drains a huge area with big cities, then heads down to the Gulf. Although we know that stuff, here in the Gulf, there is an area, an hypoxic zone, or the dead zone. That is the Hollywood, or the newspaper, name.

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15. Like a Pool Going Anaerobic -- Oxygen Crash

Every summer, those nutrients go down to the Gulf, hiding in the shallow water, just on the continental shelf , and algae grows like crazy. Once fortified with nitrogen and phosphorous, algae willgrow. Over the summer, about July, the algae starts dropping out. It starts by rotting on the bottom. The huge overproduction, like when a pool goes anaerobic, results in an oxygen crash in the water; anything that does not escape will die. This big kill off--has an extent and area that varies every year, yet covers about 5000 square miles and looks something like this.

At the Shoreline

In the bayous of Louisiana, on the shore, the fish that do not make it out of there, die. At huge industrial cost to shrimpers and the fisheries of Southern Louisiana, too many nutrients, with levels too high in nitrates, continue to be fed to our waterways, at too big a cost.

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16. 2013 Data Point Map

Hypoxia in the Gulf 2013

This 2013 map shows The most recent year, and summer. Nancy has been working on this issue of the Dead Zone ? for over 25 years. She goes out every summer with a bunch of boats, her version of the 340, traveling about the same time of year. From the boats, she collects all the stats, and finally, the team arrives at a big set of data points.

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17. From the Mississippi...

This is a huge mixing zone. Think of it*entering here, the waters going up into the Gulf in a big circle. Water from the Mississippi heads in here, then into? the big area. It comes in from the Pacific pretty fast, hits this portion of the Gulf, and then the water slows down. It sits down there: with the sun beating down, full with nutrients, warm, and shallow. The algae grows like crazy.

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18. Algae Grows Like Crazy

After the algae growth comes the oxygen crash. We are discussing that progression in time, when it takes place and how big it is. This year it was roughly 5000 square miles, about the size of Connecticut. In this huge area, algae grows like crazy and then, the water goes green, from the algae, getting so thick, it shades itself, then falls out, hits the bottom, and starts to rot, consuming the oxygen. From that point, the whole system crashes. Anything in that system dies. It starts rotting, too. When the DO goes down to below 2?, down below 4, stuff starts dying. Down below 2, everything is gone. With oxygen at 4 parts per million, that is when fish are sucking air at the top.

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19. Disolved Oxygen Levels (DO Levels)

Hypoxia Changes Year to Year

On a hot summer day, even in Missouri streams, fish will suck air at the top, when DO is hitting 4. At 3, everything is gone; at 2, nothing lives; even the smallest organisms are shot. This phenomena is temporary, but cyclical, every year. It peaks out at the height of summer, so it is tied to heat. As summer warms up, algae fires up, to a progression through here; it peaks late July, at the heat of the year, and it returns over the winter. Every year it is different.

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20. Too Much of Everything

Nancy Stonner has been out in her boat since about this period of time. Every year the extent is different, yet there is a pattern. ?On red years, more nitrogen heads for the Gulf, and we think this is mostly nitrogen related. Discussion of the phenomenon has centered on whether it is nitrogen or phosphorous limited. Over big discussion, a big policy and scientific fight, and scientific fight a couple of years ago, oceanic scientists of the world reported there is too much of everything in the water.

Not just one thing leads to the problem. It is about how fast stuff can grow in the water, so it is not a nutrient limited event. It is a habitat limited event, with algae growing as fast as it can, then an oxygen crash occurs, and finally, this. This year, the extent was big. Last year, a drought year, was a little year. ?

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21. Action Plan

Notice the action plan.The goals we would like to see compared to where we have been.

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22. Measuring the Pounds of Nutrients

Measuring the Pounds of Nutrients

How do we count the pounds of nutrients? When we can see as much nutrification, algal growth, as we do, there must be tons of nutrients in big river. How can we count them? It is not that easy. It costs big money and effort. We now use monitoring sites such as these that we did not have previously.

I started working on this issue about 20 years ago, when we became aware this was happening. We had no idea how to count the big amounts going by in a river. Think about it : Take a river the size of the Missouri, and see how we would count nutrients going by. With a gauge, we can measure how much water is going by. By taking a sample, we find out how much nitrogen is there. We do a bunch of math, then figure the number of pounds going by per minute.

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23. Monitoring Variability

Then there is tomorrow and the next day, when the numbers change, so you have variability, right? The river goes up. The river goes down. Conditions in the spring differ from the fall; just putting together enough monitoring in a single place, to know how much nitrogen or phosphorous went past, is a big undertaking. These dots are not being monitored much. Some of these places are monitored carefully now, for the first time. We figured out how to do some of the counting, and we planned to make maps like this. Where are the nutrients coming from?

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24. Point And Non-Point Sources

When we first started looking at this, we wondered about point sources and non-point sources. We knew farming was important. We knew industry was important, also, so I did a kind of Rediman* thing. I did a count; I calculated some of the top dozen biggest dischargers in our region. I just figured out who they were and what they did and so.

?I did not talk for Water Environment Federation which I named the Big 12 and what their pounds per day were and what they were and it was what you would expect. ?

Where are the Hot Spots?

In looking for the hot spots, we knew that cities were big. In terms of our top dozen, I found out that cities were big, that certain industries were big: the meat industry, slaughterhouses, industries associated with meat industries, protein industries. (14:15________) in Sioux City, Iowa.

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25. Slaughterhouses and Industries

Big slaughterhouse up there processes 12,000 head of cow a day. Across the river is another slaughterhouse, processing and rendering, the gelatin producer, and the associated industries, so what did that amount to? About 25,000 pounds of nitrogen a day hitting the river. Kansas City is a big discharger, with

?about 12,000 pounds a day and still there and that’s just population pressure.?

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26. St. Louis Industry

I found a couple of major water discharger industries. For example, one St. Louis chemical company had zero treatment. Going through the treatment plant there was 50,000 pounds of nitrogen each day, the biggest discharger in North America. Ironically, the biggest discharger of nitrogen in North America was this little bitty place. They made ink for toner cartridges: they bored down iron and sulfuric acid, turned the resultant into nothing and then precipitated it out, using ammonia?


and then discharged the process water. This company used a tractor trailer of ammonia every day, and out the pipe it went. (15:17______)

We reviewed this and found another big industry, lysine manufacturing, that produces amino acids used as feed for animals. Guess what? Lots of lysine got away. We also found the non-point sources in the latest data.

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27. Water Environment Federation -- SWAG Guesses -- New Data

New data shows us pretty much what we figured out a long time ago. Now we know better, the arrow bars are clear. ? We have more data rather than guesswork. In the early days, we used swag guessing. That means "sophisticated wild ass guess" and so we got swag estimates. We did not have clean data, either. Now we have clean data.

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28. The Top 10 List -- A National Assessment of Point and Non Point Sources

Tudor Davies, at the Water Environment Federation, put together a top 10 list. Mr. Davies came over, talked to me, and said, "Do you think you could do that big? " And I told him we would have to make up stuff but we could collect data, also. I told him how. Next, we organized a work group and soon, I was sitting outside of New Orleans, in a little bitty conference room, on an Air Force base. There, we created a national plan for an assessment of point versus non-point sources.

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29. Analyzing Data Point Source Contribution Pipes, Farmland, Runoff

We compiled a monstrous spreadsheet with estimates and new data. We figured out the point source contribution, in other words, the pipes, as compared to farmland and runoff. We found out that pollution exiting the pipes was about 15% of the issue and pollution from farmland and land use was 85% of that load. We also realized that simultaneous with a storm water event, fertilizer is picked up, leaving the soil.

With better definition and data, we are finding large amounts of fertilizer leave agricultural land during those stormwater and wet weather events. We also get urban runoff which may not be through a CSO but may be untreated water from storm sewers.

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30. Mapping the Hot Spots

Large movement of nutrients through water systems and wet weather events are huge drivers of nutrification. This can be especially true with non-point sources. Certain types of land are big hotspots as compared to others. The maps show a real hot spot around here. However, the maps are a little deceptive because if a pound shown as produced up here, it looks like little gets to the Gulf. This is because nutrients are captured behind dams. There, nutrients have their effect and algae will grow behind the dam. You get that in trapped sediments. ? Anything that is a main stay to the big rivers gets delivered to the Gulf.

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31. Drainage of North American Wetlands

One of the big drivers of nutrification is from the agricultural land of northern Iowa, southern Illinois, and Minnesota, is the drainage of farmland. One of the biggest environmental changes in American landscape was the drainage of the wetlands. Farmers. brought in clay pipe, from a clay pipe company such as one here in Kansas City, a big manufacturer.

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32. Clay Drainage Pipes -- Huge Drainage Districts -- Fertilizer Express to the Gulf

Farmers placed clay pipes in slushy old marshy wetlands, dropping the water table down about 4 feet. When this land is drained, you it becomsome of the best corn land in America: welcome to Iowa. Those drain tiles are still there. They may be 100 years old, but often, they still work. They can be cleaned and still function well. If they need replacement, they can be replaced by plastic. With huge areas of drainage districts in Iowa, to apply fertilizer on corn there means that when it rains, fertilizer hits drain tile, goes straight to the river, efficiently and quickly, and down to the Gulf.

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33. USGS and EPA Working Together

Now two parts of the government had an interesting conversation . US Geological Service was the contractor, and USGS gave the EPA advice, saying a pound of phosphorous, a pound of nitrogen, close to the Gulf, is going to get there for sure. In terms of policy, think about the pounds that get to the Gulf.

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34. Local and National

Focus on the local spots and do not worry about the hinters too much was their approach, based purely on the hypoxia problem. Now we have to look at that big dead zone in the Gulf. How can we best fix that? Although This was a national decision, a regional administrator, a farmer, said, "Hey wait, these impacts are in our watersheds, too. We ought to take a national approach, and we ought to go acre by acre , here, and sort out the Gulf, later. But we want an even, national approach. That is the best policy approach because that way we help our local problems as well as the national issue.

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35. What are the Sources?

What are the N&P Sources?

So what are the sources? I talked about some. there is municipal wastewater and industries. They are heavily regulated now but consider the amount, the 18 million tons of human waste annually. These means tons of permits. I work on permits, where some of them have limits for NNP, with 18% monitoring. Now that is surprising. It shows that our biggest cities are our biggest dischargers.

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36. Big Cities are Biggest Dischargers

Our big cities are our big sources. Here is a clue to the nature of the problem: atmospheric nitrogen deposition. this picture shows the applying of ammonia surface application. With surface application, much of the fertilizer evaporates and then moves along, settling down, so 21% of source contributions are atmospheric. This is another way of saying we are breaking the fertilizer down, recycling 20% in the ecosystem, right into our waterways. It shows we are using excessive nitrogen.

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37. Rain Fertilizes Lawns

Right now, we think our nitrogen bulges*?about 2 or 3 times what it would have been pre settlement. Two or 3 times the normal amount of nitrogen is floating around. In some forms, it evaporates, then settles back down, so our yards need no more fertilization. The rain is does it.

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38. The Nutrient Phosphorus

In the 1970's, the Great Lakes had huge phosphorous levels, from detergents. Since then, we have eliminated phosphates from detergent. We know that a big source of phosphorous is animal husbandry, while sources of nitrogen tend to be farmland. Phosphorous is associated with animal husbandry, chicken litter, or manure from hogs and cattle. The stuff is just loaded with phosphorous.

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39. Nutrient Management Plans

What are some more the N&P Sources?

New developments include nutrient management plans to control the amount of supply to the land, so we do not build it up so high that it is just washed off, and into the streams. Even plain old pets and puppies add to the nutrient load. urbanites use fertilizers heavier than the farmers do at times, so urban runoff is a significant contributor to nutrification we raise and maintain animals, in addition. Even dogs, smaller pets, and some wild animals, such as the Canadian Geese in Kansas City, become a big source. Urban storm waters?

We see that 80% of the population lives on 10% of the land. In other words, especially on the East Coast, big urban populations are bunched up tightly on the land, and the contribution from acres, per acre, from an urban spot, with a large population.

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40. Urban Landscapes

Per person, nutrient load for the urban area can be smaller than suburban areas, but acre per acre, it pops up. The other thing is trends. We expect 50% of the existing urban landscape to be redeveloped. We see that our existing urban landscape is undergoing rapid transformation. We see building constructed and buildings torn down, all the time, disturbing the soil, affecting nutrient loads additionally.

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41. Future Development

We expect more development in the future. agricultural livestock is a big source, and it is a $130 billion industry, so there might be a dollar or two involved here. Look at the figures. A billion tons of manure annually, a substantial production of that is largely unregulated by our rules. This huge industry is manufacturing tons of product, none of it not well-regulated, because it is an agricultural industry, not covered well under the Clean Water Act.

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42. Agricultural Row Crops

In agricultural row crops, a $120 billion industry, in field as big as I have described, there is drain field acreage. We look at the amount of fertilizer applied, compared to amounts harvested from the land. Fertilizer is more expensive now, so we apply it less liberally, but fertilizer still gets away. So what do we do?

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43. The Next Step

So What Do We Do?

What is the next step? Here is the set up. This is where the big guys are kind of choking. The problem is getting worse. I showed you with the dead zone in the Gulf, the problem is getting worse. You can look at the big picture of the size of the hypoxic zone at the Gulf but even locally something we found just this last year.

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44. Hermann, Missouri Gauge Site

A research paper surprised me. One of the big spots where we monitor for the Missouri River is at Hermann, a spot where we all the major tribs enter into the Missouri. There is not going to be another major trib before it gets to the Mississippi, so Hermann is a big gauge site. That is where we monitor flow for the Missouri.

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45. Upper Watershed Data

Hermann is also a spot that is perfect for that monitoring because it tells you what’s going on in the upper watershed, without backwash from the Mississippi. But what was found at Hermann, we had found in the river because of so much runoff in Iowa, Illinois, and all that, so Hermann is the hotspot for us. Nutrient loading of Hermann is picking up and we are wondering why the loading is picking up at Hermann. Of course, this is scientific guessing again. Until we have data, we cannot tell.

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Legacy Pollutants
Contaminated Groundwater
Wasted Opportunities

It seems that groundwater is now cooking into the river. If that groundwater is cooking into the river, bringing up that nitrogen load, that takes us to a new situation. That means we cannot decrease these loads for a very long time. This is going to be a legacy pollutant. If we have a lot of contaminated ground water that will take time to manifest, our chances to treat or even prevent the effects of nutrification may be lost.

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47. Increased Population

Increased population in terms of land use is easy to see. Our population is always creeping up but let’s talk about land use. We’re seeing with upgrowth, we have more urbanization, suburbinzation. We’ll also look at some of our other land use. Right now, you look at commodities, special corn, price is up. Land is coming out of CRP which is a set aside program for fragile land so a lot of land is going into production that wasn’t in production. We’ve got some goals on ethanol production in this country to try to get ethanol in the fuel which cuts down on emissions from vehicles so that drives up corn prices a little bit and so what you get is we’re pushing corn a lot and what happens when you plant corn, you fertilize it. Again our land use is important.

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48. Clean Water Act Round One

Our laws don’t exactly fit the problems. Now as I said before, The CleanWater Act was built around the industrial model. It said we have an agricultural exemption. The EPA is not going to have permitting authority over farms. Simple as that. It is pretty much black and white, and well tested in the courts. The EPA is built around controlling discharges from city. We were going to control industrial stuff, and we are going to keep our dirty hands off of land use. that is kind of how it was built. now, this question is built around land use, so the clean water act, round one, does not prepare us and it does not set up programs to fix this issue.

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49. Treatment Technologies Improving

Our treatment technologies are getting better. There have been some breakthroughs. most treatment technology used in the field was invented 100 years ago. They use funny words when they talk about processes like mixed liquor suspended solids, and stuff like that. Just the terminology shows you it was 100 years old.

Although we still use the same technologies, these technologies are improved, cleaned up. We have great sensors, feedback, and computer control, but we still use 100-year old processes. Recently, We have seen some breakthroughs that get better removal, picking up the game a bit, but guess what? It is not quite good enough.

We are kind of stuck. We cannot attain super pure levels Folks find it hard to believe because we have such wonderful technology. I can get you a system, in a lab, that can turn out micropure water,right? We each flushed 100 gallons today. Can we do that at that scale? City wide? No.

When we have millions and millions of gallons of treatment, we can only do so much. I call this within limits of technology. For an engineer, like me, this limit is like "Bang, we just hit the wall. " We can do better. We can clean up what we already have, but we have hit a new point unforeseen by the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act assumes we would keep making up new technologies. The new techniques would be groovy, and we did pretty well, but now we have maxed out on technology, so we have this real hurdle, in terms of our policies and our abilities to adapt.

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50. The Nutrient Framework

The Stoner Memo

Nancy Stoner put together a framework, nicknamed the Stoner Memo. It is called the nutrient framework. She is fun to meet. She’s a joker. The Stoner Memo was an unusual policy document from the EPA. This was one that actually made sense.They wanted to do something. They did not want to talk about it. They did not want to make policy. We would actually do things even if it they were little things. We would build from existing work, but accelerate progress and demonstrate clear results. We would encourage collaborative process between partners and we would give the state flexibility. EPA actually said that.

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51. Watershed by Watershed

 Nutrient Criteriea -- No One Size Fits All

We need to give states flexibility to achieve new term reductions of NPE while they make progress in long term strategies. That sounds simple, right? But it was revolutionary. Our rules say, "Hey, if you have a water pollution problem, you must put limits in a permit to control it. No halfway measures! Yet Stoner said, "We may have to settle for the best we can do," which is remarkable , since it seems like compromise, but it is compromise and cooperation that allows something to be done. The solution is not a one size fits all. We can approach the problems watershed by watershed.

At the Lake of the Ozarks, we talk about septic fields. When we talk to farmers of land drained by tiles, we discuss that situation, to work in that environment. We cannot make one rule to treat to this level, at this point, and make it happen. It will not be effective and it will not fit the specific problem.

Again, we agreed to use multiple approaches to science; this is stress response analysis. While this is heavy duty science, the idea is to use scientific approaches and to be open to different kinds and different ones.

In addition, we had to consider downstream, as well as near field, protection. That is a big issue, categorizing nutrients as different from toxics. If something is toxic, it will kill near the end of pipe. It comes out the pipe, in an area where the toxin has its greatest concentration. ?Okay something there and then be diluted and you move on. So ? toxics are a pipe problem.

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52. Nutrient Criteria at Home

 All Options!

Nutrients go as far away as the Gulf, but how do I get a farmer, or a discharger in Iowa, to care about the fishery in Louisiana? We can let hypoxia drive this wagon too much. We need to be concerned about nutrient criteria within our own waters, becoming a local issue. Nutrification is a problem that begins at home. Its impacts are first felt locally, even though effects may be magnified at another place, such as the Gulf.

Since we did consider this best handled as a localized issue, one we could approach that way, we have taken this approach in our region. We try to work at watershed level.

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53. TMDL

Right now the EPA has been sued to create what is called the TMDL, a big water quality calculation for the Mississippi River, and the enviros would love us to do that. Yet, to do this would make the problem so large, it becomes unsolvable. The EPA is concerned about that. We are working at keeping our waters clean and to accomplish our goals, we can turn to the Stoner framework: Work at the watershed level and keep our existing controls.

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54. Today: EPA Concerns

CSO, SSOs, and urban discharges, storm water and otherwise, are significant. We do not know how they contribute to the overall pounds per year. We cannot nail that down exactly, but we know it is big so we are going to work on that. We will max out our existing tools. We will keep up our work on TMDLs, a watershed by watershed assessment of problems and fixants ? and solutions. We will work on new technologies. We will work on the limits of those technologies.

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55. New Treatment Plants -- New Technologies

Pulling in information means working with consultants and the builders of treatment plants, asking them, "What can you come up with? Will you be looking at stuff built in the field , assessing how it works? Brand new plants have data we are pulling in, seeing how they add up in the real world. Do these things actually work? How well do they work day to day? How would we build a model of a working permit around them? We will push for better technologies in the agricultural sector. ?

The agriculture sector is kind of marginal. Right now this sector is making money, but, often in the past, it has not, with conditions are hard to control, and farmers need to use the best technologies and the best practices possible. For example, putting on extra fertilizer is an insurance policy. Fertilizer is more expensive, so it is a more expensive fertilizer policy, so that is a concern. Now, fertilizer prices are driving fertilizer application. Right now, farmers are out on tractors applying fertilizer. Farmers use GPS to drive that tractor. Sensors can detect nitrogen content in the crop at their feet, as they drive over it, and mete out their nitrogen.

This new technology can save hundreds and thousands of dollars on a big farm, and most of our farms are big. But to pay for that equipment the first time costs big money. We find ourselves in a high-technology game. The game gets harder and more complex, driven mostly by economics, not always by environmental concern.

Are there any questions?