Feds: Dry areas of state got smaller the past week; small drought area remained the same

The area of South Dakota ranked “abnormally dry” shrank the past week, according to the federal “Drought Monitor” mapping, but the small area rated as in actual drought – moderate and severe drought – stayed exactly the same, at 12.96 percent; The last time that some form of drought affected such a small area of the state as now — pegged at 12.96 percent — was May 23, 2017, when only 6.79 percent of the state’s area had moderate drought or worse, Richard Heim told the Capital Journal on Thursday.
He’s the author of the National Drought Monitor report, with maps, released Thursday, using data effective as of Tuesday, June 26.
Heim, with more than three decades experience with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal government’s agency that monitors climate and the environment, is based in North Carolina.
Heim explained how the area of the state pegged as experiencing some form of formal, federally-defined drought remained exactly the same this week as last, down to the second decimal place: 12.96 percent of the state’s area.
It amounts to 10,124 square miles — of the state’s total of 78,116 square miles — all gathered in one contiguous area of the prairie-pothole region in the northeast corner of the state.
It’s mostly moderate drought, except for a splotch of severe drought sort of around the drake’s eye, about 3,000 square miles roughly from northeast of Aberdeen down to Redfield that’s in severe drought.. That blob of severe drought is about 60 miles across, just under 3,000 square miles, comprising southern Brown and northern Spink counties.
Since the data didn’t show any change to speak of from the June 21 map based on June 19 conditions, the area showing drought was left at 12.96 percent, Heim said.
That includes 9.16 percent of the state’s area in moderate drought, surrounding the 3.8 percent of land in severe drought.
One year ago, 56.9 percent of South Dakota’s acres were in some form of drought, including 2.09 percent in extreme drought and 29.26 percent in severe drought; 90.68 percent of the state was abnormally dry or in drought as of June 27, 2017.
This week, 64.91 percent of the state is free of abnormally dry or drought conditions, according to Heim’s drought monitor map; 22.13 percent of the state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions short of drought.

Mayor: Nestle providing 3 truckloads of bottled water a week to Flint residents

FLINT (WJRT) (5/10/2018) – Nestle is sharing some of the company’s new capacity for bottling Michigan water with Flint residents.
Mayor Karen Weaver announced Thursday that the company will be supplying three truckloads of water per week to the city’s Help Centers "for the next several months."
“I want to thank Nestle for their willingness to help the people of Flint," she said in a statement.
Nestle recently received approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to pump 400 gallons of water per minute from an aquifer near its Stanwood bottling plant.
The previous permit allowed 250 gallons of water per minute.
Nestle’s donation to Flint totals about 4,200 cases, or 100,000 bottles of water, per week.
The company has agreed to deliver the water directly to the three Help Centers, where it will be distributed to Flint residents.
The Help Centers are open on the following days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Mondays Bethel United Methodist Church, 1309 N. Ballenger Highway.
Tuesdays Asbury United Methodist Church, 1653 Davison Road.
Thursday Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, 6702 N. Dort Highway.

NT camp water still contaminated two weeks after alert

A Northern Territory community is still unable to drink water from the town’s supply more than two weeks after unsafe levels of lead and manganese were detected.
The levels in Garawa 2 have subsided but remain above safety limits set by the Australian drinking water guidelines of 0.01mg/L for lead and 0.5mg/L for manganese.
The test results revealed levels of 0.011mg/L and 0.65mg/L respectively.
There is no indication the contamination is related to the nearby lead and zinc mine at McArthur River, which has previously been linked to lead levels in fish stocks around the lease site, and tests determined the contamination was not in Garawa’s bore.
The department of housing did not respond to questions on how the pipes will be tested.
A review of town camps, commissioned by the NT government and released last month, recommended millions of dollars in works to upgrade the two camps’ water supply in order to get it up to current design standards.
Residents reported to the investigators they often ran out of water, and the main tanks were too small.
“There are concerns about the condition of the storage tank and the ability of the supply to meet demands,” the report said.
“It is proposed that the Borroloola town network is extended across the river, connecting to Garawa 1 and Garawa 2 as a matter of urgency.” The estimated costs for Garawa 1 were $14,000 to maintain the current system or $3.75m to bring it up to current design standards.
In response to the report, which estimated a cost of more than $77.7m to bring all town camps up to current standard, the NT government pledged $25m in works, which began last week with upgrades in the Bagot town camp in Darwin.

Flint water flagged as poor weeks before free bottles ended

Rick Snyder announced an end to bottled water service that was introduced to allay a lead-tainted water crisis.
A surface water treatment engineer detailed 10 unresolved issues in a March 21 letter to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
Flint is recovering from its lead-contaminated water crisis and producing "very high quality drinking water," said Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for the state’s environmental department.
"The department’s concern is the ability of the city to maintain that," Brown said.
"The treatment plant is not adequately staffed and is being supplemented by a short-term contract."
Michigan’s environmental agency is working with the Flint to ensure that its water system is maintained, said Snyder’s spokeswoman Anna Heaton.
He said Snyder’s administration has struggled to rebuild trust since 2014, when it wrongly assured Flint residents that water provided from the Flint River was safe to drink.
"To say, ‘mission accomplished,’ is not accurate."
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved.

State warned Flint of ‘significant’ problems two weeks before cutting off bottled water

The March 21 letter from Robert A. London, surface water treatment engineer at DEQ, came just two weeks before the agency announced the end of payments for bottled water because Flint’s water system quality had been restored.
Tiffany Brown, a DEQ spokeswoman, said in an email Thursday, May 3, that despite the long-term deficiencies, Flint’s water system "is currently producing very high quality drinking water and distributing it around the city and that is backed up by rigorous government and independent testing results."
"The department’s concern is the ability of the city to maintain that," Brown said in an email to MLive-The Flint Journal.
The department is also concerned about the viability of the funding for the system and the ability of the city to adopt a rate structure that will adequately support operation of the system.
Two weeks after expressing those concerns, state officials announced they were ending payments for bottled water, citing two years of testing that showed water in homes was below the federal action level for lead.
Weaver has protested an end to the bottled water program, which had cost the state an average of $22,000 a day this year, maintaining the water crisis won’t be over until all lead and galvanized service lines have been removed and replaced.
And not when the medical community and environmental experts tell us we still need to be on filtered water because of the ongoing work to replace all the lead-tainted pipes leading to homes in the city, a process that isn’t expected to be complete for at least another year."
State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, on Thursday, May 3, called the decision to end bottled water weeks after the DEQ’s cited the continued "significant deficiencies" in the water system "very troubling."
"The state forced the shift (in water source) and caused the crisis," Ananich said.
In addition to the significant deficiencies identified in London’s letter, the engineer noted recommendations to Weaver, including the need to add features to the treatment system to "enhance treatment reliability and consistency, as well as operator safety."

Overnight showers; severe south; whispers of drought ahead?

The next two weeks might be some of the best spring weather of the year.
Scattered showers and T-Storms roam southern Minnesota into Wednesday morning.
5:48pm CDT #SPC_Watch WW 60 SEVERE TSTM IA MN WI 012245Z – 020700Z, #iawx #mnwx #wiwx, https://t.co/JSh669bXIT pic.twitter.com/usnT93qY1u — NWS SPC (@NWSSPC) May 1, 2018 Farther north toward the Twin Cities, there is a marginal risk one or two storms could approach severe limits (1″ diameter hail, 58 mph winds) overnight.
Our weather pattern is trending dry overall for the next two weeks.
But I have a hunch we may be hearing the D-word (drought) tossed around soon.
Most of Minnesota will trend dry the next few days.
Areas to the south will see rain the next few days, while areas to the north remain dry #mnwx #wiwx pic.twitter.com/q9dcn27B50 — NWS Twin Cities (@NWSTwinCities) May 1, 2018 NOAA’s 7-day rainfall outlook suggest heavy rains into Iowa, southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, but very little across Minnesota and the Dakotas.
NOAA’s GFS model 16-day precip outlook suggests less than an inch of rain in the next 16 days.
Of course this can change with one good local thunderstorm, but if it verifies things are going to get dry around parts of Minnesota in the next two weeks.
Numbers courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS.

Records: Grainger plant septic failure caused contamination scare in March

The plant at 1617 Helton Road near Bean Station employs, or at least employed until this week, some 100 people, records show.
A search warrant also indicates that plant may have been illegally paying workers to avoid state and federal scrutiny.
The septic system failed in March, sending waste into the area and exposing nearby residents to potential contamination, according to TDEC.
"(TDEC) provided well sampling to the 12 households which had the potential to be impacted by surface flow of waste," TDEC spokesman Kim Schofinski said in a statement to 10News.
The state also is assisting impacted households so they can link to public water systems and install treatment, according to Schofinski.
On an emergency basis, Southeastern Provision is now hauling its sewage waste in 6,000-gallon loads in a tanker to a Greeneville site, according to records.
Document show a temporary pump and haul system permit was issued March 26 to plant owner James Brantley.
The temporary process will include disposal through manual pumping into a tanker, records show.
"The operation should be such that there is no discharge of wastewater to any surface or subsurface system, watercourse or drainage ditch because of an overflow, spills, and/or because of the occurrence of any other condition that singly or in combination with any of the aforementioned conditions causes such discharge to any surface or subsurface stream, watercourse or drainage ditch," the permit states.
A pumping log must be maintained for review by the state and someone who represents the plant must be present "at all times" when waste is being transferred to the tanker to ensure spills don’t occur.

Boil water advisory in Fort Coulonge could end next week

The boil water advisory for Fort-Coulonge is still in effect.
The Pontiac announced the advisory on March 15th, stating that an electronic part in the water plant had broken, and that water coming through taps would be untreated.
myFM News can tell you that officials say they’ve received the part they need, and it’s been installed.
The water reservoirs will be washed out over the weekend and the Pontiac says testing on the water will begin Monday, with the boil water advisory hopefully being lifted by Wednesday.
Until then, residents of Fort-Coulonge must still boil tap water for drinking, preparing baby food, washing fruits and vegetables, making ice cubes, brushing teeth and water for your pets.

I lived a week without using any water — and it showed me just how much we’re affecting the water crisis

I went a week without water to try and see how much we really use it.
There are many simple ways to conserve, from turning off the tap while brushing your teeth to taking shorter showers.
Yet at the same time, the average American household uses more than 300 gallons of water per day.
Drinking, bathing, cooking, washing my hands, watering my plants; I thought I prepped for it all.
From dish-washing to using it to make drinks or to cook meals, it is unavoidable.
When it came down to it, I found that there were 12 ways in my everyday life that required immediate access to water.
Aside from the obvious drinking, bathing, and cooking mentioned above, things like doing the laundry, and ironing were out of the question.
The few I could find, pure coconut waters and juices, were extremely high in sugar.
In coconut water alone, I was averaging 36.4 grams a day.
So when the week did finally end, I started to research ways that I could be more mindful of my consumption.

Canton wilderness educator talks about ‘Water Awareness Week’

A coliform test can tell if your well is impacted by septic leakage or manure runoff, but it won’t tell you if residues from agricultural chemicals or spilled gas or oil are getting in your water.
Those are very different kinds of tests.
Across the northeastern US in general, most aquifers are shallow; on average less than 80 feet below the surface.
A drilled well is more secure, but regardless how deep it is, it’s still vulnerable to surface contamination near the wellhead.
Many older pesticides contained high levels of lead, arsenic and copper, heavy metals which do not break down, and some farms still have high levels of these metals in the soil.
How do organic pollutants get into our water?
It’s shockingly easy to pollute groundwater here in the northeast where it rains a lot and the distance to groundwater is relatively small.
(Fortunately, the odor threshold for benzene is 50-100 ppb, so you’d never be drinking benzene at that level).
Testing for organics is complicated: for example, checking for gas and solvents, pesticides, and antifreeze all require different tests.
Most contaminants can be removed with the right kind of filtration system, but systems can be quite expensive to maintain.