The EPA’s watchdog sniffs at landfill monitoring. The Obama administration ponders the viability of small satellites while a large satellite sends back images of the world’s oeans. The Senate Environment Committee will think about innovation in wastewater treatment. The Bureau of Reclamation invests in water research.
By the Numbers
$US 9.2 million: Dollars invested in 131 water and energy research projects for fiscal year 2015 (Bureau of Reclamation)
Reports and Studies
Global Water Cycle
Launched in 2011, NASA’s Aquarius satellite mission measures the salt content of the oceans. These measurements will lead to a better understanding of the world’s water cycle. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio has put together animated maps that show three years of data.
Ensuring Landfills Don’t Leak
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog will begin an investigation of the agency’s oversight of disaster debris and its disposal in landfills. Disaster debris is any material destroyed by hurricane, tornado, earthquake and other such calamities. Debris could be millions of cubic yards of vegetation and sediment or the remains of collapsed homes and business, which could hold toxic chemicals, lead-based paint, or asbestos.
Contaminants leaching from landfills that have received disaster debris could potentially contaminate water supplies, according to Jeffrey Lagda, spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General. Lagda told Circle of Blue that the investigation was initiated because of inspector observations and published reports that suggested that debris was being placed in landfills without proper controls for monitoring contaminants.
On the Radar
Senate Water Hearing
On Tuesday, a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee will discuss innovation in wastewater treatment. Witnesses include sanitation leaders from Green Bay, Wisconsin; San Francisco, and suburban Washington, D.C., as well as two lawyers versed in the Clean Water Act.
Can the United States monitor the planet’s air, land, and water resources using satellites that are smaller and cheaper than the current fleet? The Obama administration wants input from scientists and the public about the technical feasibility of microsatellites. To comment, fill out this form (PDF) and email it as an attachment to EarthObsStudy@OSTP.gov.
Protecting the Texas Gulf Coast
The six counties in the upper Texas Gulf Coast – from the Louisiana border to Galveston Bay – are home to 40 percent of the U.S. petrochemical industry, three of the largest U.S. seaports, and three of the nine largest oil refineries in the world. More than two million people in this region live near the shore. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will prepare an environmental review of measures to protect vulnerable areas from destructive storm surges, measures that include mechanical gates and land purchases.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton