YOUR GLOBAL RUNDOWN
- La Niña’s effect on winter weather and water supply can be unpredictable in states like Colorado.
- A new study reveals the mental and physical health impact of piped water for women and girls in rural Zambia.
- Unprecedented charges against former Michigan officials spark a debate over how to punish leaders for their failures.
- New Jersey sues the federal government for contaminating drinking water with PFAS chemicals found on military bases in the state.
The fast-food chain McDonald’s promises to stop using single-use food packaging made with PFAS chemicals by 2025.
“The commitment from the largest fast-food chain in the world, McDonald’s, will help drive PFAS out of food packaging elsewhere, too. It furthers the larger mission we are actively pursuing of eliminating non-essential uses of PFAS. We have to get PFAS out of products to get these harmful pollutants out of our drinking water.” – Mara Herman, a health policy specialist with the Ecology Center. McDonald’s has pledged to phase out PFAS substances from its food packaging by 2025. MLive reports that advocacy groups hope the move will encourage other fast-food chains will follow suit.
IN RECENT WATER NEWS
Days after Flint residents learned that former Gov. Rick Snyder and other officials would face criminal charges for their role in the water crisis that poisoned Flint residents, news emerged that Snyder would face two misdemeanors for, in the words of Flint resident Paula Stephenson, “destroying us.”
Other former officials face more serious charges. Nick Lyon, the former director of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, faces nine counts of involuntary manslaughter. So does former Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells. Former Snyder aide Rich Baird, former chief of staff Jarrod Agen, and former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose all face felonies, too.
In Case You Missed It:
H2O HotSpots: Rapidly Disappearing Tuni Glacier Raises Concerns for Bolivian Water Scarcity – The Tuni glacier, a formerly vast piece of ice that rises over the Bolivian capital of La Paz as a critical water source, is disappearing faster than predicted, reported Reuters earlier this month. The resulting melt will lead to further water shortages in the capital region, where water is already scarce.
What’s Up With Water – January 18, 2020 – This week’s episode covers charges against Michigan officials for their alleged role in the Flint water crisis, dangerous levels of PFAS chemicals found across several Chinese cities and a new regional wastewater treatment facility in British Columbia, Canada.
Study Reveals The Impact of Piped Water on Women in Rural Zambia
Research from Stanford University found that the quality of life for women in rural Zambia drastically improved when piped water was installed near their homes. According to Reuters, the study found that women and girls, who typically bear the brunt of water gathering, spent 80 percent less time fetching water when they had access to piped supplies. Piped water saved each of the 434 households studied an average of around 200 hours per year, leaving more time for women and girls to spend gardening, caring for children, selling goods, or learning. The women also reported feeling happier, healthier and less anxious the less they spent carrying water containers.
TODAY’S TOP WATER STORIES, TOLD IN NUMBERS
100,000 FLINT RESIDENTS
Associated Press reports that charges against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other public health officials for their role in the Flint water crisis have sparked a debate over the correct way to punish the failures of elected officials. Prosecutors say that this was no ordinary matter of well-meant decisions that backfired, while opponents say the charges are vengeful overreach that could do more harm than good. Snyder, who was charged with willful neglect of duty for knowingly failing to protect Flint’s nearly 100,000 residents against lead contaminated water, is the first governor in Michigan history to be charged with crimes involving job performance. Ron Sullivan, a Harvard Law School professor, said the bar for a conviction will be high given the unprecedented nature of the case.
264,300 PARTS PER TRILLION (PPT)
The state of New Jersey sued the federal government for allegedly contaminating public drinking water supplies with toxic PFAS chemicals found at three military bases in the state. NJ Spotlight reports that in 2016, testing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst found combined levels of PFOS and PFOA in groundwater as high as 264,300 parts per trillion (ppt). The chemicals were also found on or near two other military bases at levels that far exceeded state and federal standards. The U.S. EPA’s unenforceable standard for PFAS is 70 ppt, and New Jersey recently set levels for 13 ppt for PFOS and 14 ppt for PFOA.
ON THE RADAR
How a La Niña cycle, during which water temperatures in the Central Pacific Ocean are lower than average for at least three months in a row, affects winter forecasting is less than predictable, The Sopris Sun reports. La Niña periods can’t be categorized until the cycle is complete and temperature data can be analyzed. In Colorado, the last strong La Niña period resulted in far above average snowpack, while the most recent weak La Niña in 2017-18 brought far below average snowpack. La Niña could impact water supply in the state in the coming year. Currently, much of Western Colorado is faces extreme drought. Snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin is about 70 percent of average.
Jane is a Communications Associate for Circle of Blue. She writes The Stream and has covered domestic and international water issues for Circle of Blue. She is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University, where she studied Multimedia Journalism and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. During her time at Grand Valley, she was the host of the Community Service Learning Center podcast Be the Change. Currently based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jane enjoys listening to music, reading and spending time outdoors.