Colombian president Gustavo Petro is concerened about the environmental impact of mining in his country. According to the news site, Petro said he would block mining projects that threaten water sources. The president’s announcement coincided with his trip to the municipality of Jericó. The northwestern district is the site for a proposed copper and gold mine that would be developed by the South African company AngloGold Ashanti. The mine is expected to produce 3 billion pounds of copper over 23 years. Petro indicated that his government will not allow the mine to proceed. AngloGold Ashanti responded that the mine would not damage water bodies and that the company would work with regulators to resume the project. Petro is a left-leaning former guerilla fighter who took office last August clearly opposed to mining and fracking. Instead he favors support for clean energy production.
In the United States, California views itself as an environmental leader with strict protections for land and water. Its handling of toxic materials, however, tells a slightly different story. An investigation by the non-profit news site CalMatters found that California send a large portion of its hazardous waste to facilities in other states that have weaker environmental rules. The investigation found that since 2010, nearly half of the hazardous waste generated in California was shipped out of state. The waste includes well-known hazards such as asbestos. But the largest portion is contaminated soil from waste cleanup sites. The soil contains heavy metals, DDT, or oil products. Although most of the waste is deposited at specialized facilities, some goes to municipal landfills, including two sites near Native American reservations. California’s stricter environmental standards make disposal more expensive. That, in turn, prompts companies and state agencies to look at sites outside the state. Still, people who live near the waste dumps wonder why toxic materials are being moved into their neighborhoods. California regulators are developing a new hazardous waste management plan that could address some of these concerns. The plan is due in two years.
A new report from the U.S.’s top science organization says that tracking Covid-19 using wastewater was a success and that the technique should be expanded to protect public health. The report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends upgrading the nation’s wastewater surveillance system. One suggestion is to make the system truly national. Currently, wastewater testing is a patchwork effort conducted by local, state, and federal agencies. That was largely because of the need for speed during the pandemic emergency. Challenges to expanding the system include building public trust and generating reliable data. People shed virus particles in their feces, which means that wastewater samples provide a snapshot of the virus’s spread within a community. This is a cheaper and more convenient means of tracking the virus than testing a lot of people individually. During the pandemic, public health officials used wastewater data to monitor outbreaks on college campuses and identify viral hotspots within cities. The technique has also been used to track polio and to estimate the use of illegal drugs.
And that’s What’s Up With Water from Circle of Blue, where water speaks. You’ll find more news and analysis – and a chance to support our work  – at This is Eileen Wray-McCann – thanks for being here.