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Water Quality

Germany’s environment minister says the mass die-off of fish in the Oder River is an ecological catastrophe and it's not clear yet how long it will take the river to recover. Steffi Lemke spoke Sunday at a news conference alongside her Polish counterpart, Anna Moskwa. Moskwa said the cause of the mass die-off of fish has not yet been determined. The meeting took place in Szczecin, a Polish city on the Oder River. Both ministers said they were focused now on doing what they can do limit the damage. Ten tons of dead fish were removed last week from the Oder, which runs along the border between Poland and Germany before flowing into the Baltic Sea.

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Poland’s environment minister says laboratory tests following a mass fish die-off have detected high salinity levels but no mercury in the Oder River. That means the mystery is continuing as to what killed tons of fish in Central Europe. The minister said analyses of river samples taken in both Poland and Germany revealed the elevated salt levels. She says comprehensive toxicology studies are still underway in Poland. The Oder River runs from Czechia and along the border between Poland and Germany before flowing into the Baltic Sea. Poland's prime minister vowed Saturday to do everything possible to limit the environmental devastation. A reward has been offered for information about those responsible.

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California's top environmental regulator and a key climate adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom will leave the administration at the end of the month. Jared Blumenfeld has served as secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency since Newsom's first day in office in 2019. The agency oversees departments that regulate air pollution, water use, recycling, toxic substances, pesticides and environmental health hazards. Blumenfeld said Friday he'll become the president of the Waverley Street Foundation, a $3 billion climate initiative. Yana Garcia, a special assistant attorney general focused on the environment in the state justice department, will take over the state's EPA chief.

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Social media users shared a range of false claims this week. Here are the facts: An image purporting to show Ghislaine Maxwell with the judge who approved the FBI search warrant for Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was manipulated by combining two unrelated photos. Monkeypox hasn't been detected in Georgia drinking water. A video of a speech by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was translated incorrectly to English. The World Health Organization Director-General is vaccinated against COVID-19, and scientists say a recent finding that Earth is spinning slightly faster is no cause for concern.

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Poland’s prime minister says “huge amounts of chemical waste” were probably dumped intentionally into the Oder River, which runs along the border with Germany. He described the environmental damage as so severe it will take the river ecosystem years to recover. Tons of dead fish have been seen floating or washed ashore in the last two weeks along the banks of the Oder. Poland's leader vowed that authorities would not rest until the guilty are punished. His government is facing pressure for its handling of what appears to be a major environmental catastrophe. German media report that the suspected poison was mercury. German officials say Poland failed to alert it quickly enough about the contamination.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing proposed aquatic life water quality standards for mercury pollution in Idaho that could have statewide ramifications. The agency on Wednesday made public a proposed remedy resulting from a federal court's 2021 ruling in a lawsuit by two environmental groups. The court ruled that the agency's 2008 disapproval of Idaho's mercury criteria created a mandatory duty for the agency to develop criteria for the state that complies with the federal Clean Water Act. The agency is taking public comments through Sept. 9 on its plan to propose the mercury criteria within 18 months.

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A judge has declared a mistrial in a dispute over partial liability for Flint, Michigan's lead-contaminated water. The jury couldn't reach a unanimous verdict after hearing months of evidence against two engineering firms. Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman were accused of not doing enough to get Flint to treat the highly corrosive water or to urge a return to a regional water supplier. The jury deliberated for roughly seven days after hearing evidence for months. The trial involved four Flint children who consumed the water. It became contaminated in 2014-15 because water pulled from the Flint River wasn’t treated to reduce the corrosive effect on lead pipes. Separately, the state is paying $600 million of a $626 million settlement with residents.

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Michigan environmental are accusing an auto trim maker of violating the law after releasing industrial chemicals into a river system northwest of Detroit. Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy says its Water Resources Division served Tribar Manufacturing in Wixom on Tuesday. A plating solution containing hexavalent chromium was discharged to a sanitary sewer system the weekend of July 29 and ended up at an area wastewater treatment facility. That facility sends wastewater to a creek that flows into the Huron River system. State health officials say hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that can cause a number of health problems for people who ingest, inhale or touch it.

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The Louisiana Department of Health is advising people to stay away from a recent oil spill and not to fish in areas with visible oil slicks or sheens. The statement Wednesday also warns against driving vessels through slicks or sheens. The Coast Guard says nearly 14,000 gallons of oil spilled from a tank on Monday, after an oil tank platform collapsed in Terrebonne Bay. The agency said Tuesday that nobody was hurt and it has not received any reports of affected wildlife. The spill occurred at Hilcorp's Caillou Island facility. The company has not responded to a request for comment made Tuesday through its website. The cause of the collapse is being investigated.

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Beach crews have found the first sea turtle nest on the Mississippi mainland in four years. Officials say a Harrison County Sand Beach crew that was cleaning up found what appeared to be turtle tracks just east of the Pass Christian Harbor. They protected the area and called the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, which followed the tracks to a nesting site that is now marked off with stakes and tape. Scientists say the Mississippi Sound and Gulf of Mexico are important sea turtle habitats, but the 2010 oil spill and the 2019 opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway hurt the turtle population.

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The developer of a major pipeline system has pleaded no contest to criminal charges that it systematically polluted waterways and residential water wells across hundreds of miles in Pennsylvania. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Operating agreed Friday to independent testing of homeowners’ water and promised to remediate contamination. The settlement involves two separate criminal cases brought by the Pennsylvania attorney general. Under a plea deal, the company will pay $10 million to restore watersheds and streams along the Mariner East pipeline network. Mariner East has been one of the most penalized projects in Pennsylvania history. Energy Transfer had no immediate comment.

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The Honolulu Board of Water Supply says it detected a small amount of a chemical naturally occurring in coal, crude oil and gasoline in a monitoring well near the Navy's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. A news release from the utility says it found “very low levels” of the chemical. Utility officials shared their data with regulators, who agree the low levels aren't expected to have health effects. Still, they say the situation needs attention and continued monitoring. The fuel tank facility spilled jet fuel into a Navy drinking water well last year, sickening 6,000 people in and around Pearl Harbor.

The owner of an aging gas-fired power plant along California's coast won't be required to pay fines for some water pollution it causes through 2023. That's due to a Tuesday vote by the State Water Resources Control Board. The plant was originally slated to close in 2020 but the state wants it to stay open until 2023 to ensure there's enough power to avoid blackouts. The plant uses ocean water as part of its cooling process, causing polluted water discharges. The board will require the company that owns the plant to pay some environmental groups to do cleanup and restoration work instead of paying the fines.

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The owner of an aging gas-fired power plant along California's coast won't be required to pay fines for some water pollution it causes through 2023. That's due to a Tuesday vote by the State Water Resources Control Board. The plant was originally slated to close in 2020 but the state wants it to stay open until 2023 to ensure there's enough power to avoid blackouts. The plant uses ocean water as part of its cooling process, causing polluted water discharges. The board will require the company that owns the plant to pay some environmental groups to do cleanup and restoration work instead of paying the fines.

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Mention global warming and farming infrequently enters the conversation. However, as Jeff Rowe notes in his Associated Press review of George Monbiot's “Regenesis,” the author says much commercial field farming and most raising of animals for meat is ravaging the Earth, ruining soils, expelling carbon and methane in fearsome quantities and polluting rivers and lakes. One solution: We all can eat far less meat. But leading farmers such as California’s A.G. Kawamura say it’s not necessary to become a vegetarian to save the soil – innovative farmers already are making great progress in discovering farming practices that heal the Earth and produce more food.

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After 21 idle wells were found to be leaking methane — some of them explosive levels of it — in Bakersfield, California in May and June, the California Air Resources Board told the Associated Press that it’s not tallying leaks from idle wells. That means officials can’t include those leaks in their total emissions counts. That's significant because methane is a potent greenhouse gas and law requires the state to ramp down all of its carbon emissions to zero. The state plans to use new satellite sensors to get a count. And a new proposal in the US Senate would provide hundreds of millions of dollars to address this issue nationwide.

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The water that comes out of the tap for more than 900,000 Californians is unsafe to drink and the state isn't acting fast enough to help clean it up. Those are among the findings of a state audit release Tuesday. Water systems are considered failing if they have high levels of a range of contaminants like nitrate and arsenic that can make people sick. The State Water Resources Control Board has provided at least $1.7 billion in grants since 2016 to help districts to clean up their systems. But the audit says it took 33 months on average in 2021 for water systems to complete the application process and receive money.

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The Justice Department says it's investigating illegal dumping in Houston, including dead bodies and medical waste, that officials say is plaguing Black and Latino neighborhoods in the nation’s fourth largest city. The investigation will be led by the department’s civil rights division and will examine whether city police and other departments discriminate against Black and Latino residents in violation of federal civil rights laws. Besides bodies, items dumped in majority Black or Latino neighborhoods include appliances, furniture, tires, medical waste and vandalized ATM machines, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said at a news conference Friday.

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Japan’s nuclear regulator has approved methods and facilities for the release of treated radioactive wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea next year. Friday's approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority will enable Tokyo Electric Power Co. to start building necessary facilities ahead of the discharge. It came two months after a preliminary greenlight and a subsequent public reviewing process. TEPCO submitted the plan in December as a necessary step for the Fukushima Dai-Ichi’s ongoing decommissioning. The government and TEPCO plan to begin gradually releasing the treated water in spring 2023.

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Jurors have heard closing arguments in the only trial to arise so far from the Flint water crisis. It's a dispute over whether two engineering firms should be held partially responsible for Flint's lead contamination in 2014-15. Attorneys for four Flint children claim Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman didn’t do enough to get Flint to treat the highly corrosive water or to urge a return to a regional water supplier. The engineering firms performed work for Flint. They were not part of a $626 million settlement involving Flint residents, the state of Michigan and other parties. Monday will be the first full day of jury deliberations in federal court in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Fewer manatee deaths have been recorded so far this year in Florida compared to 2021 but wildlife officials caution that chronic starvation remains a dire and ongoing threat to the marine mammals. Between Jan. 1 and July 15, about 630 manatee deaths have been confirmed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. That compares with 864 during the same period last year, when a record number of manatees died mainly from a lack of seagrass food, which was decimated by water pollution; the five-year average of manatee deaths in that time frame is 481. Wildlife officials say manatees continue to face dwindling food options and many survivors are severely weakened by malnutrition.

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Calistoga's tap water failed to meet a quality standard recently, although the water remains safe to drink, according to the city.

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