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Key Clause of Clean Water Act Redefined in New Court Ruling. Could Leave Wetlands Unprotected by Polluters

Protected wetlands area In Northern Illinois.

WOTUS roll back. Proposed Federal Rule Retracts the Reach of the Clean Water Act.— Home Science (@HomeScienceBlog) January 8, 2019


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Brown’s Creek fish hoping for a big chill

East Metro Water

This is a story about trout. It’s also a story about local history, changing landscapes, and people trying to do the right thing.

Somewhere in the wetland dappled landscape near the now-closed Withrow Elementary, water begins to gather and form a stream we now call Brown’s Creek. The stream flows through soggy fields in Grant and Stillwater Township before it eventually plunges into a deep, wooded gorge in northern Stillwater, then on to the St. Croix River. Because it is fed by groundwater along the way, the creek is cold and clear. Rainbow darters live there, as well as rare species of aquatic invertebrates known to only the most dedicated biologists.

20181009_085808 Students from Stillwater Area High School sample Brown’s Creek for macroinvertebrates and other aquatic animals with help from the Washington Conservation District.

Over the years, people have diverted the creek into Lake McKusick and then back again. It’s been…

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Keeping “doggie poo-llution” out of our watersheds.

A recent pamphlet from Philadelphia Water highlights the issue accruing in urban centers: pet ownership is on the rise, and accordingly, so is pet waste. If not dealt with responsibly, pet waste can be a big problem, hindering efforts to keep watersheds clean.

What’s more, the city has some tips and rules specific to follow when taking your little ones out for walks. This is for the benefit of your pet’s wellbeing, you, and the that of your neighbors.

Believe me I know, I’ve got one at home. Someday, perhaps he will win PWD’s prestigious clean water “spokesdog” title.

Tonka the Pugador.


More on that and the issues of pet waste in cities like Philly can be found here on the website

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Curbing Stormwater with Sidewalk Tree Trenches

Philadelphia was among the first cities to commit to a long term stormwater management plan utilizing green infrastructure as a key component. Their Green Cities, Clean Waters program includes bio retention features such as swales and rain gardens and bio infiltration sites for subsurface water catchment such as tree trenches and planters.


The overall goal is not only to curb polluted sewer overflows and flooding, but to reawaken the urban ecosystem and beautify the city. It also saves costs over expensive traditional “grey” infrastructure and creates a “green collar” workforce.


The image here is of a tree trench, a subsurface catchment tool. Without the nearby plaque educating residents about the site, along with a phone scannable QR info link, one could easily assume it was just an ordinary city sidewalk with landscaping. But there’s much more here than meets the eye, and the plaque aims to engage citizens with the science.

With installations of surface features such as rain gardens and stormwater planters, which are viewable in public parks, schools and people’s yards, citizens have the opportunity to become aware of the challenges the city faces in providing and maintaining clean water – an opportunity traditional grey infrastructure doesn’t often provide.

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Imagine a Day Without Water…

A campaign from the Water Sector has offers ideas and tips for conservation efforts our essential resource.


The Source: Drinking Water Headlines

Circle October 10 on your calendars.  This is the date for the Value of Water Campaign’s 2018 Imagine a Day Without Water.  To help spark ideas among those who wish to participate, the Campaign has provided a link that offers ideas and tips for some of the Water Sector’s leading communications teams to use.

For example, click below to see how:

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How Plants Communicate

Injured plants warn neighbors of danger, UD study finds

When Harsh Bais, a botanist at the University of Delaware, emailed Connor Sweeney to tell the high school student he would be willing to mentor him on a research project, Sweeney, a competitive swimmer, was so ecstatic he could have swum another 200-meter butterfly at practice.

“I knew I would have a lot to learn, but I was ready for that,” says the 18-year-old from Wilmington, Delaware.

Two years and dozens of experiments later, Sweeney, now a senior at Charter School of Wilmington, is the first author of a research article published in Frontiers in Plant Science, a leading scientific journal — a rare achievement for a high school student.

What Sweeney and Prof. Bais discovered at the University of Delaware may make you think differently from now on when you mow the lawn or the cat starts noshing on your houseplants.

In studies of Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as mustard weed, the team found that when a leaf was nicked, the injured plant sent out an emergency alert to neighboring plants, which began beefing up their defenses.

“A wounded plant will warn its neighbors of danger,” says Bais, who is an associate professor of plant and soil sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “It doesn’t shout or text, but it gets the message across. The communication signals are in the form of airborne chemicals released mainly from the leaves.”

Sweeney delved into work in Bais’s lab at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute after school, on weekends and during summer breaks, culturing an estimated thousand Arabidopsis plants for experiments. Seeds were placed in Petri plates and test tubes containing agar, a gelatinous growing medium. Each batch of seeds would germinate after about six days, transforming into delicate-stemmed three-inch plants with bright-green leaves.

One day in the lab, Sweeney put two plants a few centimeters apart on the same Petri plate and made two small cuts on the leaf of one to simulate an insect’s attack.

What happened next, as Sweeney says, was “an unexpected surprise.” The next day, the roots on the uninjured neighbor plant had grown noticeably longer and more robust — with more lateral roots poking out from the primary root.

“It was crazy — I didn’t believe it at first,” Bais says. “I would have expected the injured plant to put more resources into growing roots. But we didn’t see that.”

Bais asked Sweeney to repeat the experiment multiple times, partitioning the plants to rule out any communication between the root systems. In previous research, Bais had shown how soil bacteria living among the roots can signal leaf pores, called stomata, to close up to keep invasive pathogens out.

“The reason why the uninjured plant is putting out more roots is to forage and acquire more nutrients to strengthen its defenses,” Bais says. “So we began looking for compounds that trigger root growth.”

Sweeney measured auxin, a key plant growth hormone, and found more of this gene expressed in neighboring plants when an injured plant was around. He also confirmed that neighbor plants of injured plants express a gene that corresponds to a malate transporter (ALMT-1). Malate attracts beneficial soil microbes, including Bacillus subtilis, which Bais and his colleagues discovered several years ago. Apparently, uninjured plants that are in close proximity to injured ones and that have increased malate transporter associate more with these microbes. These beneficials bond with the roots of the uninjured plants to boost their defenses.

Homing in on chemical signals

“So the injured plant is sending signals through the air. It’s not releasing these chemicals to help itself, but to alert its plant neighbors,” Bais said.

What are these mysterious concoctions, known scientifically as volatile organic compounds, and how long do they persist in the atmosphere or in soil for that matter — is it like a spritz of perfume or the lingering aroma of fresh-cooked popcorn?

“We don’t know yet,” says Bais, who has already started this next leg of the research. “But if you go through a field of grass after it’s been mowed or a crop field after harvesting, you’ll smell these compounds.”

Bais credits Sweeney for the discovery, praising his hard work and willingness to learn, on top of his other high school studies and swimming upwards of 22 hours a week.

“You have to approach this work with dedication and completeness. You can’t just do it halfway,” Bais says. “In Connor, you have grad student material. Wherever he will go, he will shine.”

“Working with Dr. Bais has beengreat,” Sweeney says. “Most kids don’t get to work in a lab. I’ve actually completed the whole project and written a paper. It’s very exciting.”

Sweeney also credits swimming for helping him with the science.

“Swimming requires a certain level of mental tenacity — it requires staring at the bottom of a pool,” he says. “The learning curve here was very steep for me. When I had contamination in a lab sample, when I breathed on something, I had to start over. But the patience and diligence I’ve learned have made me a better scientist.”

The son of UD alums, Sweeney first visited the Delaware Biotechnology Institute as an eighth grader, for a boot camp on basic laboratory procedures, which sparked his interest in research. He has since won the 2016 Delaware BioGENEius Challenge, was a 2016 international BioGENEius Challenge finalist and was named a semifinalist in the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search. This fall, he will head off to MIT, double-majoring in economics and biological engineering.”I’m interested in looking at the agricultural side of science,” he says. “It may not sound sexy, but everybody needs to eat. So if you can use cutting-edge technologies in genomics that feed more people while lessening the environmental footprint, that’s where I want to be.”

University of Delaware. “Plants call 911 to help their neighbors: Researcher teams with high school student on discovery that injured plants send off chemical warnings.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 May 2017. <>.

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New EPA Inspector General Report on Oversight of State Drinking Water Programs

The Source: Drinking Water Headlines

Yesterday (7/19), EPA’s Inspector General released a report on management and oversight issues with state drinking water programs post-Flint. This report has gotten some press, and media stories may continue for a while.

The report summarizes what happened in Flint – the city switched their water supply and did not continue with the addition of a corrosion inhibitor. However, the report details management, oversight, and communication issues within (and between) Michigan DEQ and EPA Region 5. The report has a one-page summary, with these recommendations at the end of that summary:
We recommend that EPA headquarters and EPA Region 5 use lessons learned from Flint to improve its oversight of Safe Drinking Water Act compliance. We also recommend that EPA headquarters revise the Lead and Copper Rule to improve the effectiveness of monitoring requirements. The EPA agreed with eight of the nine recommendations and provided adequate planned corrective actions and completion dates –…

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