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2005 Wastewater News


December, 2005

Suez wins $260 million wastewater contract in Qatar

French utility Suez said its Degremont unit won a 10-year contract worth $260 million to design, build and operate a waste water management factory near Doha in Qatar. The contract, which includes $180 million for the design and building of the factory, and $80 million for its operation, will be executed through a joint venture between Degremont and Japanese trading firm Marubeni Corp. Reuters_ 12/14/05

Tucson, Arizona looks to 'toilet-to-tap' for water of the future

Released more than a year ago, Tucson Water's draft 50-year water plan concludes that drinking treated wastewater is probably the way to go. The City Council is expected to act on the report in the spring of 2006. Dr. Daniel Okun, environmental engineering professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, thinks that too many cities may be deciding to use effluent in the future. Okun strongly encourages policy makers to consider other options. "Why should we use drinking water for toilets?" he asks. Even though a number of Western cities, such as Santa Fe, N.M., have drastically cut their water consumption through both voluntary and mandatory regulation, Tucson Water's draft plan includes no increase in conservation. Tucson Weekly_ 12/8/05

November, 2005

Japanese research facility accidentally releases slightly radioactive wastewater into a public drain

In addition, water containing a small amount of radiation leaked on two separate occasions at a nuclear power plant in western Japan, officials said Friday. Researchers at pharmaceutical company Seikagaku Corp. failed to shut off a tap in a laboratory on Wednesday, causing a tank of radioactive wastewater to overflow into a local drainage pipe, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said. The approximately 10,000 liters (2,600 gallons) of water released into the drainpipe contained only small amounts of radiation and did not pose a health or environmental hazard, the ministry said in a statement. AP/CNN_ 11/25/05

Wastewater conversion plan once again sparks political controversy in San Diego
A new attempt to convert wastewater into safe drinking water has created a political storm in San Diego, California. The idea, first proposed in 1999, works like this: wastewater is cleansed of its contaminants and then piped to a reservoir where it’s mixed with river water, then re-treated, and then added to the general water supply. Opponents believe that the system has potential health concerns. Proponents say the water is perfectly safe. Opponents say there is a class system at work: the rich will buy bottled water while the poor will drink what some call “Frankenwater.” San Diego Union-Tribune_ 11/23/05

October, 2005

Georgia wastewater rules: Back to status quo

The state Board of Natural Resources on Wednesday approved a controversial change to the state's wastewater rules, eliminating a requirement that could have forced communities to build expensive, state-of-the-art sewage treatment plants. The change, approved 12 to 3, effectively maintains status quo. State environmental officials said the wastewater rule change would not weaken state enforcement of pollution rules. The change was prompted by last year's Georgia Supreme Court ruling in a case involving Gwinnett County's quest to discharge up to 40 million gallons a day of treated sewage into Lake Lanier. The court, which invalidated the county's permit, strictly interpreted a 1973 requirement that's never been enforced. The requirement said new sewage treatment plants were supposed to sanitize wastewater using the "highest and best practicable" technology. Instead of enforcing the requirement, which is unique to Georgia, the state has been enforcing the weaker federal standard. Atlanta-Journal Constitution_ 10/27/05 (logon required)

Big pipe threatens Canadian drinking water: critics
Drinking water for millions of people could be poisoned and some of the most sensitive ecology in southern Ontario damaged if part of a 100-kilometre sewer system between Lake Simcoe and Lake Ontario is built, critics said Thursday.

But proponents called that fearmongering, saying much of the system has long been in place and the project, involving only a small part of the system, is perfectly safe. As much as 750 million litres of sewage a day would flow from Holland Landing for treatment in Pickering by way of the so-called Big Pipe, which is up to three metres in diameter and buried as deep as 45 metres.  National Post_10/20/05

Kissimmee River Basin gets $3M in alternative water supply funds
Water-supply utilities and agricultural operations in the Kissimmee River Basin will share more than $3 million in water supply funds approved by the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District.  The basin encompasses an area from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee.  In Orange and Osceola counties, a total of $2.89 million will assist in the construction of 12 projects expanding the use of treated wastewater -- or reuse -- for home lawn irrigation. Orange County Utilities, the Toho Water Authority and the cities of Ocoee and St. Cloud received assistance in expanding the network that delivers reuse to neighborhoods, and Toho received an additional $500,000 to help build a system that will use water from Shingle Creek to augment the utility's reuse system. That system is expected to reduce demand on traditional groundwater sources by up to 10 million gallons a day.  Orlando Business Journal_10/12/05

EU Report: Tackling wastewater pollution at source cheaper than cleaning up
A 'Polluter pays' approach, based on taxes and levies, reduces volumes of polluted water and offers the most cost effective route to compliance with EU legislation, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) based in Copenhagen. The pilot study, 'Effectiveness of Urban Wastewater Treatment Policies in Selected Countries', analyses successes and failures in policy for Denmark, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. It explains the relationship between effective wastewater management and the policies behind them.  Water pollution caused by 'untreated' wastewater continues despite three decades of efforts to clean up European surface waters. Several EU Member States have not satisfied the requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD), originally adopted in 1991 to cut waste water pollution by 2000.  The Dutch model, which is based on high water pollution levies and full costing of sewerage, comes close to satisfying the legislation and is the most cost-effective of the examples in the report. The report suggests that the absence of water pollution taxes in France and Spain will result in these countries failing to reach the 2005 targets cost-effectively. Denmark complies fully with the Directive, with discharges decreasing by 90%.  Pollution Online News_10/11/05

Schwarzenegger vetos effort by Palm Springs to sell its wastewater treatment plant

The California city wanted to sell the plant to Desert Water Agency but state law requires two thirds of local voters to approve the sale of a public utility. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said local taxpayers "have invested significant tax dollars in the assets of the utility" and should have the right to vote on its sale. Desert Sun_ 10/8/05

$880 million Clean Water Act agreement announced with Sanitation District No. 1 of Northern Kentucky

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the agreement. At a cost of at least $880 million, the District has agreed to make extensive improvements to its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage and to control overflows of combined sewage and stormwater. Each year, the District has been unlawfully discharging untreated sewage and experiencing overflows of combined sewage into the Ohio River and its tributaries in amounts totaling almost a billion gallons. The settlement is contained in a consent decree filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington. The decree represents the combined efforts of both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States, which have entered into this settlement as plaintiff and intervening plaintiff, respectively. Press Release/U.S. Newswire_ 10/7/05

Storm water violations to cost Hawaii $52 million
Federal and state agencies have reached an agreement with the Hawaii Department of Transportation over storm water violations that will end up costing the state about $52 million. The violations date to 1999. The EPA snapped photos of environmental violations at state construction yards, contaminated runoff at a state auto shop on Kauai and weeds growing out of a storm drain, which could lead to it getting clogged. The state Department of Transportation is splitting a $1 million fine between the EPA and the state Health Department. The state also agreed to spend $50 million over five years to cut down on storm water runoff. KITV4 News_ 10/6/05

September, 2005

$471 million in Clean Water Act compliance projects unfunded in an Alabama county

The projects were identified by the Jefferson County Commission in a report - marked confidential on its cover - that was prepared for the county by the engineering firm Burk-Kleinpeter. Commissioner Gary White said some of the projects may never get done for lack of money. Work mandated by a 1996 federal court consent decree must be done first, and money left over would go to Clean Water Act projects given priority by the county, according to county officials. The consent decree requires that the county fix leaky sewers and end direct discharges of sewage into streams. Projects on the CWA list include sewer trunks that need to be replaced and improved and some pump stations that need to be upgraded. Jefferson County is sixth in bond debt among the nation's counties, exceeded only by counties in the nation's largest metropolises, including New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco. Birmingham News/AL.com_  9/26/05 (logon required)

UK firm invests £1 in sewage treatment to remove more phosphorous
Severn Trent Water is investing £1m to improve the purity of water discharged from Tewkesbury sewage treatment works in Gloucestershire. Activated sludge plants, which use friendly bacteria to digest biological waste in sewage, are being modified so more phosphorus can be removed. The company said rivers in Gloucestershire were now at their cleanest since the Industrial Revolution, which was largely down to its £2.6bn investment in sewers and sewage treatment. BBC News_ 9/9/05

August, 2005

Tallahassee provides free water, sewer hookup

After 20 years of septic, Geraldine Harris finally switched over to Tallahassee's sewer system, primarily because the city has a new offer to qualified residents who still depend on septic tanks: The city will foot the bill.  Tallahassee Democrat_8/22/05

July, 2005

GE and Gen-Probe form alliance to develop the next generation of biological testing for the water industry

GE Infrastructure, Water & Process Technologies, a unit of General Electric Company and Gen-Probe announced that the two companies will work together on an exclusive basis to develop, manufacture and commercialize nucleic acid testing (NAT) technologies that are designed to detect the unique genetic sequences of microorganisms in selected water applications.  Worldwide, 1.2 billion people do not have access to safe, usable water daily, and 5 million people die each year from waterborne diseases.  The most common and pervasive water risks are caused by infectious diseases such as pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoan parasites. People are introduced to these microorganisms through contaminated drinking water, irrigation, aerosols, and washing or bathing.  The companies estimate that more than 1 billion industrial microbiology tests are conducted annually around the world.  Roughly three-quarters of these tests are conducted using culture methods that cannot deliver results as rapidly as NAT technologies.   Press Release_7/18/05

Small Canadian firm helps some of world's biggest miners clean up polluted wastewater

BioteQ Environmental Technologies Inc. says its water treatment method offers hope that the seepage of heavy metals from abandoned mine sites, which kills and harms aquatic life often for decades as no one wants to foot the bill, can be arrested. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company has developed a chemical and biological process that purifies dirty mine water but at the same time extracts from it metals like copper, nickel and zinc, which it then sells back to metals producers. BioteQ uses hydrogen sulfide in its treatment plants, which allows metal ions to be removed from the acid rock drainage. BioteQ is treating water and extracting metals at three major mine sites in North America: Canadian nickel miner Falconbridge's Raglan mine in Quebec, U.S. copper giant Phelps Dodge's Copper Queen site in Arizona and Breakwater Resources' Caribou mine in New Brunswick. Reuters_ 7/14/05

Perceptions of purity still cloud San Diego's push to reuse wastewater

San Diego could become the first city in California to store purified wastewater in a local reservoir for use as drinking water. Nationwide, only one region – northern Virginia – has a comparable system. San Diego's decision promises to be driven more by the perception of the city's 1.2 million water users than what national, state and local water experts say is the clear reality: that super-scrubbed wastewater is just as good or better than water taken from the Colorado River. If San Diego officials overcome the "toilet to tap" stigma that derailed their original "water repurification" strategy in the late 1990s, they could become national leaders for a technology that some say will be necessary for water development in the arid West. By year's end, a panel's conclusions will be presented to the City Council, which halted its first repurification project in 1999 after public outcry. San Diego Union-Tribune_ 7/12/05

Option to dump tainted water off San Luis Obispo debated

Federal water authorities have delayed deciding whether they might dump billions of gallons of selenium-tainted irrigation water from the San Joaquin Valley into the ocean near Cayucos, but they say that option remains unlikely.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation will hold a public meeting to discuss alternatives to disposing of billions of gallons a year of irrigation water containing selenium -- a substance known to cause deformities in waterfowl in the San Joaquin Valley.  The Tribune_7/12/05

South Carolina utility company faces record $4.3 million fine for spilling sewage

A small utility company accused of spilling sewage into the streets and fields of a Lexington County neighborhood for years faces a $4.3 million fine. State environmental regulators said they issued the record fine because Piney Grove Utilities Inc. has repeatedly failed to fix malfunctions at a sewer plant in Lexington County - and because raw sewage spills have presented an imminent health threat to the community. The company also faces more than $100,000 in additional fines for drinking water violations at two neighborhoods in Richland County, as well as sewer violations in Lexington County. Reece Williams IV, a Charleston resident who owns Piney Grove Utilities, said he may appeal DHEC's fines. AP/The State_ 7/9/05

Pollution politics in the West Bank; Many settlements lack adequate waste disposal facilities

Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists fear that Jewish settlers are regularly polluting the land, air and water of the occupied territories. Villagers say children have fallen ill after swimming in a local stream polluted by untreated sewage pumped from a settlement high on a nearby hilltop - Givat Zeev. Farmers complain that the sewage washes through the area when it rains, attracting insects that eat their crops and making animals sick. Haaretz/BBC News_ 7/6/05

June, 2005

Las Vegas' growth is a sewage gamble for Lake Mead

Las Vegas' relentless growth has raised concerns that the city's expansion will send more pollutants into Lake Mead, hurting water quality in the nation's biggest reservoir and the source of drinking supplies for millions in Southern California and the Southwest. A wastewater coalition is proposing a solution: a massive pipeline that would take most of the effluent from a wash that now empties into a shallow bay and instead dump it directly into the cold depths of the lake closer to Hoover Dam. There, in theory, it would undergo more dilution and be less likely to feed surface algal blooms. But some experts fear the pipeline project could simply export the pollution threat out of Mead to the lower Colorado River, where Southern California and Arizona draw water. Los Angeles Times_ 6/19/05 (logon required)

Arizona's Snowbowl gets nod to make snow from treated wastewater

The decision, by Harv Forsgren, director of the U.S. Forest Service's Southwest office in Albuquerque, follows years of protests by Native American tribes, who contend that development on the San Francisco Peaks interferes with their religious practices. But Forsgren said that the snowmaking, which will use treated wastewater pumped to the ski area from Flagstaff, does not violate the First Amendment rights of Native Americans and "does not preclude the continued use of the San Francisco Peaks for religious beliefs and practices." Operators of the Snowbowl have said that they likely would go out of business unless snowmaking was approved. Arizona Republic_ 6/9/05 (logon required)

New York's GOP Congresswoman Sue Kelly breaks ranks with President George Bush over federal funding for wastewater and water infrastructure projects

Kelly wants to increase funding for projects. Thomas Kelly, who heads up the state EFC that administers the state’s revolving loan fund, said New York State has the most need for new infrastructure of any of the 50 states. Mid-Hudson News Network_ 6/3/05

Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality says he denied Centerton a wastewater treatment plant permit because it cost less and was better for the environment to continue pumping sewage to Bentonville

Martin Manor, chief of ADEQ’s water division, also said discharging treated wastewater into Spavinaw Creek — a losing stream — would contaminate wells and drinking water for Oklahoma residents. Centerton officials contended that their proposed facility is so technologically advanced that treated wastewater could be recycled for drinking water. Benton County Daily Record_ 6/3/05

Orange flags indicate Pennsylvania's Monongahela River contains sewage discharges

Two years ago, the Mon Valley Sewage Authority implemented a combined sewer overflow (discharge warning system). The system was established to notify people who use the Monongahela River for recreational activities. Combined sewer systems are sewers designed to collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater in the same pipes. During dry weather, combined sewer systems transport all wastewater to the sewage plant for treatment. However, during periods of heavy rainfall or snow melt, the volume of storm water and wastewater in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the sewer system and treatment plant. When the orange flag is flying, the public should stay away from the river, or at least the areas of discharge along the river. Valley Independent_ 6/1/05

May, 2005

Smell at high-tech Dublin wastewater treatment plant lands Irish government in hot water with the European Commission

Designed to clean up the water in Dublin Bay, the Ringsend waste water treatment plant stands at the mouth of the River Liffey in Dublin Bay. It processes Dublin's sewage using the most advanced technology available. When it opened two years ago, it was heralded as the most modern facility of its kind in Europe. But a noxious waft emanates from the open tanks inside the £200 million plant, enveloping nearby suburbs in a foul smell. BBC News_ 5/4/05

April, 2005

Human waste, an unsavory import, raises water quality concerns in California's Central Valley

Southern California cities and counties truck about 450,000 tons of treated sewage waste each year to Kern County, where it dries in massive piles and then is spread on land that is used to grow crops for livestock. It is not spread on land that is used to grow foods for market. Critics are supporting a bill introduced in the state Legislature to stop the transport of human waste from California's urban counties to the state's farming communities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided in the early 1990s that spreading the nation's treated sewage waste over farmland was preferable to sending it out to sea or pouring it in landfills. Critics are concerned that chemicals in the waste from industrial sites, dry cleaners, morgues, hospitals and other businesses, can contaminate a massive underground aquifer Green Acres, Kern County's largest disposal site, sits next to a massive underground aquifer that stores irrigation and drinking water for surrounding farms and homes in Bakersfield and even Los Angeles. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 4/26/05

March, 2005

UK surfers ask officials to bathe in secondary-level treated sewage water

Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage will take a bath tub of water to County Hall, Lewes, and Brighton Town Hall. The move is timed to coincide with an expected planning application for a waste water plant at Peacehaven. Surfers said the plan offered secondary not full treatment but Southern Water said it would bring cleaner seas to Sussex. BBC News_ 3/9/05

February, 2005

Sierra Club files federal court suit alleging Florida regulators allow dirty water to seep into Miami-area drinking supply

The state Department of Environmental Protection responded that wells "are closely monitored to protect natural resources." The dispute concerns the South District Wastewater Treatment Facility in Miami-Dade County, where 112 million gallons of treated wastewater per day is pumped more than 2,500 feet below the ground, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee. The Sierra Club contends that since 1994, trillions of gallons of the treated sewage has migrated from the injection zone into the Floridan Aquifer, where drinking water is drawn from. The suit cites warnings from the federal Environmental Protection Agency going back to 1994, warning that the county could be in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. AP/Tallahassee Democrat_ 2/17/05

Cutting back on chlorine; More Charlotte, North Carolina-area sewage plants abandon gas to kill bacteria

In a few weeks, the last of five Charlotte-Mecklenburg sewage plants will end large-scale chlorine use and switch to ultraviolet light. The Graniteville, S.C., train wreck last month that sent a chlorine cloud into the air and killed nine has highlighted the dangers of a gas used routinely in water and wastewater plants across the country. Environmental advocates have urged cities to ditch chlorine for years, citing its toxicity and inability to kill a dangerous waterborne parasite, cryptosporidium. Now, they say recent rail accidents and worries that chlorine tankers could become terrorist targets are giving their campaign added urgency. Since 1999, 15 of the largest sewage plants nationwide, serving 23 million people, have drastically reduced their chlorine use. Charlotte Observer_ 2/14/05 (logon required)

Housing construction in Glasgow, Scotland, delayed by city's decaying water and sewerage infrastructure

The problems could cost as much as £1billion to sort out. Scottish Water says £1.8billion of investment was allocated across Scotland between 2002 and 2006, mainly to deliver better drinking water and to clean up beaches.  BBC News_ 1/18/05

Pollution-eating bacteria first found in sewage sludge may have evolved in response to human contamination of the environment

Researchers published the genetic sequence of the bug, called Dehalococcoides ethenogenes Strain 195, which was discovered in a sewage treatment plant by a team at Cornell University in New York. It is used at 17 polluted sites in 10 states. Different strains break down perchloroethylene or PCE, a chlorinated solvent used for dry cleaning; trichloroethylene, used to clean metal parts; chlorobenzenes, used to produce the now-banned pesticide DDT; and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, compounds that were once used as coolants and lubricants in transformers. The researchers said their findings suggest the bacteria may have developed the ability to munch chlorinated solvents fairly recently.Reuters_ 1/6/05


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