Contaminants of Concern: 20k miles of impaired rivers in Pennsylvania, neurotoxin in Antarctic sea

Aug. 9, 2016

All 347 miles of the Susquehanna River were listed as impaired for fish consumption, and a four-mile stretch of the river was labeled impaired for recreation use.

Almost 20K miles of Pennsylvania rivers labeled impaired in new report

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released its 2016 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report (Integrated Report) and in it identified 19,900 miles of the state’s rivers as impaired for at least one of its uses.

Rivers’ water quality is examined for acceptability of four uses: water supply, aquatic life, recreation and fish consumption. All 347 miles of the Susquehanna River were listed as impaired for fish consumption, and a four-mile stretch of the river was labeled impaired for recreation use. In addition, 1,665 miles of the Susquehanna’s tributaries were listed as impaired, including Condodoguinet Creek, Swatara Creak and Conestoga Creek, which were all impaired for both recreation and aquatic life.

In response to this report (and the last Integrated Report in 2014), DEP increased monitoring of the Susquehanna and created advanced analytic protocols new to large river system study.  New protocol includes emerging contaminant sampling, algal composition and toxicity studies, and deployment of continuous data monitors.

Researchers find toxic levels of methylmercury in Antarctic sea

Powerful neurotoxin methylmercury was found in Antarctic sea ice during a research expedition by a Melbourne University research team aboard the Aurora Australis ice breaker, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Scientists behind the study, which was published in the August issue of Nature Microbiology journal, were surprised to find methylmercury in the ice, despite the known presence of mercury. The researchers noted mercury could easily travel to the continent because it has a long resonance time and can travel for thousands of kilometers; it also occurs both naturally from volcanic eruptions and through industrial sources. However, the presence of methylmercury was unexpected.

The study also identified nitrospina, a marine bacterium, in the area. The researchers posited that nitrospina might be a catalyst in the transformation of mercury into its more dangerous form, methylmercury.

The major concern established by the study is that methylmercury could find its way into the human food chain through marine life, especially as Antarctic ice begins to melt. Chief among methylmercury’s effects is a hindrance to brain development, especially in fetuses and young children.

For the full report, click here.

Duke Energy attempts to block testimony in coal ash contamination case

Duke Energy filed a motion to block testimony from a North Carolina state environmental toxicologist Dr. Kenneth Rudo who testified the claim that well water near Duke’s coal-ash pits was safe for residents was "scientifically untrue."

Duke proposes Rudo’s testimony is "largely hearsay" and argues making his testimony public would prevent the company from receiving an impartial jury in the coal ash contamination case.

In March 2015, Rudo advised well owners in the area against drinking or cooking, despite his own department administrators saying they considered it safe under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and removed his name from forms stating the water was safe.

Some residents of the area were again issued a do-not-drink warning this July after high levels of hexavalent chromium, a cancer causing contaminant, were identified in the water.