Monday, January 30, 2017

Repair or Replace a Contaminated Well

Often though my blog or the Virginia Master Well Owners Network I receive questions about well and septic problems. The Virginia Master Well Owner Network (VAMWON) is an organization of trained volunteers dedicated to promoting the proper construction, maintenance, and management of private water systems (wells, springs, and cisterns) in Virginia. The Cooperative Extension Services in Virginia manages the program and have numerous publications and fact sheets that can help homeowners make educated decisions about their drinking water. The volunteers can help homeowners interpret their test results and make educated decisions about what treatment might be appropriate and desirable or appropriate solutions to problems. Last week I received the following:

My septic was leaking months before I figured it out. I had the septic repaired in September 2016. I can still smell it some when it rains on the turned up soil from the repair. Now I have found that my well is infected. I tested positive for bacteria and e-coli. I chlorine shocked my well and retested, it's back again. How long do I have to wait for my area to be clean again? Will it just be a few more months for nature to clear the area? Or could this take years?
Here are a few other details about my situation.

My well is a shallow bored well that is 30' deep, 8' water level, and 36" wide cement rings. The house, well and septic were built in 1951. My house is a 32' wide cape-cod style cinder block house with a low crawl space that sits on a lot with a nice slope from front (street) to back, which leads eventually to a ditch in my back yard that eventually leads to a stream well over five hundred yards away. The well is on the left side of the house and the septic is on the right side of the house. None of the septic field sits uphill from the well. However, the septic leaked into the ground likely for over 6 months before I figured out what was going on. The septic field moves into the back yard which is about 50 feet from the well. The septic has been fixed. I watched and they did a good job of it.

My local well company says I am getting ground water intrusion as the well is not grouted between the rings. With a simple hose I saw water leaking into the well from the surface. They want to seal the well from the outside by pouring cement around the outside and are charging me about $2,000 for it.

I want to fix the well so I don't get this ground water intrusion. However I don't think that is going to solve my bacteria problem. I have had my well water tested by an independent testing company twice now. Once in late November which started the well diagnosis, and again 6 weeks after we shocked the well. Both came back positive for bacteria and e-coli.

I'm trying to figure out if I should install a disinfecting filter or should I consider stopping all work on this well and dig a new deep well. I'm not sure if a deep well will solve my problem.

So, do I spend $2k to seal the well, plus a few thousand $ on a disinfectant and sediment filter, plus reshock the well and house a few times. Or do I spend $5-8k on a deep well. I would really appreciate some help from someone who is not trying to make a lot of money off me. I don't know how much to trust these companies.

So let’s talk about what is going on here. Her groundwater is probably flowing from the front of the house to the rear with the topography and towards the river. Nonetheless, the shallow groundwater which is what her well was tapping has become contaminated. Her well is a dug or bored wells. These types of are prone to go dry during droughts and because they are shallow (less than 40 feet deep) are more subject to pollution. Drilled wells are more than 40 feet deep, typically more than 100. This well has served this house 65 years, it’s contaminated, the shallow aquifer is contaminated- the well’s done. Do not waste money trying to grout a 65 year old shallow well.

In Virginia wells must comply with regulations in effect since 1992. While many wells like this one will last decades, it is reported that 20 years is the average age of well failure. Well failure can appear in many forms. In this case, the shallow groundwater is contaminated, she only has water because it is such are water rich area. As our writer found out, septic drainfields also have a limited life. The life of a septic drainfield is dependent on how the system is managed, the frequency of septic tank pump outs, and the number of people living in a house, but 20-30 years may be the life of those systems, too. It is good bet that the septic system had been failing for much longer than 6 months.

To provide the best natural protection and prevent contamination to a well regulations in Virginia and several other states require that the well should be 100 feet from the nearest edge of the septic drainfield and 50 feet from the nearest corner of the house. If the land area is small, the way to to separate the two as far as possible is to use vertical separation- with the septic drainfield downgradient of the well go deep with the well. In Virginia (and most places) if a well is more than 100 feet deep the septic leach field need be only 50 feet away, but there are many wells like mine that have more than one water level and the shallower one is less than 100 feet deep (in my case 46 feet) making the well much more susceptible to contamination for the septic effluent leaching into the ground. You must make sure that the well is lined, grouted and the geology protects you from the drainfield to prevent the new well from being impacted by the septic system.

She mentioned that her well was contaminated with E. coli. Fecal coliform is the group of the total coliform that is considered to be present specifically in the gut and feces of warm-blooded animals. E. coli is considered to be the species of coliform bacteria that is the best indicator of fecal pollution and the possible presence of pathogens. If there is not a nearby animal waste composting facility, then you are probably drinking water from a failed septic system- yours or your nearest neighbors or both. To solve this problem you need to fix or replace the septic system that is causing the contamination, replace the well or implement and properly maintain the right water treatment system. Even if a failing septic system is repaired, it can take months or years for the contaminated water to dissipate depending on a variety of factors including, depth of the well, groundwater flow and geology. In the meantime, you need to treat your water. Understand that if your well has been impacted by a failed septic system, it has been contaminated not only by fecal contamination, but also by everything else that ever went down the drain. Cleaning solutions, paint, detergents, etc.

To properly treat well water that has been impacted by E. coli or fecal contamination, you need to disinfect the water using either a UV light or continuous chlorination. Your choice of systems should be based on personal preference and what other contaminants are present in your water. Both disinfections systems require that you have a reverse osmosis system with a one micron membrane for removal of Giardia or Cryptosporidium which are potential deadly contaminants from a failed septic system. Remember that your reverse osmosis system should by-pass the septic system for its waste water discharge. For more details on optimizing a home treatment system see

The bottom line is our questioner should pay $5,000-$8,000 to drill a deep well.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Keystone Pipeline back from the Dead

On Tuesday President Trump among other first week actions signed several Presidential memorandums designed to revive and expedite the approval of the final segment of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline. Both projects had languished for years but had ultimately been denied permits by the Obama administration more for their symbolism rather than any direct impact.

These actions by President Trump do not immediately change anything. The Keystone XL Pipeline was denied. President Trump has invited TransCanada Corp. the owner of the existing Keystone Pipeline and the proposed builder of the new Keystone XL section to reapply for a permit and directed the State Department to make a decision within 60 days of receiving the application, as opposed to the almost 8 years the last decision took.

The Dakota Access project did not require a State Department permit because it does not cross international borders. Thus, the other memos put responsibility on the Commerce Department provide leadership on expediting federal review of infrastructure projects, to issue a plan within six months for using American made steel for pipeline projects, and directs the commerce secretary to produce a report on streamlining federal permitting for domestic manufacturers saying “The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled mess.” 

There is currently a pipeline Keystone I that runs east from Hardesty Saskatchewan to Manitoba and then south through the Dakotas to Steel City, Nebraska. It is a less direct route and is a lower volume pipeline than the proposed Keystone XL. The Keystone XL would replace Keystone I with a new and better pipeline. Keystone I is old and this would be an upgrade to the oil transport infrastructure. Keystone II runs from Steel City to Cushing, Oklahoma at the Oklahoma storage facilities. Keystone III running from the Cushing Oklahoma to the Nederland, Texas began delivering crude oil from Cushing, OK, to the oil refineries in Texas on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. The Keystone XL required a Presidential Permit because it crosses an international border. Former President Obama denied the permit not because of any anticipated impact but because it would undercut American leadership in fighting climate change and turning away from carbon based energy.

The Dakota Access project, which was about 90% finished before it was halted, would carry up to 570,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota oil fields to Illinois. The project was halted by the previous administration last month even after a federal judge ruled that the U.S. government had met all its legal obligations to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to protect their drinking water supply and sacred land. Based on the environmental impact reports prepared, neither project is likely to do much to impact or effect climate change, energy security, or the U.S. economy. However, pipelines are the safest and most reliable way for oil and gas to travel great distances and could allow the adoption of gas fired generators across for electric utilities. A simplification of the expensive and lenghty regulatory process is due.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Possum Point Public Meetings

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is having an open house style Information Session to answer questions and discuss with the public the closure of coal ash ponds at the Dominion Power Possum Point Power Station. The information session will be held at the Potomac Senior High School, 3401 Panther Pride Drive, Dumfries, VA 22026 on January 26, 2017 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. DEQ staff will be available to answer questions during the meeting.

If you recall, Dominion Power has been moving forward with a plan to “close in place” 3.7 million cubic yards of coal ash under the finalized U.S. EPA Coal Ash regulation. The plan for Possum Point is to consolidate all of the on-site coal ash into one impoundment. There is estimated to be 3.7 million cubic yards of coal ash. Dominion has collected the more than 1 million cubic yards of ash from four smaller ponds, put them in a 120-acre pond that already contains 2.6 million cubic yards of coal ash that they have begun to dewater.

Ultimately, the pond will be capped with an impermeable membrane to prevent future infiltration of rain. The groundwater results do not necessarily indicate contamination from the coal ash ponds, but Dominion Power announced in December of last year that they will pay for the homes near the Possum Point Power Plant to be hooked up to the Prince William County Public Service Authority water or receive filtration systems. Though Dominion Power maintains that there is no evidence that its ash ponds have contaminated drinking water wells near the site, ground water monitoring results seem inconsistent with what they assumed about the geology and groundwater.

Dominion Power has continued to press forward obtain their permit to close the site and now DEQ has proposed issuing the closure permit to them. DEQ says that the permit was prepared in accordance with the with state and federal regulations. The proposed closure includes closure in place of Surface Impoundment Pond D with installation of a final cover system or cap and closure by removal of Surface Impoundment Ponds A, B, C and E. This proposed permit also includes post-closure care requirements to maintain the cap,  groundwater monitoring and surface water monitoring at the facility.

As required under the regulations, DEQ is now seeking comments and announce a public hearing on the draft permit. The public comment period is January 13, 2017 to March 10, 2017. Comments can be submitted by e-mail should be sent to DEQ. The permit can be reviewed on line

The Public Hearing for the Permit will be on February 16, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. at Potomac Senior High School, 3401 Panther Pride Drive, Dumfries, VA.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rains and Snow Rescue California

After five years, the rains and snow have returned to California. Powerful storms brought flooding in northern California and pounded the San Francisco Bay Area. Blizzard conditions in parts of the Sierra Nevada closed ski slopes, but also brought the snow pack to 161% of normal. By last week less than 60% of California was still in drought and the reservoirs held a combined 18 million acre feet of water. Northern California water managers breathed a big sigh of relief even as flooding inundated northern communities.
from Drought Monitor 2017

Meanwhile, Los Angeles and Orange Counties and much of the Central Valley remained in extreme drought. The new storm front that hit the northwest earlier this week is expected to push into southern California today and relieve much of the drought there. This week’s storms should add another 1-3 feet of snow to the snow pack and more rain is expected next week.

California’s climate is dominated by the Pacific storm track. The mountain ranges cause precipitation to fall mostly on the western slopes. These storms also leave tremendous accumulations of snow in the Sierra Nevada during a wet winter. While the average annual precipitation in California is about 23 inches, the range of annual rainfall varies greatly from more than 140 inches in the northwestern part of the State to less than 4 inches in the southeastern part of the State in an average year. California never seems to have an average year- it’s either drought or flood.

Snowmelt and rain fall in the mountains create the annual flow into creeks, streams, and rivers. California’s surface water infrastructure is designed to capture a portion of these flows to provide water during drought years. What is not captured makes their way into the valleys water percolates into the ground or flows through the delta and to the Pacific Ocean. October 1 to April 15th is the wet season and this year is very wet. 

Once more, California was saved from a water crisis by rationing and by the rains finally coming before they ran out of water. However, the climate scientists say that there is an 80% likelihood that at least one multi-decade drought will hit the southwest between 2050 and 2100. The Central Valley depends on groundwater for irrigation during drought years needs to enhance groundwater recharge during we years. Deliberately recharging groundwater allows aquifers to be managed more like surface reservoirs, and has the potential to increase the state's water storage capacity by millions of acre-feet. During droughts, there's little or no water available for groundwater recharge. But now in a wet years it is time to devote substantial volumes to replenishing aquifers. Research at the University of California found that flood flows diverted onto vineyards infiltrated at an average rate of 2.5 inches per day under sustained flooding. Over irrigation results in water percolating into the groundwater basin. 
from Drought Monitor 2016

In 1995, the Pacific Institute published a report that summarized the condition of the water supply in California stating that “California’s current water use is unsustainable. In many areas, ground water is being used at a rate that exceeds the rate of natural replenishment…” In 2005 the Pacific Institute published another report. Pointing out that water demand and use continued to exceed sustainable supply. California needs to manage their groundwater as a reservoir for drought years.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Whats in the Private Water Wells of Virginia

Because private drinking water wells serve more than a fifth of its population Virginia created the Virginia Household Water Quality Program (VAHWQP) to provide affordable water testing and education about private water wells to residents of the Commonwealth. Volunteers and Extension Agents hold drinking water clinics and provide information to assist private well owners in understanding and maintaining their wells. 

The quality and safety of private wells are not regulated under Federal or, in most cases, state law. In Virginia only construction and the absence of bacteria at well completion are required for a private drinking water well in the Commonwealth. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act cannot (and should not) regulate individual households. As a result, individual homeowners are solely responsible for maintaining their domestic well systems and for any routine water-quality monitoring that may take place.

The Virginia Household Water Quality Program was originally created in 1989, but was relaunched in 2007 with a USDA grant. In 2011 the program was expanded under another USDA grant to subsidize testing, quantify bacteria, add metals and begin research out of Virginia Tech. Now the program is self-sustaining with annual clinics in 60 counties. The analysis is done by the laboratory of Dr. Mark Edwards (a recipient of MacArthur Genius Grant and world expert on water chemistry) and research utilizing the data is being pursued by graduate students.

In Prince William County the Cooperative Extension office and the Conservation District hold an annual subsidized drinking water clinics for well owners as part of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program. As in all the clinics the water samples are analyzed for: iron, manganese, nitrate, lead, arsenic, fluoride, sulfate, pH, total dissolved solids, hardness, sodium, copper, total coliform bacteria and E. Coli bacteria, and last year cost $55. These are mostly naturally occurring contaminants and common sources of contamination: a poorly sealed well or a nearby leaking septic system, or indications of plumbing system corrosion. Though not an exhaustive list of potential contaminants, these are the most common contaminants that effect drinking water wells.

Though about 600,000 of Virginia households (22%) have private wells, only around 7,000 households have chosen to participate in the Virginia Household Water Quality Program clinics over the past 8 years and may not be representative of all private drinking water wells in the Commonwealth. Nonetheless, the data collected is the largest database on private drinking water wells available. The wells tested are an average of 25 years old and 72% are drilled wells, 13% are dug or bored wells, 5% are cisterns or springs and in 10% of the cases the owner did not know what kind of well they had. Eighty percent of the participants in the clinics had never tested their wells since the purchase of their homes (most mortgage lender require a bacteria test). Slightly over half (51%) of well owners had a treatment system, but the most common treatment devices were for aesthetic contaminants as can be seen below. 
from E. Ling VHWQP
Water quality tend to vary by location and depth. For example, in Floyd County in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the geology is crystalline rock with few fractures. This impacts water quantity and quality. The wells tend to be highly acidic and though they have low mineral content and total dissolve solids, these wells are likely to have lead and copper because the acidic water is likely to leach metals from the plumbing system. Northumberland County is the uppermost peninsula into the Chesapeake Bay with a geology of unconsolidated sandy sediments. Well water quality tends to vary by depth. Shallow wells are highly susceptible to nitrate and bacteria contamination from the surface and septic systems. Deeper wells are generally protected from contamination, but are highly saline from saltwater intrusion. Prince William County has an are within the coastal plain and a section in the Piedmont there are areas high in minerals with pockets of iron, manganese, and sulfur. For a complete list of county results see the summary

Overall the statewide sampling over the last 8 years has found that 41% of the wells have coliform bacteria, and 9% have E. coli bacteria. Though 28% of wells were found to have acidic water (low pH) only 17% of homes have first flush lead levels above the EPA safe drinking water standard maximum contaminant level of 0.015 Mg/L. Lead and copper leach into water primarily as a result of corrosion of plumbing and well components, but can also result from flaking of scale from brass fittings and well components unrelated to corrosion. Copper and lead do not naturally appear in groundwater and lead in drinking water is predominately coming from the pipes. Over time older pipes and fixtures corrode or simply wear away and the lead and other corrosion material (like rust) is carried to the drinking water. Time and water do cause corrosion, but this can be aggravated by the pH of the water or other changes in water chemistry. The amount of lead corroded from metal plumbing including faucets with brass interiors generally increases as water corrosiveness. For more information on lead in drinking water see here.

While 22% of households report having a water softener, only 15% of households had their water test as “hard” over 180 mg/L. This could be a result of some homeowners testing their water after treatment with a water softener or could indicate that water softeners are oversold for treatment of things like iron and manganese. At the water testing clinics we allow the participants to choose whether to test the water before or after any treatment devices (or both). Likewise, 29% of homes have sediment filters while only 7% of homes tested high for total dissolved solids. You might want to test your water to make sure it is safe to drink and you have the appropriate treatment system. Only 3% of homes had a treatment system for bacteria, though 41% of homes had bacteria present in their water.
from E. Ling VHWQP

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chesapeake Bay Get a Gentleman’s C

Last week the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) released their bi-annual State of the Bay health index score.The health of the Bay has increased by over six percent bringing us to a C−, from the D+ received in 2014. 
from CBF
The 2016 State of the Bay Report scores the health of the bay at 34 out of 100, a C- according to their scoring system which measures the current state of the Bay against the unspoiled Bay ecosystem described by Captain John Smith in the 1600s, with extensive forests and wetlands, clear water, abundant fish and oysters, and lush growths of submerged vegetation would rate a 100 on their scale. That was a time when this region was 95% old growth forests and sparsely populated. The current goals of all the Environmental Protection Agency mandated Watershed Implementation Plans is a grade of 70, which would represent a saved Bay according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation report uses 13 indicators in three categories: pollution, habitat, and fisheries to offer an assessment of the health of the Chesapeake Bay. If you recall the EPA mandated a contamination limit called the TMDL (total maximum daily load for nutrient contamination and sediment) to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The TMDL sets a total Chesapeake Bay watershed limits for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that were then partitioned to the various states and river basins. Each of the states and Washington DC were required to submit and have approved by the EPA a detailed plan of how they intend to achieve the pollution reduction goals assigned to them. These plans are called the Watershed Implementation Plans, WIPs, but the Chesapeake Bay Foundation refers to them as the “Clean Water Blueprint.”

For the first time, the CBF lowered the score for forest buffers—those strips of trees near waterways that protect them from soil erosion and other pollutants. Despite federal and state commitments to increase planting, forest buffer plantings in 2015 (the most recent data) were the lowest in the last 16 years. The states planted only about 440 streamside acres (versus an EPA mandated goal of 14,000 acres annually) along the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. In addition, states typically report only planted buffers, not those that are removed, suggesting to the CBF the data may be overestimating progress over time.

Tidal and non-tidal wetlands are among the most important natural resources in the Chesapeake Bay region. Wetlands—swamps; bogs; salt marshes; many shallow areas of our rivers, creeks, and the Bay; and even some forested areas—provide valuable wildlife habitat and act as natural filters. They improve water quality by trapping and treating polluted runoff. The Chesapeake Bay States committed to a goal of restoring 85,000 acres of wetlands by 2025. The most recent data (2015) suggests the states have achieved only 10% of that goal. Though we are moving in the right direction, progress is too slow.

Growing mostly in shallow water, underwater grass beds are critical to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. They provide habitat for fish and crabs, add oxygen to the water, help remove pollutants from the water, and trap sediment. Between 2014 and 2015, underwater grasses increased by 21% to 91,621 acres. This has resulted in the improved scores in fisheries. The coast-wide rockfish (striped bass) population appears to have stabilized after a ten-year decline. The total number of crabs has increased dramatically since 2014, from 297 to 553 million, as estimated from the annual winter survey. The Oyster harvests exceeded one million bushels in 2015 for the first time in thirty years, though they fell a bit in 2016. The return of shad to the Susquehanna River improved slightly in 2016 as did the number of juveniles hatched in the river. A new agreement to improve fish passage at the Conowingo Dam holds great promise.

The Conowingo Dam brings up the Susquehanna River. Starting in Cooperstown, New York, and flowing 444 miles to the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River basin drains 27,500-square-miles of land and contains over 49,000 miles of rivers and streams. Half of the freshwater in the Chesapeake is from the Susquehanna and the impact the Susquehanna River has on the Bay is hard to overestimate. The Susquehanna remains a significant source of pollution to the Bay. Polluted runoff coming from farm fields and urban and suburban developments are the primary sources affecting the health, way of life, and economies of people in the watershed portion of the Commonwealth and those downstream to the Chesapeake Bay. In October 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the EPA together committed $28.7 million in new federal and state funding to focus on the people, places, and practices that would accelerate pollution reductions from agriculture, the “Best Management Practices cost share funding.” This initial investment will help to jumpstart efforts to reduce pollution entering the Susquehanna but much more is needed.

In Virginia where there is a budget shortfall, Governor McAuliffe put forth the Biennial Budget that reduces Best Management Practices cost-share implementation from the current level of $62 million to $8 million.

Monday, January 9, 2017

For a Healthy Mind and Body-Move

It is possible that regular moderate exercise may prevent anxiety and depression. According to Thomas Insel the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health the mental health of our nation has declined in the past two decades. Suicide rates per 100,000 have increased to a high, Substance abuse of opiates has become epidemic. Social Security disability awards for mental disorders have significantly increased since 1980. Over the past two decades mental illness has become the second most common cause of disability in the United States second only to musculoskeletal disorders and it is becoming clear that these may both be diseases of inactivity and obesity.

In the past decade scientists have uncovered details about how exercise alters the brain and the body as a whole. Exercise boosts your heart rate, sending blood, oxygen, hormones and neurochemicals throughout the body. There is increasing evidence suggesting that habitual moderate exercise conditions the brain and immune system to better cope with physical and mental strain. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression. In addition, a 2016 meta-analysis examining 25 of the most rigorous experimental studies found that exercise, especially moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise is a potent treatment for depression. It is now accepted that working out can alleviate the symptoms of depression. Exercise is necessary for more than improving or maintaining mental health, it is necessary for our bodies to function.

There are two complete circulation systems in the body. The second is the lymphatic system and it is as essential as the blood circulatory system. As the blood circulates around the body, fluid leaks out from the blood vessels into the body tissues. This fluid carries food to the cells and then the fluid collects waste products, bacteria, and damaged cells. It also collects any cancer cells if these are present. This fluid then drains into the lymph vessels.

The lymphatic system has no heart to pump the lymph fluid, it depends on the motion of muscles and joints to transport the lymph. Lymph fluid distributes immune cells and other factors throughout the body making a one-way journey from the interstitial spaces to the subclavian veins at the base of the neck. As it moves upward toward the neck the lymph passes through lymph nodes which filter the fluid to remove debris and pathogens. At the base of the neck, the cleansed lymph flows into the subclavian veins on either side of the neck. The lymph system interacts with the blood circulatory system to rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. Without enough movement the lymphatic system cannot function.

It is possible that exercise is not so much a treatment for depression, but the lack of exercise the cause of depression and disease. Our lifestyles are causing the increase in mental illness and disease. Exercise is also necessary to maintain health and remove toxins, waste and other unwanted materials through proper functioning of the lymph system. The idea of Move for health is of course from First Lady Michelle Obama's  “Let’s Move!” initiative dedicated to solving the problem of putting children on the path to a healthy future. Despite its name the program emphasizes providing healthier foods in our schools lunch program; expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps); and, helping children become more physically active. Nonetheless, regular exercise through bike riding, walking, sports is the way to a healthy future.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bagged Salads a Breeding Ground for Salmonella Bacteria

Fresh produce such as green salad leaves are part of a healthy diet. Bagged, washed salads are seen as a healthy convenience food, and their consumption in the United States and European Union has increased considerably in recent years.

Salad leaves, both lettuces and spinach, because of their high water content are highly perishable and subject to rapid spoilage by microbes both endogenous and exogenous. To minimize the growth of these bacteria requires rapid processing and special packing. Nonetheless, epidemiological profiling now ranks salads as the second most common source of foodborne illness outbreaks.

In a recent research paper published in the November 18th 2016 issure of Applies and Environmental Microbiology found that traces of juices released from salad leaves as they became damaged through crushing in transport, storage and time significantly increased Salmonella enterica salad leaf colonization by a factor of 2-24 over the controls depending on conditions and media.

Until now very little was known about what happens to salad and the Salmonella bacteria within the actual salad bag. The scientists showed that the juices released from the cut-ends of the salad leaves enabled the Salmonella to grow in water even when it was refrigerated. Salad juice exposure also helped the Salmonella cells to attach to the salad leaves so strongly that washing the salad could not remove them. This study shows that exposure to even traces of salad leaf juice may contribute to the persistence of Salmonella on salad leaves as well as priming it for establishing an infection in the consumer.

This study demonstrates the need for producers and packagers to avoid all bacteria contamination in the processing of bagged salads. Also, the salads must be consumed when they are freshest before they are soggy and it may be safer to buy the salad in plastic clamshells where the lettuce can’t be crushed. Read the article:

Salad leaf juices enhance Salmonella growth, fresh produce colonisation and virulence; Giannis Koukkidis, Richard Haigh, Natalie Allcock, Suzanne Jordan and Primrose Freestone; Appl. Environ. Microbiol. doi:10.1128/AEM.02416-16.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Frenzy of Last Minute Activity at the EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent this month announcing a slew of last minute regulations and activities some of which I have covered others not. The agency is currently working on regulations for the oil and gas sector, and is finalizing new annual regulations for the nation's ethanol mandate and renewable fuel blending requirements. The agency is also moving forward with rules related to implementation of its Clean Power Plan for cutting carbon pollution from the nation's coal utilities to meet the pledges made in the Paris Accord even though the Clean Power Plan itself is currently under court review after being temporarily stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on February 9th 2016 until all judicial review has concluded.

Thought the Administrative Procedure Act requires that agencies issue a notice of proposed rulemaking, provide an opportunity for public comments, issue a final rule with a concise statement of its basis and purpose, and make the final rule effective a minimum of 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, EPA will formally publish some of the proposed rules in the coming weeks. For example; the EPA issued a pre-publication version of a proposed rule to require rock mining facilities to demonstrate their financial ability to clean up releases of hazardous substances. The press release stated that EPA will formally publish the proposed rule in the coming weeks.

Other announcements from the EPA published the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit Remand Rule in the Federal Register on December 9, 2016. This is a final rule, EPA's latest effort to create rules for general NPDES permits for small MS4s after the agency's previous attempt was remanded by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

As mentioned last week, the EPA released its Final Report on Impacts from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on Drinking Water Resources and EPA’s report concluded that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances rather than the previous conclusion and identifies factors that influence these impacts: These mechanisms include water withdrawals in times of drought, or in areas with, limited water availability; spills of hydraulic fracturing fluids and produced water; fracking directly into underground drinking water resources; below ground migration of liquids and gases from inadequately cased or cemented wells; and inadequate treatment and discharge of wastewater. EPA changed the emphasis from unlikely to impact water resources to could impact water resources. The underlying research did not change.

The EPA finalized a proposal to expand the hazards that qualify sites for the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). EPA assesses sites using the Hazard Ranking System (HRS), which quantifies negative impacts to air, groundwater, surface water and soil. Sites receiving HRS scores above a specific threshold can be proposed for placement on the NPL. Now EPA has added subsurface intrusion to the ranking system. Subsurface intrusion is the migration of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants from contaminated groundwater or soil into an overlying building, like the moving of solvent vapor into a basement.  Subsurface intrusion can result in people being exposed to harmful levels of hazardous substances, which can raise the lifetime risk of cancer or chronic disease.

EPA announced the prohibition of 72 inert ingredients from being used in pesticides. Most pesticide products contain a mixture of different ingredients. Ingredients that are directly responsible for controlling pests such as insects or weeds are called active ingredients. An inert ingredient is any other substance that is intentionally included in a pesticide that is not an active ingredient. Now a group of 72 have been banned.

EPA also announced the slew of fines and settlements obtained throughout the year. I have no doubt missed a few regulations and intentionally left out a few of the press releases that I did not understand what the regulations addressed and could not find enough details on the EPA web site only the statement that the EPA will formally publish the proposed rules in the coming weeks. The number and complexity of the rule making can no longer be navigated without a team of specialists.