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31 March 2017

Wetlands and Flood Mitigation: The 10 Percent Solution

Following the Great Flood of 1993, an official report called for more research to find ways to prevent flood devastation, apparently unaware the problem had been mostly solved, conceptually over a decade earlier. But taking action through the implementation of a national wetland restoration program has faced intractable political and economic obstacles.

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16 November 2015

Field Drain Tile and the “Re-Eutrophication” of Lake Erie

Algae Blooms, Microcystin and Phosphorus It’s been over a year since Toledo, Ohio and surrounding communities shut down public water supplies due to an algae bloom and microcystin contamination in western Lake Erie. Was the trouble a “one-off” or can we expect more of these events in the future? While attending a seminar this year hosted by the Michigan Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, my interest was …

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20 November 2014

Update: American Farm Bureau Federation et al. v. EPA Oral Arguments

American Farm Bureau Federation, et al. v. EPA, Case 13-4079 oral arguments were held Tuesday (see previous post) and early indications suggest the Farm Bureau is fighting an uphill battle as it attempts to block the EPA from implementing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program for Chesepeake Bay. The program calls for a 25% percent cut in nitrogen, 24% cut in phosphorus, and 20% reduction in sediment loads by …

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16 November 2014

American Farm Bureau Federation vs. EPA: Oral Arguments Scheduled for Tuesday

American Farm Bureau Federation, et al. v. EPA, Case 13-4079 oral arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. The American Farm Bureau Federation (Farm Bureau) is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its authority to regulate farm runoff. The issue has gained attention following this summer’s “do not drink” advisory affecting over 500,000 residents in the Toledo, Ohio …

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5 October 2014

FDA Fast Tracks Valley Fever Drug

Valley fever, a soil-borne disease Terra Central discussed here, is no longer an orphan disease, which means it is no longer too obscure to receive funding for a treatment or a cure. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted fast track status to Nikkomycin Z as a “qualifying infectious disease product (QIDP) under the GAIN Act. The GAIN Act was “approved by Congress in 2012 to help provide …

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17 August 2014

Soil Connections: Drought, Dust and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

An unfortunate sequence of events involving drought, depleted water resources, wastewater management, antibiotic resistant bacteria (ABR) and dust storms may pose a real health risk in desert states – and, perhaps, beyond. Briefly, here’s the sequence of steps, beginning with drought and ending with a respiratory infection: 1. Arid states can’t grow everything they want with what little rainfall they get – so they irrigate. 2. Limited fresh water used …

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2 January 2014

Dams and Demand for Sand Threaten World Beaches

Documentary filmmaker Denis Delestrac has recently completed the movie Sand Wars, which looks at the intense demand for what may seem like an abundant natural resource. In some cases worldwide, the sand business has taken on a dangerous criminal dimension. In a TedxBarcelona Talk called Let’s talk about sand, Delestrac introduces the complex subject of beach sand, including erosion and exploitation, with style and charisma. There are also some good …

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28 December 2012

Dustbowl Adaptations: Conservation, Irrigation

The excellent Ken Burns documentary, “Dustbowl” (see previous post) featured personal accounts of many individuals who experienced the disaster first hand. The film emphasized a mostly non-technical, human perspective that, I thought, did a good job of placing us into the shoes of those who endured incredibly tough circumstances – within the United States. In the second half of the film, Burns introduced Hugh Hammond Bennett and other soil scientists …

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19 July 2012

Introducing the European Geoscience Union – Soil Systems Science Division

The European Geoscience Union, a leader in the free dissemination of scientific research, has rolled out its Soil Systems Science Division (SSSD). The SSSD has a blog newsletter with some fine articles and beautiful images about soils and surface geology of Europe. When Editor Jessica Drake (Soilduck) kindly invited me to write a short “why I do soil science” biographical piece, I jumped at the chance. Being that I’m American, …

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30 May 2012

Sand Mining Picks Up to Support Hydrofracturing

One of the spinoff industries associated with hydraulic fracturing of shale rock is silica sand mining. During the “fracking” process, sand is mixed with water and chemicals and pumped under high pressure to force open voids in shale. The sand is needed to prop open cracks and release gas, oil and other valuable hydrocarbons collected from the well. When it comes to “fracking,” evidently, not any old sand will do. …

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