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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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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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24 November 2013

On Site Wastewater Disposal Systems: Soil Considerations

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 1990 there were 24.67 million residences serviced by on-site waste disposal (OSWD) systems, representing 24.1 percent of the total number of households. The highest concentration of OSWD systems is found in the New England states where Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have about 50% of their households using them. That number has surely grown, but, unfortunately, 1990 data is the most up-to-date …

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1 July 2013

Soil Anisotropy: Mechanisms and Hydrologic Consequences

Introduction Anisotropy, which is the opposite of “isotropy,” is a term used to denote preferential flow direction in soils and other geologic materials. If soil consisted of perfectly spherical grains, flow rates would be isotropic – the same in all directions, other factors being equal. Soil doesn’t consist of perfectly spherical grains, however. It’s commonly understood that flow of air and water through soils is greatly influenced by grain size, …

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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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17 November 2012

Ken Burns Presents “The Dust Bowl” on PBS

This coming Sunday and Monday nights (November 18-19), PBS is featuring the Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl. Burns calls it “the greatest man-made ecological disaster in Unites States history… A ten-year apocalypse superimposed over the worst economic cataclysm in our nation’s history, the Great Depression.” From an article by James West at the Atlantic: As the East Coast licks its wounds from superstorm Sandy, many in New York and …

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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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