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Weak Water Regulations Hurt the Economy

Captain Paul J. Bratti

As a small business owner who runs a sailing and tour guide company on the south shore of Lake Superior, I depend on the quality of our waterways—but I’m not the only one. Last year, Wisconsin’s outdoor industry alone contributed $9.7 billion to the state economy and supported 129,000 jobs. In Minnesota, similar numbers: outdoor industry accounted for $11 billion and directly created 118,000 jobs.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Protecting lakes and rivers throughout the Midwest is critical to our economy. That is why I was deeply disappointed in a recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to enact stricter environmental protections on industrial farms that discharge manure pollutants into our rivers and groundwater.
 
Industrial animal farms, also called concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, raise livestock (such as cows, chickens or pigs) on a very small amount of land. As a result, these industrial farms produce so much animal waste that they have to store it in “liquid lagoons” or in piles until they can use it as fertilizer. Up to a billion tons of manure is generated each year.

Under current guidelines, these liquid manure lagoons must have some sort of liner so the manure does not seep into groundwater. On paper, the industrial farms must also store and manage manure to prevent runoff into nearby lakes, rivers, or streams during heavy rainstorms.
 
Unfortunately, CAFOs have a very poor track record when it comes to abiding by the rules. According to the EPA, water sources for about 43 percent of the U.S. have had pathogen contamination associated with manure. To date, EPA estimates that about 60 percent of CAFOs do not have Clean Water Act permits.
 
In addition to contaminating our drinking water with E. coli and salmonella, manure runoff also triggers massive algae blooms that kill off entire fish populations and destroy the waterways’ beauty. I believe that’s important in its own right, but it’s also vital for tourism. We hear a lot of rhetoric about how regulations harm business. And while over-regulation can be burdensome, some regulations are critically needed. There are almost 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin and Minnesota alone that are dependent on a safe and healthy environment. When the EPA fails to do its job of protecting the environment, it is putting every one of those jobs at risk.
 
Back in 2010, the EPA was bound by a court-approved settlement with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to enact new requirements for manure management. However, on June 5 the EPA announced that it would not propose any new rule, and instead, a review of agriculture programs in Chesapeake Bay area states would be sufficient.

Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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