Top Stories

Combined sewer systems and heavy rainfall not healthy

Emergency hospital admissions rise following heavy rainfall after a new study found consumers’ drinking water can be contaminated by the release of untreated wastewater, increasing the risk for gastrointestinal illness.

"Combined" sewer systems collect both sewage and stormwater runoff on the way to treatment facilities. When heavy rainfall fills these systems beyond their capacity, untreated wastewater can back up into homes. 

To reduce the risk of home flooding during heavy precipitation, municipalities often discharge some of the untreated flow into nearby bodies of water. 

>> Read the Full Article

The impact levees have on groundwater recharge

Strange as it sounds, flood control can be part of the solution to managing California’s droughts. University of California scientists have shown that making more room for floodwaters can improve the state’s groundwater supplies and fisheries.

Removing some levees or rebuilding aging ones some distance away from riverbanks can appreciably replenish aquifers during wet years, providing some relief during droughts.

>> Read the Full Article

Record low snowpacks in Southwest is bad news for water supplies

Nine states report record low snowpacks. A report from the US Department of Agriculture states, “the largest snowpack deficits are in record territory for many basins,especially in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada where single – digit percent of normal conditions prevail. Very low snowpacks are reported in most of Washington, all of Oregon, Nevada, California, parts of Arizona, much of Idaho, parts of New Mexico, three basins in Wyoming, one basin in Montana, and most of Utah.” This region is undergoing the warmest winter temperatures since record keeping began in 1895.

>> Read the Full Article

New strategy will help save declining ape population

The number of gorillas and chimpanzees in Central Africa continues to decline due to poaching, habitat loss and disease according to a new plan published by WWF, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society and partners. The strategy, “Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of Western Lowland Gorillas and Central Chimpanzees 2015-2025”—outlines the growing number of threats to these great apes across six range countries, including gaps in law enforcement and the threats by well-connected traffickers seeking to supply the illegal commercial market.

>> Read the Full Article

Mercury levels in Arctic birds found increasing over the past 130 years

Alarm bells are ringing for Arctic wildlife with the discovery that mercury levels in the feathers of ivory gulls have increased almost 50-fold. 

University of Saskatchewan biologists studied the feathers of museum specimens spanning a 130-year period. Lead researcher Dr Alex Bond told BBC News, “We’re concerned because the mercury’s going up but their diet hasn’t changed over the 130 years we’ve studied. It’s gone up 45 times, which is twice the average for an animal species in the Arctic.”

>> Read the Full Article

How can we improve plant growth?

Supercomputers and genetic engineering could help boost crops’ ability to convert sunlight into energy and tackle looming food shortages, according to a team of researchers. Photosynthesis is far from its theoretical maximum efficiency, say the authors of a paper in Cell, published on 26 March. They say that supercomputing advances could allow scientists to model every stage in the process and identify bottlenecks in improving plant growth.

>> Read the Full Article

Neonicotinoids Responsible for Pollinator Declines Worldwide

Monarch caterpillars are vulnerable to neonicotinoid toxicity at concentrations as low as 1 part per billion, writes Jonathan Latham, and that makes them vulnerable to residues from commercial crops - and even more so from horticultural use in plant nurseries!

>> Read the Full Article

New report identifies possible next steps in US energy development

The U.S. energy portfolio changes over time. Scientific and technologic advances related to hydraulic fracturing have dramatically increased the supply of U.S. oil and gas; because of this, a methane economy - in which natural gas provides the leading share of primary energy consumption - is now a possible scenario for U.S. energy development. In a report released by the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the social, political, technical and environmental components of a methane economy are identified. The report also addresses how industry, government and the public might best work together to advance common energy goals.

>> Read the Full Article

Fracking appears to be linked to rise in radon levels in Pennsylvania homes

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers say that levels of radon in Pennsylvania homes - where 42 percent of readings surpass what the U.S. government considers safe - have been on the rise since 2004, around the time that the fracking industry began drilling natural gas wells in the state.

The researchers, publishing online April 9 in Environmental Health Perspectives, also found that buildings located in the counties where natural gas is most actively being extracted out of Marcellus shale have in the past decade seen significantly higher readings of radon compared with buildings in low-activity areas. There were no such county differences prior to 2004. Radon, an odorless radioactive gas, is considered the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the world after smoking. 

>> Read the Full Article

City Ants love Junk Food - but then again, who doesn't?

We know that many animals have adapted to deal with our sprawling urbanization, but a new study reveals that ants might also be getting in on the act by developing a taste for our waste food scraps and our junk food. The research, conducted by scientists at North Carolina State University and published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, aimed to investigate the eating habits of the most common ant species in our big cities. 

>> Read the Full Article