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English: Great Seal of the state of Wisconsin
English: Great Seal of the state of Wisconsin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The longterm goal is cleaner water, fewer algae blooms  and weeds to improve the habitat for fish and other freshwater aquatic life that live in lakes, streams and rivers in Wisconsin.

The idea is to allow wastewater treatment plants, paper mills or dairies with pollution discharge permits to avoid or reduce pollution control costs, in favor of  developing partnerships within watersheds that reduce the flow of phosphorous.  Partnerships may include grants for farmers to change their field and husbandry practices and help communities control runoff from streets.  Regulations also allow water pollution trading among the many watersheds in Wisconsin, which may provide more flexibility to address the pollution issue.

Phosphorous is a nutrient in fertilizer and can be found in suburban yards, automatic dishwasher detergents and manure from farm fields. It causes algae blooms and increases weeds in streams, lakes and rivers.

Algal bloom on the dam

Algal bloom on the dam (Photo credit: MCG Images 2)

The new program to reduce runoff  is another step in the effort to control phosphorous. Wisconsin restricted the sale of fertilizer containing phosphorous in April 2010 and limited the phosphorous level in dishwasher detergents.

In Wisconsin, 172 waterways are polluted due to high levels of phosphorous which reduces their value and recreational use, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The latest phosphorous regulations were approved by Gov. Jim Doyle before he left office but needed EPA approval to move ahead.  Governor Walker tried to shelve the regulation early in 2011, saying Wisconsin’s rule couldn’t be stricter than surrounding states. 

Environmentalists and pro-lakes advocates argued that states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota had a greater interest in controlling phosphorous then states such as Illinois and Indiana with fewer lakes. Toni Herkert, policy maker at the Wisconsin Lakes Association, said law makers in farming and lake areas saw the regulations as a chance to take on the problems of algae blooms and weedy lakes.  In spring of 2011, legislators allowed the regulations to pass.

 A state analysis is underway on the economic impact of phosphorous reduction in bodies of water. The DNR expects the report will show that the benefits of cleaner water on property values will out strip the capital costs of pollution control.

“Using this rule, communities and businesses can work together to make more meaningful phosphorous reduction,” said DNR secretary Cathy Stepp.

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Although they’ve been in Wisconsin for over 80 years, Standard Process hasn’t been well-known until the last few years as people have become more concerned about health and nutrition.

The 420-acre certified organic farm, located a mile or so from its headquarters in Palmyra, WI., grows whole foods for their high nutrient content – alfalfa, barley grass,oats, pea vine, buckwheat, Spanish black radish, kale, beets, radishes, Brussels sprouts – and processes them into nutritional supplements.

Organic growing methods include:

  • All of the seeds are organic and always untreated and free of genetically modified organisms (GMO)
  • Zero tolerance for genetically modified seed, synthetic herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, or seed treatments. Our whole foods are cultivated with only natural nutrition and no synthetic fertilizer.
  • Every field is professionally tiled to optimize drainage. And, we set our soil testing levels well beyond what’s required because we believe that well-managed soil produces high-quality raw materials.
  • Irrigation water is supplied from a naturally occurring artesian flowage, although we water as infrequently as possible to encourage the roots dig deep down and find nutrition.

 

Health Care Partners

Standard Process sells only to health care providers  including chiropractors, dentists, and acupuncturists. Many chiropractors prefer to recommend Standard Process supplements to their patients because the products use whole foods instead of more highly processed ingredients. Standard Process offers more than 300 products through three product lines: Standard Process whole food supplements, Standard Process Veterinary Formulas, and MediHerb herbal supplements. The company is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as state and federal agricultural departments.

 

The first zero-energy multifamily community in the US is now open, demonstrating that cutting edge green building technologies are not only possible – but also scalable – for mainstream housing production.

Located in Issaquah, Wash., zHome’s 10 townhomes use zero net energy; 70% less water; nearly 80% Forest Stewardship Council certified wood; healthy, low-toxicity materials; and salmon-friendly site practices.

“This pioneering project sets a new standard for how homes can – and should – be built in our region and country,” says Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger. “Our vision is that zHome’s innovative approach will catalyze the market for much greener building materials and technologies, as well as inspire the next generation of homebuilders through examples that are replicable and market rate.”

zHome was built thanks to a public/private partnership spearheaded by the City of Issaquah, in conjunction with Built Green, King County, Port Blakely Communities, Puget Sound Energy and the Washington State University Energy Program. The homes were built and developed by Ichijo USA and Seattle builder Matt Howland.

The partners have also created a sustained, long-term education and marketing program to accelerate market adoption of sustainable housing in the region. One of zHome’s 10 units will remain as a Stewardship Center for the next five years, offering educational programming and tours for the community, builders, designers and students.

“Buildings account for 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions nationally, yet modern homes are about as innovative as the Model T,” says zHome project manager Brad Liljequist with the City of Issaquah. The Stewardship Center will also offer folks innovative and practical steps for replicating zHome’s approach in their own home building or remodeling projects.”  

zHome is designed to push the limits of green building and hit aggressive, numeric benchmarks in energy, water, materials, construction waste and site development.  The benchmarks include:

  • Zero net energy and carbon neutral because of energy-efficient construction practices and solar panels.
  • Use 70% less water than the average home, achieved through an integrated rainwater recycling system and water-efficient fixtures.
  • Incorporate 78% FSC-certified wood products and a high percentage of recycled, reclaimed and regional materials.
  • Diverted 90% of all construction-related debris through waste prevention, reuse and recycling.
  • Offer high indoor air quality through low toxicity materials and proper ventilation.
  • Reduce stormwater impact through low-impact site development strategies – including recharging runoff onsite – to mimic the site’s original, forested state.
  • Achieve the highest ever Built Green certification score of 850 points.
  • Developed in conjunction with an adjacent 150-unit YWCA Family Village workforce housing community. Together, they form a transit-oriented development adjacent to a regional transit center.  

 

“Asian carp” refers to several species of related fish, the bighead and silver carp,  originating from Asia. The fish were originally imported in the southern United States to keep aquaculture facilities clean and  provide fresh fish for fish markets. Unfortunately, Bighead and silver carp escaped into the wild in the 1980s and have been swimming north ever since, taking over the Mississippi and Illinois River systems.

 

The Threat

Asian carp have been found in the Illinois River, which connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. Due to their large size, aggressive nature and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could significantly disrupt the Great Lakes ecosystem.  Scientists are concerned that the carp will force some native lake species into extinction, reduce the number of fish in the lakes as well as affect the economy of the Great Lakes.

To prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, the State of Illinois, the International Joint Commission,  Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together to install and maintain a permanent electric barrier between the fish and Lake Michigan.

Opponents of the project don’t want the Mississippi River and Great Lakes to be permanently and physically separated, but many researchers in the U.S. and Canada believe it’s the only solution.

Mercury and the Great Lakes

 

Where are the Great Lakes?

The five lakes – Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario and Superior – cover 94,000 square miles and make up 20% of the world’s freshwater. Lake Michigan is the only lake located entirely in the United States; the other lakes share an international border between the U.S. and Canada. The Great Lakes basin is the most ecologically diverse freshwater system of its kind.

What is Mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in cinnabar, volcanic eruptions, forest fires and many rocks including coal. Human activities, such as coal-fired power plants and manufacturing, have drastically increased the amount of mercury in the environment. Mercury in the air, from various sources, can settle in the water or on the land where it’s washed into the Great Lakes or tributaries.

Once in the water, microorganisms take mercury into their system and convert it into methylmercury, a toxic form of mercury. As methylmercury moves up the food chain, from shellfish to frog to fish to human, it accumulates in the tissues and becomes more toxic. Fortunately, the levels of methylmercury in fish and shellfish depend on how long they live, where they are in the food chain and what they eat.

Humans become exposed to methylmercury when they eat shellfish or fish from the Great Lakes. Mercury poisoning has resulted in development defects and neurological problems in fetuses and infants including cerebral palsy, and nervous system problems in adults. Exposure to mercury can also lead to nausea, loss of color vision, kidney damage, tremors, paralysis and even death.

 

Joint efforts to reduce Mercury

Since 1972 the U.S. and Canada have entered into joint agreements designed to reduce or rid the Great Lakes of persistent toxic substances including mercury. One of the most notable achievements is the Clean Water Act which is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has developed water quality criteria for human health and aquatic life in the Great Lakes states. The EPA has also issued water quality criteria for methyl mercury that is used by states to determine acceptable levels of methyl mercury in fish and fish tissues. Additionally, the U.S. has developed two pretreatment standards for toxic substance release from industries, categorical – which are industry specific and applied on a national level, and local limits – which apply to all industries in the general area.

The sale of mercury thermometers has been banned in many states and batteries have also been added to the list to reduce the release of mercury. The most recent and perhaps most important mercury ruling in 2004 seeks to permanently cap and reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

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