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The Canadian Press October 22, 2014
CALGARY - A judge has fined a former employee at the Cargill meat-packing plant in southern Alberta for tampering with waste-water samples two years ago.
Pushp Pal Singh was fined $7,500 for the offences, which occurred at the High River plant between February and March of 2012.
Singh added a substance which reduced the amount of phosphorus before waste-water samples were sent to an external laboratory for analysis.
Excessive phosphorus can reduce oxygen in water and hurt aquatic life.
Singh met with Cargill officials a month later and admitted that he tampered with the samples.
Cargill notified Alberta Environment and was later fined $80,000 for failing to immediately report what had happened
Natascia Lypny, The Leader-Post October 23, 2014
The City of Regina will investigate long-term wastewater solutions for the communities east of the city. But first, those potentially on board need to do some number crunching to see whether a regional wastewater system is affordable and if it will save money when compared to tackling this urgent issue alone.
Sticking with local solutions, a pipeline that feeds wastewater to Regina's under-construction treatment plant and a new regional plant are three east-area solutions put forth in a recently published study on the water and wastewater system capacities of the Regina census metropolitan area. A pipeline from Lumsden to Regina's plant is also being explored.
The report, presented to Regina's executive committee on Wednesday, paints a grim picture of wastewater capacity in the communities east of Regina: White City, Pilot Butte, Emerald Park and the Rural Municipality of Edenwold. Potable water was not identified as a pressing concern, although the report notes it could become so a decade or more down the road.
"We're trying to be proactive in our thinking for longer-term solutions," said Diana Hawryluk, the city's interim executive director of city planning and development. The study is the first comprehensive regional one of its kind.
Executive committee voted Wednesday to pursue entering into a memorandum of understanding with interested parties to the east of Regina to more concretely explore what a regional solution would look like and what it would cost. Mayor Michael Fougere said a number of communities expressed their interest through the first phase of the study.
"I think it's a great thing to be doing," he said. "We expect to see regional economic development, regional partnerships, and this is the best way to do it."
A second study more specific to the east would be paid for by all the communities involved, unlike this first report whose $576,000 price tag was solely fronted by the city.
"We did undertake it on our own initiative because we needed this information also to make longer-term decisions," said Hawryluk. Regina's 2015-19 utility budget requests $180,000 for the next part of this planning initiative.
The study presents wideranging construction cost estimates for the pipeline and treatment plant options: Between $35 million to $140 million for the former and $58 million to $230 million for the latter. The report says collaborating will save communities money on these infrastructure improvements and potentially incite more provincial or federal funding.
Jim Elliott, a delegate at the committee meeting, questioned why a regional study was not brought up as part of the Regina wastewater treatment plant deliberations last year.
"It does seem that the wastewater treatment plant decision was made in isolation from this broader planning, broader concerns in the region, and that's troubling," agreed Jim Holmes of Regina Water Watch on Monday,
Hawryluk has previously explained that the plant, being constructed to meet new environmental regulations and capacity needs, could not wait for the completion of the study. She also said that regional solutions will complement the plant's capacity as Regina (hopefully) grows past its planned 300,000-resident target.
City council, which is formed of all the same members as executive committee, will vote on the recommendation at its Nov. 3 meeting. firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/wordpuddle
Health Day October 16, 2014
Teens drank fewer sugary drinks when energy content info was converted to exercise, study found.
THURSDAY, Oct. 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Alerting teens about how much walking or running they would have to do in order to burn off the calories in a soda or other sugary drink might convince them to choose a lower-calorie beverage, researchers say.
"People don't really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories," study leader Sara Bleich, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a university news release.
"If you're going to give people calorie information, there's probably a better way to do it. What our research found is that when you explain calories in an easily understandable way such as how many miles of walking needed to burn them off, you can encourage behavior change."
For the study, Bleich and her colleagues installed brightly colored 8.5-by-11-inch signs in six corner stores in low-income, predominately black neighborhoods in Baltimore. The signs informed consumers that a 20-ounce bottle of regular soda, sports drink or fruit juice contained 250 calories and 16 tablespoons of sugar, which would require 50 minutes of running or 5 miles of walking to burn off.
The researchers observed nearly 3,100 drink purchases at the stores by teens between the ages of 12 to 19 years. They interviewed 25 percent of the youngsters. Of the 35 percent of teens who said they saw the signs, 59 percent said they believed the information on the signs and 40 percent said they changed their purchases as a result.
Sugary drinks accounted for 98 percent of beverage purchases in the stores before the signs were posted, compared with 89 percent after the signs were put up, the researchers found. Many teens also chose to buy smaller sizes. And the number of sugary-drink calories bought by each teen went from 203 calories to 179 calories, according to the study.
The percentage of teens who decided not to buy a drink rose from 27 percent to 33 percent, and water purchases rose from 1 percent to 4 percent, according to the study published online Oct. 16 in the American Journal of Public Health.
"This is a very low-cost way to get children old enough to make their own purchases to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, and they appear to be effective even after [the signs] are removed," Bleich said.
"Black adolescents are one of the groups at highest risk for obesity and one of the largest consumers of sugary beverages. And there is a strong scientific link between consumption of sugary beverages and obesity. Using these easy-to-understand and easy-to-install signs may help promote obesity prevention or weight loss," she concluded.
Yale University has more about sugary drinks.
Dene Moore, The Canadian Press October 16, 2014
VANCOUVER - A judge will not stop the flow of fresh water from British Columbia's lakes and rivers to hydraulic fracking operations, but did recognize the issue as a growing public concern.
The Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Sierra Club filed a petition against the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission and energy company EnCana Corp. (TSX:ECA) over the commission's decision to grant repeat short-term water approvals to the company.
The environmental groups wanted the court to declare the approvals a violation of the provincial Water Act. They also asked a judge to quash several such permits issued to Encana.
But in a decision posted this week on the court website, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick dismissed the application.
"Over the last few decades, the world has become increasingly aware that water is a precious resource," she wrote. "This heightened awareness has caused many persons, including public interest groups such as the petitioners, to question the management of our water resources, particularly as it relates to the use of publicly owned water by industry."
Concerns include increasing pressure on water resources and the effect of chemicals used in the fracking process, as well as the effect of fracking on underground water resources, Fitzpatrick noted.
Days before the court hearing began, the provincial government introduced its updated Water Sustainability Act, which expressly allows recurrent short-term approvals.
But the previous legislation did not prohibit such approvals, Fitzpatrick found.
Court heard that in 2012, the oil and gas commission granted the industry access to 20.4 million cubic metres of surface water. About seven million were for fracking — 54 per cent of that from short-term approvals.
But only a small fraction of the fresh water used in the province is for oil and gas, the judge said.
In 2009, the industry received less than 0.006 per cent, compared to the hydro power industry allocation of 98 per cent. And only a small portion of that is actually withdrawn for use, Fitzpatrick found.
The commission did not respond to a request for comment.
Doug McIntyre, of Encana, said Thursday the decision validates the company's position.
"Encana responsibly uses water in a number of ways to produce natural gas and oil on which all British Columbians rely," McIntyre said in a statement emailed in response to a request for an interview.
The company continuously consults First Nations, local communities, landowners and others on water use and is open to further discussions, he said.
"We always seek wherever possible to reduce our reliance on surface water sources and have successfully used otherwise unusable saline water in a number of our operating areas as an alternate source."
Caitlyn Vernon of the Sierra Club said the decision was disappointing, and likewise the new provincial water regulation.
"It's a clear example of the law being changed to suit industry's needs," she said.
Though she dismissed the petition, the judge granted the environmental groups public interest standing to bring the case to court and did not order them to pay the defendants' costs, as is often the case.
"This proceeding has raised an important issue concerning the use of a valuable public resource...," Fitzpatrick wrote.
"This issue has not previously been determined, and substantially arises from the increasing activities of the oil and gas sector in the province and the industry’s ongoing and increasing water needs in its operations."
Jeff Karoub, The Associated Press October 20, 2014
During a United Nations Fact-Finding Detroit Town Hall Meeting, Leilani Farha, right, and Catarina de Albuquerque answer questions from local residents, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, at Wayne County Community College in Detroit. de Albuquerque is a UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and Farha is Executive Director of the NGO Canada Without Poverty, based in Ottawa. (AP Photo/Detroit News, Jose Juarez)
DETROIT - United Nations human rights experts described Detroit's mass water shut-offs as "a man-made perfect storm" Monday and called on city officials to restore water to those unable to pay, including those with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
Meanwhile, Detroit's officials said the two lawyers' actions and conclusions were agenda-driven and not based on "facts" about the city's progress in helping residents keep or regain service.
Leilani Farha and Catarina de Albuquerque, who were in town to observe the effect of water service shut-offs, said they affect the poorest and most vulnerable — and particularly discriminate against Detroit's majority black population.
The representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner made the trip after activists appealed to the U.N. for assistance. They visited residents who have lost water service or have struggled to keep it, and they met with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and water department officials for about two hours Monday morning.
The city, the nation's largest municipality to file for bankruptcy, said it made about 27,000 shut-offs between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30. Most shut-offs were halted for several weeks during the summer to give residents a chance to enter payment plans but they resumed and topped 5,100 in September.
The U.N. officials cited falling population, rising unemployment and a utility passing on higher costs associated with an aging system. De Albuquerque said she has seen shut-offs in other U.S. cities and developed nations, but nothing like Detroit.
"Our conclusion is that you have here in Detroit a man-made perfect storm," de Albuquerque said. "The scale of the disconnections in the city is unprecedented."
The mayor's top aide, Alexis Wiley, said the city is "very disappointed" with the U.N. visit. She said Detroit is helping residents by beefing up customer service, getting 33,000 people in payment plans — up 15,000 since August — and logging a more than 50 per cent drop in residential calls for water assistance.
"They weren't interested in the facts," Wiley said. "They took a position and never once (before Monday) reached out to the city for data."
De Albuquerque and Farha called their conversation with Detroit officials "constructive." They said they can't enforce recommendations but want to help the city and residents resolve the situation.
"If the city does not have enough money then other levels of government have to step in to support," de Albuquerque said.
Some advocates took the issue to federal court, but the judge overseeing Detroit's municipal bankruptcy trial ruled last month he lacked authority to force the utility to stop the shut-offs.
About 21,500 shut-offs were made in 2012. That number rose to 24,000 last year.
The tactic appears to be effective in getting people to pay. The water department said it collected about $2.5 million in water and sewage bills for all of 2012 and again last year. About $3.7 million was collected through the first nine months of this year.
De Albuquerque said residents have told her and Farha that they want to pay their share as long as it's just and fair.
"No one asked for a free ride," she said.