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New Brunswick waste water plant to receive $1.6 million in upgrades
The Canadian Press June 30, 2015
CAMPBELLTON, N.B. - A waste water treatment plant in New Brunswick is receiving more than $1.6 million in upgrades.
Improvements to the Campbellton facility include mechanical screens for removing debris from sewage and an effluent disinfection system that was recommended after an environmental risk assessment.
The upgrades also include a backup power system, which the province says will allow the plant to operate during power outages caused by severe weather.
The investment is a partnership between federal, provincial and municipal governments.
Campbellton Mayor Bruce MacIntosh says the upgrades will improve the reliability of the plant and help the city contribute to a cleaner environment.
Water bills bewilder Reginans
Natascia Lypny, Leader-Post June 30, 2015
Photograph by: Rich Pedroncelli, AP
REGINA — Some Regina residents are baffled by a higher-than-normal utility bill that encompasses the period when the city was asking people to conserve water.
“I was shocked,” said Brenda Kapp. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s high!’”
Kapp concedes the bill itself — $96.65 — wasn’t the shocker, it was the increase from the previous month. Her water charge jumped by $13.20 and, with it, her sewer charge grew by $9.72.
The two increases are tied to water consumption, which for Kapp increased to 12.19 cubic metres from 4.93 cubic metres the previous billing period.
The bill covers May 20 to June 18. The city announced voluntary water conservation May 25, which began to be phased out June 8. Normal water usage resumed June 16.
It’s those dates, combined with her consumption reading, that confound Kapp. As a single person living in a small house, Kapp said she typically conserves water by using rain barrels, for instance.
Over the conservation period, Kapp took measures even further: She collected used shower and sink water for her flowers. She held off doing laundry. So, Kapp said, “when you get a consumption reading that’s more than twice what it normally is, then something’s wrong.”
The city’s director of finance June Schultz said the city would have to look at individual bills to determine the reason for the increase.
“In order to make a general observation about some of these bills, it’s very hard because it’s hard to say what they’ve done before, during and afterwards (the conservation period),” she said.
Schultz pointed out how the higher bills could be due to warmer weather and related higher water consumption in May before the advisory was announced, or after it was lifted. She encouraged people to check what dates their bill covers, and whether the bill encompassed more days than the previous one.
Schultz’s explanation doesn’t sway Kapp.
“I would have to call BS on that. I think that’s just a made-up answer,” she said.
Kapp doesn’t have a lawn and insists she checks for leaks.
She isn’t alone in her confusion.
A few people have posted to the City of Regina Facebook page with similar concerns.
“Can anyone explain why my water bill for May/June is one of the highest this year (if not the highest bill to date)? A few of my friends have noticed upwards of a $60+ increase in their typical bill this month,” one wrote on June 17. “I actively conserved water when the city requested it for the entire period that the water reduction was needed.”
On June 16, another wrote, “OK, so we conserved water when we were told to, and our utility bill went up by $60. Just think what it would have been had we not conserved.”
When deputy city manager and chief operating officer Brent Sjoberg was asked on June 3 if the city was planning on providing a discount on utility bills because of the conservation measures, he replied, “Right now, there are no plans for that. Obviously, as people reduce their water use, their bill is going to be naturally lower.”
Schultz encouraged residents to contact Service Regina to discuss their utility bill and identify possible explanations for the increase, like filling a pool or plumbing problems. Service Regina can also come around to inspect people’s meters to identify any potential issues.
Kapp plans to use her meter to check for a leak overnight, although she is skeptical that is the cause.
Dowsing in Nova Scotia: Some say a stick can find water
Aaron Beswick, Truro Bureau June 25, 2015
Ron White was drilling a well for a new house in Fraserville, Cumberland County.
“I went down 750 feet and didn’t get enough water to fill a cup,” said White, owner of Ron White Well Drilling in Amherst, on Thursday.
“So I said to the house’s owner, ‘It’s not looking good; maybe you should go down and get the old feller in Advocate to come switch it.’”
That “old feller” came with a fork-shaped branch, walked around the yard with it until it bent down about eight metres from White’s hole and said “Drill here.”
“I said, ‘I don’t think there’ll be water there,’ but I drilled and 80 feet down we got 40 gallons a minute,” said White.
“So you can take what you want out of that story. I’ve been drilling for near on 50 years and I’ve never drilled a dry hole that was switched.”
Some call what the “old feller” did switching, some call it dowsing and some call it water witching.
Scientists call it impossible.
The technique of using a forked branch or two metal rods to find water is said to be at least 500 years old. And despite the lack of any empirical scientific studies saying that it works, someone will point you to a local dowser if you ask around nearly any rural community of the province.
So what is dowsing?
“There’s no agreed-upon definition,” said Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and author of eight books.
“Some think it’s these imaginary Earth energies called lay lines that the dowser senses, others think it’s spiritual and some just say it works … except I wouldn’t.”
From his New Mexico home, Radford has spent a lot of time debunking false claims.
“The problem is that if you drill deep enough almost anywhere on the Earth, you’ll find water,” he said.
“I live in the desert, and if you drilled deep enough below me you’d probably come to water eventually.”
The first written records of dowsing come from 15th-century Germany, where it was being done to find not only water but also metals. In 1518, religious reformer Martin Luther declared that dowsing broke the First Commandment by being a practice of the occult.
Others claim it is possible to dowse for oil — a practice called doodlebugging in the United States — or lost objects.
In Nova Scotia, it’s primarily water that people dowse for.
On Thursday, Allen McDonald cut a forked pin cherry branch off a tree in his Malagash, Cumberland County, yard. He took one limb of the Y-shaped branch in each hand and bent them until it pointed straight ahead.
Then he started walking.
Near his house, the stick bent and pointed down.
“When it starts to go, I can’t stop it from bending down,” said McDonald, 60.
“I’ve had the bark tear right off the branch in my hands as I tried to hold it tight.”
McDonald has been dowsing for as long as he can remember, and people call for him from up and down the Northumberland shore when they plan to drill
The former logger and carpenter doesn’t think it’s spirits or mysterious energy lines that cause the stick to bend.
“Why does it work?” said McDonald.
“I don’t know. Science is out there explaining everything and then the Good Lord comes along and throws a wrench in that. How do you explain how a bee flies? How do you explain the platypus?”
To put dowsers to the test, Radford placed empty jugs around a field and covered them with buckets. Then he filled one with water, and brought dowsers out and sent them searching.
“Invariably, they don’t find it,” said Radford. “The odds are no better than chance.”
That experiment wouldn’t work on McDonald, either, because he said the water needs to be flowing for him to sense it.
McDonald can remember watching his father drilling a well by hand when his family moved to Pugwash Junction over five decades ago. Richard McDonald walked in circles every evening after work for weeks, pushing the stick that turned the drill.
“Back then, you could be a month drilling a well when you did it by hand,” said McDonald.
“Father beat the ground down till it was hard as pavement, walking in those circles. So back then, in every community there was someone who could dowse to find the wells. Now it doesn’t matter if they have to drill 80 feet or 250 feet.”
McDonald has three children, none of whom have taken up dowsing.
“It’ll be just like the dinosaurs soon enough,” he said.
Drone reveals how floods rearranged river
Matt McClure, Calgary Herald June 24, 2015
Flying over a stretch of the Elbow River with a drone before and after the massive flood two years ago has allowed researchers to learn how the event widened and straightened the meandering watercourse and made it less vulnerable to future disasters.
A team led by University of Calgary geographer Chris Hugenholtz captured high-resolution images with the unmanned aerial vehicle that show the 2013 flood carried away the equivalent of nearly 8,000 dump-trucks of stones and gravel and piled another 4,000 loads in other places over a kilometre-long portion of the river.
Hugenholtz said the photos also showed the force of the roaring waters moved boulders up to a metre in diameter, armouring the banks adjacent to the Redwood Meadows subdivision upstream of the city against erosion from future flooding.
Trees and shrubs were ripped from sandbars and log jams were formed throughout the channel, particularly along the outer bank bends.
“It was shocking the magnitude of change we found,” he said in an interview. “It was really by chance that we were able to capture this because we happened to fly this stretch of the river a year before the disaster as part of an unrelated study of fish habitat.”
The precise pictures taken from the quadcopter as it hovered 100 metres in the air and flew back and forth showed that the active channel of the river was on average over 40 metres wider after the disaster.
Overall, the mean elevation of the area was lowered by about 24 centimetres as rocks and gravel were shifted downstream. Where the river used to flow in three braids around bars under normal conditions, it’s now a single thread.
“It used to meander nicely through this area, but now it’s straightened the course right out.” Hugenholtz said. “All of these changes are going to affect the way the water moves through the area in the future.”
Using the extremely accurate data collected from a bird’s-eye view that shows changes in elevation of as little as one centimetre, the team was able to model on a computer how a flood of similar magnitude — some 850 cubic metres per second or about 10 times the normal flow — would run through the rearranged river course now.
“You don’t often get the chance to see these violent transformations of the landscape in your own backyard,” Hugenholtz said. “We were able to uncover that it will take more energy next time to produce the same amount of change to the landscape.”
While he hesitated to say whether the Elbow River had experienced the same changes along its entire route from the Foothills through to Calgary, Hugenholtz said it’s likely that other stretches saw similar impacts.
“The novelty of the drone is we used it to collect very good 3-D data,” he said. “That information can be crucial in predicting how the river will behave the next time it floods.”
Catholic schools to eliminate bottled water
Janet French, The StarPhoenix June 24, 2015
Photograph by: Gord Waldner, The Starphoenix
Bottled water is vanishing from Saskatoon-area Catholic schools. The Greater Saskatoon Catholic school board approved a new policy Monday evening to eliminate commercially bottled water from school cafeterias and vending machines, the division office and school events. "It's providing a good model for our community," director of education Greg Chatlain told the board. "It isn't about forcing it on students."
Access to potable water across the world is under threat, partly because of the increasing commercialization and privatization of water, the board's new policy says.
The policy is a show of solidarity with countries that don't have access to clean water.
In a fact sheet for schools, the division says bottled water costs as much as 10,000 times more than tap water, and is tested for safety far less frequently.
Not always recycled as they could be, the bottles are an environmental blight, contributing to a massive swath of plastic afloat in the Pacific Ocean and consuming millions of litres of oil in their production and transport, the document notes. "That little bottle touches a lot within our world. So, yeah, we're proud of (the policy), and believe in our small way we can make a difference in the world," superintendent of education Darryl Bazylak said.
The board isn't the first to shun the bottle. The City of San Francisco banned bottled water sales on city property last year. Ontario's
Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District school board, the Waterloo regional school board and the Toronto Catholic school board have all gone bottle-free.
A group of University of Saskatchewan students is also campaigning to ban the sale of bottled water on campus.
However, the Toronto District School Board opted against such a policy in 2009 when a review found installing water fountains to keep students hydrated would cost $2 million. The money lost from water sales would have led to the elimination of five cafeteria jobs, the review said.
GSCS may be the first division in Saskatchewan to make the move. None of Saskatoon public, Regina public, Regina Catholic, Prairie Spirit or Horizon school divisions have a similar policy. Horizon school division is watching the Saskatoon Catholic division's move, director of education Kevin Garinger said. It would be harder to do in a rural school division when periodic water quality problems prompt Horizon to bring in bottled water for students, he noted.
"I applaud their desire to want to go in that direction," Garinger said.
Although the new GSCS rules take effect immediately, administrators have some work to do. Bazylak said the division plans to install tap water refill stations for reusable bottles in any schools that lack them. Some schools have them already.
The division must also stick to the terms of any existing bottled beverage contracts they have - although Bazylak said he doesn't think the contracts specify what types of drinks schools must sell.
The plastic used in bottled water is completely recyclable, and is one of the most recycled forms of consumer packaging in Canada, said Carolyn Fell, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Beverage Association, in an email.
The bottled water industry's draw on the public water supply in Canada is negligible - about the equivalent of a three-minute shower per person each year, Fell wrote.
Joanne Fedyk, executive director of the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council, said she supports the board's move.
"Why do we have bottled water in buildings with municipal water that's treated to drinking water standards? Do we need it? It seems like not," she said.
At least two Greater Saskatoon Catholic board members said they were proud to approve the policy.
"We know that water and the commodification of water, and access to clean, fresh water, is one of the most significant issues economically, and in our environment, that we do face," trustee Lisa Lambert said.
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