United States and Canada Sign Amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
Monday, 10 September 2012 11:08

Agreement will protect the health of the largest freshwater system in the world

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Canada's Minister of the Environment Peter Kent today signed the newly amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement at a formal ceremony in Washington, D.C. First signed in 1972 and last amended in 1987, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is a model of binational cooperation to protect the world's largest surface freshwater system and the health of the surrounding communities.

"Protecting cherished water bodies like the Great Lakes is not only about environmental conservation. It's also about protecting the health of the families-and the economies-of the local communities that depend on those water bodies for so much, every day," said Administrator Jackson. "The amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement we signed today outlines the strong commitment the U.S. and Canada share to safeguard the largest freshwater system in the world. Our collaborative efforts stand to benefit millions of families on both sides of the border."

"Joint stewardship of the Great Lakes-a treasured natural resource, a critical source of drinking water, essential to transportation, and the foundation for billions of dollars in trade, agriculture, recreation and other sectors-is a cornerstone of the Canada-United States relationship," said Minister Kent. "The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement supports our shared responsibility to restore and protect this critical resource, and builds on 40 years of binational success."

The revised agreement will facilitate United States and Canadian action on threats to Great Lakes water quality and includes strengthened measures to anticipate and prevent ecological harm. New provisions address aquatic invasive species, habitat degradation and the effects of climate change, and support continued work on existing threats to people's health and the environment in the Great Lakes Basin such as harmful algae, toxic chemicals, and discharges from vessels.

The overall purpose of the Agreement is "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters" of the Great Lakes and the portion of the St. Lawrence River that includes the Canada-United States border. Both governments sought extensive input from stakeholders before and throughout the negotiations to amend the Agreement. Additionally, the amended Agreement expands opportunities for public participation on Great Lakes issues.

The amended agreement sets out a shared vision for a healthy and prosperous Great Lakes region, in which the waters of the Great Lakes enhance the livelihoods of present and future generations of Americans and Canadians.

To view the text of the agreement:

Free Webinar of the EPA Method Update Rule
Monday, 20 August 2012 06:12

The Water Environment Federation is hosting a free webinar on the 2012 Method Update Rule. The agenda is:

  • Changes new to Part 136.
  • Reasons for the changes.
  • How the MUR and its new 12 essential QC elements will affect potable/wastewater laboratories.
  • Examples of implementing QC elements into QA assurance manual/SOP.
  • A state’s viewpoint on the practicality of implementing MUR changes.

EPA and USDA Announce First-Ever Microbial Risk Assessment Guidance
Monday, 06 August 2012 05:57

Guideline will help better determine health risks from food and waterborne pathogens

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced the first-ever Microbial Risk Assessment (MRA) Guideline. This new MRA Guideline lays out an overarching approach to conducting meaningful assessments of the risks to Americans posed by pathogens in food and water. Pathogens ingested in food and water can result in acute gastrointestinal-related illnesses; some gastrointestinal-related illnesses can result in long-term and permanent health effects as well as premature death. This new guideline will improve the quality of the data collected by public health scientists charged with protecting Americans from pathogen-related risks in food and water.

"This guidance contributes significantly to improving the quality and consistency of microbial risk assessments, and provides greater transparency to stakeholders and other interested parties in how federal agencies approach and conduct their microbial risk assessments," said Dr. Glenn Paulson, EPA Science Advisor. "Based on the success of this project, we are seeking further opportunities to combine our technical expertise in our continuing efforts to protect the Americans' health."

"The microbial risk assessment guideline developed by FSIS, the EPA and our other public health partners will help protect consumers by allowing us to uniformly assess and reduce health risks from pathogens," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "We're proud to have worked with our partners on this guideline that will provide our risk assessors with a transparent and scientifically rigorous document to use in protecting public health."

Formal risk assessments for food, water, and environmentally-relevant chemicals have been undertaken for decades. However, an overarching microbial risk assessment guideline has not been available until now. The guideline announced today meets this need by providing comprehensive, yet specific and descriptive information for developing assessments of microbial risk in food and water.

More information on the guideline:

Waste Water Analysis Reveals for the First Time Real Time Information Regarding Drug Consumption in 19 European Cities
Tuesday, 14 August 2012 13:30

ScienceDaily (July 26, 2012) — Waste water analysis using urinary biomarkers allows the reliable detection of actual drug consumption in cities. For the first time, a wide group of scientists have carried out a comparative study regarding the consumption of illegal drugs in 19 European cities, four of which are Spanish, based on waste water analysis. In the case of Spain, cannabis and cocaine consumption is higher than that of other drugs such as methamphetamines and ecstasy, appearing in each of the four cities analysed: Barcelona, Castelló de la Plana, Santiago de Compostela and Valencia.

Research centres and universities from 11 European countries have participated in the study. In the case of Spain, the investigation was carried out by the University Institute of Pesticides and Waters at the Universitat Jaume I in Castelló (researcher responsible, Dr. Félix Hernández), the Department of Preventative Medicine at the Universidad de Valencia (Dr. Yolanda Picó), the Department of Chemical Analysis from the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (Dr. Benito Quintana) and the Department of Environmental Chemistry, IDAEA-CSIC of the Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Research (IDAEA) of the Scientific Research National Council (CSIC) in Barcelona (Dr. Miren López de Alda). The initiative for the study began in the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) and from the Instituto Mario Negri de Investigación Farmacológica, in Milan.

To carry out the investigation, urban waste water was collected from a total of 19 European cities over the course of a week in March 2011. Urinary biomarkers for cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, methamphetamines and cannabis were used on the samples. The results were published July 26 in the specialist journal Science of the Total Environment. The analysis allowed the estimation of drug consumption for each one of the 19 cities and the results were normalised according to the size of the city that was investigated. This means that larger cities, such as London or Barcelona, can be directly compared with smaller cities such as Castelló or Santiago de Compostela.

Amongst the main conclusions of the study, the researchers responsible for the investigation highlight the fact that the highest consumption of cocaine, expressed in milligrams consumed per day per 1000 inhabitants, corresponds to Antwerp, followed by Amsterdam, Valencia, Eindhoven and Barcelona. With regards to Castelló, consumption is similar to that of cities such as Utrecht or London, and slightly higher than Santiago, which is on the same level as Paris, Milan or Brussels. On the other hand, cocaine consumption in Nordic countries can be viewed as low. It is estimated that 365 kilograms is consumed daily, which represents approximately between 10 and 15% of worldwide cocaine consumption, according to estimates from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Organised Crime.

In contrast with cocaine, the consumption of methamphetamines is higher in the north and north-west of Europe, principally in Scandinavia and the Czech Republic. In general, in the group of drugs related to amphetamines, methamphetamines and amphetamines themselves are those which dominate in European waste water. In Castellón, neither of these two drugs was detected in the waters, whereas Barcelona, Valencia and Santiago showed levels which corresponded to mid/low consumption, lower than those levels in the north of Europe.

With regards to MDMA consumption, known as ecstasy, Castelló also appears to be low, as it was not detected in waste water. Ecstasy consumption in Valencia and Santiago is approximately half of that in Barcelona, but, in any case, much lower than consumption in countries such as Holland and Belgium.

Finally, it is important to signal that the highest level of cannabis consumption is in Holland, the highest rating of which is in Amsterdam, followed by France and Spain. Researchers consider that Spain's strategic position in marijuana trafficking has created a market for this substance. Along with Barcelona, smaller cites such as Castelló and Santiago show relatively high consumption levels, slightly higher than the consumption per capita in Valencia.

Drug consumption surveillance programs are extremely useful for the development of efficient police policies and to evaluate the effectiveness of current policies with regards to the fight against drug addiction.

Until recently, the most usual method to measure drug consumption was based on surveys. These studies are carried out in different sectors of society including consumers with different grades of addiction, such as the general population. Addition information is also obtained using police data for drug seizures, along with hospital information for admittence and other medical data. However, there is a noticeable uncertainty with regards to this information due to the lack of reliability of studies based on surveys, especially when dealing with illegal drug use. Furthermore, the results obtained circumscribe long periods of time (annually) and large geographical areas (states, in general).

The approximation employed in this investigation, analysing waste water from water purification plants (EDAR), have allowed the centres to obtain reliable information regarding total consumption of the drugs investigated in real time, according to the investigators responsible for the study.

Kevin Thomas, the NIVA researcher who co-ordinated this co-operative project, believes that the analysis of waste water provides important information relevant to the estimation methods which currently exist. "Via waste water investigation we can can estimate a city's drug consumption. Furthermore, we can quickly measure changes in consumption habits over a short period of time. For example, we can determine if there has been a massive drug disposal via drainage when police raids or drugs seizes take place," the researcher explains.

The methodology used in this project has been applied to a second study carried out in several European cities in 2012. This strategy is applicable in any other country or city. "With the necessary economic support, we have the opportunity to be able to better understand, for the first time, what worldwide drug consumption currently is, trends, or the introduction of new drugs onto the market via the study of biomarkers in waste waters," researchers inform us.

New Lab Installed at EE
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 13:28

Director of Product Development, Edward Kim, and Technical Specialists, Joe Boyd and David Smith, put the finishing touches on our new in-house laboratory. The new lab will speed our testing of new products and improve our ability to offer outstanding techical support to our customers.

New Lab
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