This Week in Eco News - September 20, 2013

This Week in Eco News there are big questions after Colorado's tragic floods about their causes - weather patterns - and effects - on oil and gas wells. It's been a big week in news about the use of antibiotics in meat production confirming the scary relationship between CAFOs and MRSA infections in humans. We also have climate news and fun multimedia for your viewing pleasure! See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Water

Longmont Downtown to East - Aerial Footage 9/13/13
Record amounts of rainfall have flooded an area stretching from Colorado Springs north to Ft. Collins in northeastern Colorado. The wastewater treatment plants in several communities were flooded and overwhelmed, leading to releases of raw sewage into the North Platte River watershed. Those communties that planned for major flooding suffered less damage. [Longmont Flood]

Take Action
: FEMA's emergency preparedness website tells you what to prepare AHEAD OF TIME in case your household faces a disaster that requires evacuation.


Report Links Antibiotics at Farms to Human Deaths
In the words of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden, "We will soon be in a post-antibiotic era if we're not careful." The CDC released a new report which contains the first federal estimate of the annual death toll due to antibiotic-resistant infections. Further, the report links the causes of these infections to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Pig-manure Fertilizer Linked to Human MRSA Infections
A new paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine provides evidence that people's proximity to livestock farms and fields fertilized with the manure is linked to higher rates of antibiotic-resistant infection. The study examined MRSA infections in patients at a hospital in Pennsylvania. Scientists found that patients living near pig farms or fields treated with pig manure were more likely to have MRSA infections than others. [Nature]

Washington State Testing Alfalfa for GMO Contamination
In August, a farmer reported that his non-GMO alfalfa crop was refused for export after testing positive for a genetically modified trait. Like other crops in the United States, alfalfa is difficult to protect from GMO contamination, especially because it relies heavily on bee-assisted pollination. Such contaminations devastate farmers who sell to non-GMO markets, in this case foreign markets where GMO crops are not accepted. Testing results were anticipated last Friday to confirm the alfalfa contamination. [Reuters]

Fake Food: The Tech Companies Working to Revolutionize How We Eat Protein
The Guardian reports that the movement away from real meat and animal products (eggs) is growing along with public awareness of the treatment of animals by Big Ag. So far, the plant-based substitutes are the only ones making headway in supermarkets, but start-ups pursuing tissue-engineered meat are out there. [The Guardian]

Judge Lets COOL Rules Stand For Now
Last Thursday, the US District Court declined a request by the meat industry to issue a preliminary injunction against the USDA's most recent Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations. Judge Ketanji B. Jackson approved of the USDA's regulations, stating they do well to meet the requirements listed in the 2008 Farm Bill. [Food Safety News]

Meatless Monday

Iran and Israel Find Common Ground Through Meatless Monday Campaign
Israel and Iran have put their foreign policy differences aside as each has taken up a Meatless Monday campaign. Israel, with its Monday campaign founded almost a year ago, is helping their unlikely ally Iran spread the word throughout the Middle East. Given the potential impacts of growing meat consumption trends on human health and the environment, the Omega Research Team (a group of agencies, government and private) just introduced the initiative in Iran. [Broward Palm Beach Times]


EPA Clarifies Clean Water Act Protections; GOP Lawmaker Slams Effort
The EPA issued clarifications to Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands, especially those that aren't wet all the time. The clarifications are intended to help farmers, ranchers and others understand which streams fall under CWA protections. Environmentalists cheered. Republicans complained. [The Washington Post]

Holy Water in Austria Unsafe to Drink: Researchers
Drinking the holy water at religious shrines and churches in Austria might really leave you praying for salvation from what ails you. Turns out, according to researchers, the water is often contaminated with fecal matter and bacteria, especially in hospital chapels. [Reuters]

Study: Cutting Ogallala Water Use Now Will Benefit Kansas Later
Since intensive farming began in the 1950s, 30 percent of the water in the Kansas portion of the Ogallala Aquifer has been pumped out. How the remainder is used will determine the state's agricultural fate for the next century, according to a new study that analyzes the aquifer's decline and its consequences for agriculture in Kansas. [Circle of Blue]


Gas Leaks in Fracking Disputed in Study
A new study found that fracking appears to cause smaller methane leaks - although at one million tons annually, still substantial - at drill pads than the federal government had estimated, supporting the argument by some groups that shale gas is cleaner and better than coal. The peer-reviewed study was supported by the oil and gas industry, so conspiracy theories will abound until we see if more studies arrive at the same results. [New York Times]

Boulder County Activists Concerned About Flooded Oil, Gas Wells
The recent devastating floods in Boulder, CO have raised concerns about the thousands of oil and gas wells and associated condensate tanks and waste ponds that dot the region's landscape. Inspections won't happen until threats to life and safety have passed, and even then the scale of the problem will tax the limited number of inspectors. [Daily Camera]

Germany's Effort at Clean Energy Proves Complex
The early stages of switching an entire nation's energy system from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewables are incredibly complex, as Germany is finding out. With a goal of switching to almost entirely solar and wind power by 2050, the nation's energy changes are for now leading to high prices, unexpected road bumps and some nervous stomachs. [New York Times]

Here's a succinct and not-too-technical discussion about what caused all the bad weather that led to massive flooding in northeastern Colorado. Hint: the melting Arctic ice cap is involved.

Research: Water Supply More Limiting than Intermittent Renewables
If the US energy system continues its trend of gulping down tremendous amounts of water, water supplies will be unable to keep up with growing demands. In fact, it's clear that energy efficiency and renewable energy are bargains by comparison once the environmental costs of conventional fuels are taken into account. [Fierce Energy]


Everything That Led to Colorado's Record-breaking Flood, and Why it Will Only Get Worse
Here's a succinct and not-too-technical discussion about what caused all the bad weather that led to massive flooding in northeastern Colorado. Hint: the melting Arctic ice cap is involved. As the caps warm, "blocking" patterns form that are disrupting usual weather. []

Study: Today's Worst Watershed Stresses May be New Normal
A new analysis of surface water in the US indicates that the lowest water flow seasons of recent years are likely to become typical and surface water sources less reliable as climates continue to warm.  [Aspen Business Journal]

Microgrids: Sandy Forced Cities to Rethink Power Supply
Hurricane Sandy was a big eye-opener when the power started going out over whole swaths of the Northeast. One option to help minimize huge blackouts within by massive, aging electric grids is the creation of microgrids. Microgrids are local energy systems (like an installation of solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, etc) that can produce electricity either while connected to a centralized power grid or as an "island" during a blackout. [Climate Central]


What is Nutrient Pollution?
Nitrogen and phosphorous pollution are some of America's most widespread and costly pollution problems. Find out why in this EPA infographic. [EPA]

Fruit for Health
The sweet and juicy benefits of 20 natural disease fighters are illustrated in this infographic. [Natural Healthy Concepts]

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Monsanto and Seed Patent Laws
Aasif Mandvi learns that greedy farmers have threatened the livelihood of Monsanto's heroic patent attorneys in this Daily Show video segment. [The Daily Show]

Play the Game and Become a Marine Debris Hero!
Help your kids play this online EPA game where they have to find the marine debris and recycle it or throw it away before it's too late. They can get a certificate and you can download coloring sheets. [EPA]

Fracking and Colorado Flooding Don't Mix 
These photos, a mere snapshot of the true extent of flood damage in Colorado, call into doubt the happy talk of our political class, and the oil and gas industry. [EcoWatch]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins.