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San Mateo County Water Quality News
No San Mateo County water quality news updates for the month of August.
(Updated August 28th, 2015)

August 2015 Articles

 Scientists and volunteers have spent the last month gathering data on how much plastic garbage is floating in the Pacific Ocean.  Most of the trash is medium to large-sized pieces, as opposed to tiny ones.  The goal is to construct a 60-mile barrier in the middle of the Pacific. (The Ocean Cleanup via AP)

Boaters mapping Pacific garbage arrive in San Francisco.  
15 researchers and volunteers set out a month ago from San Francisco to study plastic waste as part of the "Mega Expedition," a major step in the effort to eventually clean up what's known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Associated Press

The search for sustainable plastics. As petroleum-based polymers foul our oceans and litter our lives, researchers seek more environmentally friendly ways to meet demand for durable, versatile materials. Ensia

Pollinator power: Benefits of an ecosystem service.  Several new studies have offered evidence that pollinators may also have a beneficial impact on nutrition security—the availability of essential macro- and micronutrients in the human diet. Environmental Health Perspectives

How to grow more food with less water.  Scientists and farmers collaborate on a quest for more efficient irrigation. Ensia

California water officials seek penalties in Santa Barbara oil spill.  California water quality regulators have asked Attorney General Kamala Harris to consider enforcement action against the owner of an oil pipeline that ruptured near Santa Barbara in May, spilling petroleum onto beaches and the Pacific Ocean. Reuters

Pesticide drift threatens organic farms.  In the U.S., farmers use nearly 900 million pounds of pesticides every year to protect their crops from weeds and insects. Sometimes those chemicals drift to neighboring property, which can ruin crops on organic farms. National Public Radio

Drugging the environment.  From sewage plants and landfills, drugs make their way into streams, rivers, lakes, seawater, and even into drinking water. Currently, however, the EPA does not regulate even a single human pharmaceutical in drinking water. The Scientist

Pacific Oean toxic algae bloom spreads.  The toxic algae blooms in the Pacific Ocean stretching from southern California to Alaska — already the largest ever recorded — appear to have reached as far as the Aleutian Islands, scientists say. Al Jazeera America

PCBs were banned three decades ago, but they're still hurting marine mammals.  On April 19, 1979, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced a five-year plan to phase out nearly all uses of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The synthetic chemicals had been used in the manufacture of electronic equipment, motor oil, adhesive tapes, paint, and many other products. Pacific Standard

Strawberries are in big trouble. Scientists race to find solution.  The EPA is phasing out a common pesticide for strawberries, and so far there's really no good alternative. Washington Post

Oregon mulls end to catfish, bass fishing caps amid salmon die-off.  Oregon wildlife officials said on Tuesday they want to end limits on fishing for bass, catfish and other highly prolific warm-water fish, in part to ease pressure on native fish that are dying by the thousands in abnormally warm summer waters. Reuters

Blowing smoke: Is vaping waste as bad as cigarette butts?
Consumers are not properly aware of the dangers of e-cigarette waste, with whole vaping devices being sent straight to landfill rather than being recycled.  Edie


California falling short of 75 percent recycling goals.  California landfills are full of businesses' recyclables and organic waste. Legislation might help change that. Palm Springs Desert Sun

What to do about the antidepressants, antibiotics and other drugs in our water.  As pharmaceuticals taint rivers and lakes, scientists search for solutions. Ensia


Plastic ‘shade balls': The hypnotizing tool California is using to save water.  California is experiencing one of its most severe droughts on record, and its local municipalities have an astounding strategy to save water: turn their reservoirs into massive, floating ball pits. Washington Post


In California, an unsatisfying settlement on pesticide-spraying.  The EPA touted its only preliminary finding of discrimination in a civil-rights case, but the complainants were less than thrilled with the outcome. Center for Public Integrity


When dams come down, salmon and sand can prosper.  The removal of a dam on the Elwha River in Washington has found a beneficiary other than fish: a beach. New York Times


California drought: River that runs through downtown San Jose goes dry; fish and wildlife suffer.  The river that runs through America's 10th-largest city has dried up, shriveling a source of civic pride that had welcomed back trout, salmon, beavers and other wildlife after years of restoration efforts. San Jose Mercury News


Reunion Island litter takes toll on turtles.  A plastic bottle cap from Indonesia, a weathered toothbrush head and a salty toy wheel. This is not a Reunion Island beachcomber's haul but the contents of a sea turtle's stomach. Sydney Morning Herald, Australia.


Massive toxic algae bloom reaches from California to Alaska.  Oceanographers are studying whether climate change is contributing to an unprecedented bloom of toxic algae that spans the Pacific Coast of the United States and Canada, raising health concerns. Reuters


From fleece jackets to your food: The scary journey of microplastics.  In this video National Geographic explorer and grantee Gregg Treinish explores the hidden toxic cost of synthetic fabrics. National Geographic News


‘What’s the buzz about wild bees?’ Farming landscapes that encourage diverse pollinators, like bees, birds and insects, can help produce food that is abundant and nutritious. New York Times


Don't worry, honey, the other bees have your back.  A combination of diseases, stress, parasites, pesticides and colony collapse disorder has taken its toll on honeybees. And that could put our own species in a tight spot. National Public Radio


What seafood is OK to eat, anyway? Ask an expert.  When it comes to sustainable seafood, you could say director of Seafood Watch Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly is the ultimate arbiter of taste. Grist


European supermarkets and garden centres ban Roundup weedkiller suspected of causing cancer.  Retail outlets across Europe are taking glyphosate – the main ingredient of Monsanto’s Roundup – off their shelves, despite government officials declaring it safe to use. The Guardian


Your meat-eating habit is killing more than just cows.  In a new report, a team from Florida International University cited the land degradation, pollution, and deforestation caused by rising global demand for meat as "likely the leading cause of modern species extinctions," and the problem is only expected to get worse. Mother Jones


California drought: 'Emergency situation' for state's trees.  Specimens that have stood tall and strong for decades are stressed and dying because of the drought, as Californians turn off spigots to comply with Gov. Jerry Brown's mandatory conservation measures. San Jose Mercury News



How to beat the drought by hoarding water (if it ever rains again).  Collecting rainwater in our thirsty modern world is a messy business. Here's what you need to know if you're hoping to stick a bucket under a gutter to conserve water and cut down your water bill. Mother Jones


Toxic algae is killing West Coast sea lions, shows no sign of diminishing.  A toxic algae bloom that began off the West Coast this spring now stretches from California to Alaska. It’s poisoning marine life from shellfish to sardines to sea lions. San Francisco KQED Public Radio


In Costa Rica, a turtle's suffering puts spotlight on need to reduce use of plastics.  The plight of a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle that biologists in Costa Rica rid of a plastic straw stuck in its nose highlights the need to reduce the use of the synthetic material. Inside Costa Rica


Even doctors are urging people to stop using plastic food wrap.  Could cling film really make us sterile, or cause cancer? For decades, holistic health gurus have warned of the toxic impact of plastic. They have been dismissed as quacks – but now it seems their paranoia might have been justified. London Daily Mail


What is killing America's bees and what does it mean for us?  Pollinators are vanishing, and a silent spring could become a horrifying reality. So why won't the EPA do more? Rolling Stone



The American lawn is now the largest single 'crop' in the U.S.  Americans’ lawns now cover an area three times larger than any irrigated crop in the U.S. Fusion


The drought's hidden victim: California's native fish.  If the drought drags on for another year or two, wild populations of some of the state's most prized fish are likely to vanish. Los Angeles Times


A giant glob of deadly algae is floating off the West Coast.  Here's what you need to know about it, from what this bloom has to do with the drought to why these toxins could be a real threat to the homeless. Mother Jones


Bill would ban manufacture of microbead products.  Language to ban not only the sale and distribution of microbead-containing facial scrubs and other personal care products, but also the manufacture of such products, is being considered by the top two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Bloomberg BNA


'Considerable concern' over microplastic waste and its impact on the sea.  Up to 80 tonnes of plastic could enter the sea every year from everyday cosmetics and cleaning products, according to a new study. Glasgow Herald, United Kingdom.


Here's why brushing your teeth is bad for the oceans.  The tiny exfoliating "microbeads" that millions of people slather onto their faces every morning are having a dire effect on the marine ecosystems, according to a new research by scientists at Plymouth University in England. VICE News.


Plastic: The wonder material filling our oceans and beaches.  With millions of tons of of plastic debris entering the world's oceans every year, plastics' durability is a curse. Australia ABC News


Garbage ‘patch’ is much worse than believed, entrepreneur says. But to Boyan Slat, the 21-year-old Dutch entrepreneur who is orchestrating what he envisions as the largest ocean cleanup effort in history, “patch” is far too gentle a term. He prefers “ticking time bomb.”  SF Gate


Ban on plastic bags no sure bet for environment  When the city council in Austin, Texas, passed a single-use plastic shopping bag ban in 2013, it assumed environmental benefits would follow. The calculation was reasonable enough: Fewer single-use bags in circulation would mean less waste at city landfills. Waste 360

July 2015 Articles


Talking about the car wash: Officials: Use a car wash instead of doing it yourself during drought Officials with the San Mateo County Health System are urging residents with dirty cars to drop the hoses and drive on down to your local car wash instead. San Mateo Daily Journal

County's Rain Barrel Rebate Program Granted Extra Year San Mateo County officials encourage residents to be prepared to make the most of any rainfall during the drought. As a result, they are extending the county’s popular rain barrel rebate program through June 30, 2016, a full year longer than originally planned. San Mateo Patch

Richardson Bay Sea Otter, First in San Francisco Bay Since 2011, Dies A young southern sea otter that had spent the last several weeks living in Richardson Bay died over the weekend. Bay Nature


Could knitted sneakers help clean up the ocean? A conservation organization fished illegal gill nets out of the ocean, and Adidas turned them into shoes. Christian Science Monitor


Drugs including painkillers, anti-depressants found in tests on Sydney Harbour water. The drugs were found by analyzing samples of marine water from 30 sites adjacent to stormwater outlets across the entire Sydney estuary. Australia ABC News


Reduce your use of plastics  It's impossible to know exactly which chemical additives are in any plastic container, nor to ascertain whether they're safe. Healthy Child


Ocean trash isn’t just bad for the environment – it’s bad for your state of mind.  The science behind why litter can ruin your beach vacation. Washington Post


Salmon, whales ingest microplastics: Study.  Zooplankton in the ocean are eating microscopic plastic particles and passing those contaminants up the food chain to salmon, whales and other species at an "alarming" rate. Burnaby Newsleader

California's toxic waters make for toxic shark.  Sitting atop the throne of the fish kingdom’s food chain carries a cost, counted in flesh packed with chemicals. Orange County Register


Study strengthens formaldehyde link to crippling disease ALS.  Men who breathe in formaldehyde fumes as part of their jobs have triple the average risk of developing the paralyzing disease ALS, researchers reported Monday. NBC News


Starlings on Prozac: How pharmaceuticals may affect wildlife.  Recent research suggests that the commonly prescribed psychiatric drug, Prozac, occurs at environmentally relevant concentrations that can significantly alter behaviour and physiology in wild birds. The Guardian


How Big Water is trying to stop the National Park Service from cleaning up plastic bottles that are fouling the parks.  Big Water has stepped in to block the parks from banning the plastic pollutants — and the industry found an ally on Capitol Hill. Washington Post


Study finds contaminants in California public-water supplies.  Nearly one-fifth of the raw groundwater used for public drinking water systems in California contains excessive levels of potentially toxic contaminants, according to a decade-long U.S. Geological Survey study. Associated Press


California to study health effects of ‘crumb rubber’ in artificial turf.  California officials have authorized spending $2.9 million to study the health effects of using recycled tire pieces on artificial turf fields, hoping to put to rest a simmering debate over their safety. San Francisco Chronicle


The ban on plastic bags vs. the ban on bag bans. Of all the perils facing the planet, plastic bags seem like an easy one to fix. But we can’t even do that. New York Magazine


The new DDT. Activist Jeffrey Smith teams with rocker Neil Young to warn communities about glyphosate. Boulder Weekly

A green neighborhood watch targets polluters in low-income communities.  A coalition of California activists and government agencies created a website where residents can upload photos, videos, and other evidence of environmental lawbreaking. TakePart



Effect of poverty on brains may explain poor kids' lower test scores. The effect of poverty on children’s brains may explain why poor youngsters tend to score lower on standardized tests compared to wealthier students, a new study suggests. Reuters Health


More children living in poverty now than during recession.  A higher percentage of children live in poverty now than did during the Great Recession, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation released Tuesday. USA Today


Success story: Cleaner bluefish show effectiveness of US coal regulations, study says.  Mercury levels in bluefish caught off the U.S. Atlantic coast dropped more than 40 percent over the past four decades thanks to federal restrictions on coal emissions, according to a new study. Environmental Health News


Clean weed: Inside an ‘organic’ marijuana farm.  Conventional marijuana is grown with pesticides. The Clean Green label hopes to help consumers and farmers find a chemical-free alternative. Civil Eats


Local farmers: Education needed regarding pesticides. It may seem harmless. There are bugs on a plant in a private garden and the owner sprays a pesticide on that one spot. But what happens if the chemicals get in the soil or a honeybee lands on the flower? Framingham MetroWest Daily News


Minnesota rain gardens go big to fight pollution, reuse water.  Many Minnesota cities use rain gardens and other "green infrastructure" now to keep stormwater from polluting nearby lakes and rivers. Minnesota Public Radio


Green groups fight plastic pollution in North Country waters.   Environmental groups in New York's North Country are trying to spread the word about water pollution from microbeads. Adirondack North Country Public Radio


Northern California’s first agrihood will bring organic veggies to former industrial land.  The Cannery in Davis, California, will place an educational incubator farm in the middle of a planned community. Civil Eats


6 Mosquito Repellent Plants to Keep Pests Away  There are ways to keep mosquitoes and other insects away besides drowning yourself in bug spray. Time