The Drought of 2012…and Preparing for the Drought of 2013?

No one knows better than farmers how unpredictable weather can be. Weather predictions, like economic predictions, are notoriously unreliable. That said, according to several reports, the drought of 2012 seems to be overstaying its welcome into 2013.

In fact, more than 60% of the contiguous United States remains in a drought as we begin 2013. And according to Fred Gesser, senior agricultural meteorologist for Planalytics, Inc., “There is a 70% probability for last year’s drought to linger into 2013.”

The impact of the current drought is being felt now. According to a report in Drovers, a small farming town in Oklahoma (Wapanucka) lost water supply completely when the spring-fed wells in the community ran dry.

The dry weather is potentially a very serious issue as farmers look toward the growing season, and as they look to maintain water needs for livestock.

With this as a backdrop, I asked Dr. Michael Sklash, our senior hydrogeologist, a few questions relating to groundwater supply and agriculture. Mike has worked on groundwater supply issues for agriculture around the world, including crop and livestock farmers in the Midwestern United States.

Is there a way to evaluate whether my aquifer is currently stressed?

Sklash: Have any of your wells run dry at any time? Has the water level in your well fallen significantly? Have you had to lower your pump intake? Have there been any changes in water quality? These are all potential indications of a stressed aquifer.

Assuming worst case scenario (a continuing drought), are there any proactive measures I can take?

Sklash: Beyond looking at the specific crop types and depending on your needs (watering crops or water for livestock), you can consider the following:
• Horizontal wells
• Deeper wells
• Capture storm water and snow melt (in a retention pond)
• Optimize irrigation
• Focus your irrigation
• Cultivate to minimize surface runoff

How should I respond when asked if my agricultural water use is negatively impacting private wells?

Sklash: This isn’t always a simple cause-effect relationship, for example:
• The wells may be in different aquifers.
• The private wells may be shallow enough to be affected directly by less rainfall recharge. Water tables typically fluctuate by a few feet in many areas in the Midwest. A drought will only make the typical annual low levels lower.
• The wells may be too far apart to have a cause-effect relationship.
• There may be other water users causing the problem.

Finally, if you are considering siting a new agricultural operation, a water supply evaluation should be a high-priority consideration early in your decision making process.

As we write this newsletter (in late January), but for a recent unseasonable storm in the eastern half of the United States, the conditions are still very dry. While we all hope for a break in the precipitation pattern, consider some of the suggestions provided above to ease the impact of the ongoing drought.

If you have questions specific to groundwater or groundwater supply, please contact Mike Sklash (msklash@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

Changes to Part 201 and Part 213: A benefit to Michigan’s business climate?

For far too many years, Michigan businesses have been frustrated in efforts to comply with the State’s environmental regulations under Act 451.  Site closures were difficult (if not impossible), and it seemed that there were no finalities to site investigations.  This frustration, expressed by the business community, resulted in Governor Rick Snyder’s Environmental Advisory Committee and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Collaborative Stakeholders Initiative.

Anxious for substantive change, these initiatives were largely applauded by the business community.  So with the passage of Public Act 446 of 2012 (PA 446), there is great anticipation (and maybe a little skepticism) about removing some uncertainty as it relates to environmental projects in Michigan.

A few highlights among the many changes in PA 446 include the following:

  • Clarifies that site-specific criteria may be numeric or non-numeric.  This relates to the issue of free product and provides avenues for site closure not previously available under the regulations.
  • Underground storage tank cleanups (Part 213) can now use the groundwater venting criteria in Part 201.  This acknowledges the scientific rationale used in Part 201 and applies it to Part 213.
  • Allows use of Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) standards to be used to evaluate and close manufacturing sites.  Previously, criteria established by the MDEQ based on conservative exposure assumptions were applied to all situations.  Now, in a workplace situation where the chemical is being used, MIOSHA criteria, which are often less restrictive, can be applied.  Defaulting to established worker exposure pathway values should be helpful in closing some (manufacturing) sites with potential indoor air issues.
  • Simplifies the regulations of soil relocation under Part 201.  This should save money by allowing for more opportunities to reuse soil on site rather than filling up landfill space.
  • For those seeking to submit a No Further Act (NFA) report, it should now be more straight forward and attainable.  An NFA is now available for those liable, as well as those not liable, for the contamination.
  • A “Certificate of Completion” is now available.  This certificate provides confirmation from the MDEQ that the response activity was completed in compliance with Part 201. The MDEQ can grant the Certificate, deny the request, or notify the submitter that there is insufficient information.  The MDEQ then must specify what information is missing and is necessary for a decision.
  • While there are many final rule changes, the amendment extends the deadline to revise (or rescind) the cleanup criteria to December 31, 2013.

Will all of these changes really make a difference?  We’ll know first-hand as we are currently assisting our clients in an attempt to “test the waters” on what many view as some very practical and much needed changes in Michigan’s environmental regulations.

If you have questions about the applicability of the changes to your site, contact Jeffrey Bolin, M.S., CHMM (jbolin@dragun.com) or Matthew Schroeder, M.S., P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

This post (by Jack Benton) has nothing to do with environmental issues, but is a rather “chilling” reminder to us all about distracted driving.

EHS Safety News America

This video seems to have a viral history across the internet and I’m told this occurred on a highway in Russia. None the less, watch the vehicle directly ahead of the vehicle filming this.  While we don’t know the cause of the vehicle losing control…. for obvious reasons, this should be  a warning to us all, especially in bad weather.

See how quickly your life could change by taking your eyes of the road for “one split second”?  Please Don’t Text or engage in any other task that will cause you to be distracted while driving, and always maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.


 Safe Driving Tips!

Every driver should have the goal to be as safe as possible on the road.

The 2 most important habits that will prevent collisions are diligent observation and keeping space around your vehicle

A drivers eyes should…

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