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New From the GAO

December 17, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Hanford Cleanup: Condition of Tanks May Further Limit DOE’s Ability to Respond to Leaks and Intrusions. GAO-15-40, November 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-40
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667191.pdf

2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: NRC Needs to Improve Its Cost Estimates by Incorporating More Best Practices. GAO-15-98, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-98
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667500.pdf

3. Defense Infrastructure: Risk Assessment Needed to Identify If Foreign Encroachment Threatens Test and Training Ranges. GAO-15-149, December 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-149
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667551.pdf

4. Higher Education: State Funding Trends and Policies on Affordability. GAO-15-151, December 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-151
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667558.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/667387

5. Tax Filing Season: 2014 Performance Highlights the Need to Better Manage Taxpayer Service and Future Risks. GAO-15-163, December 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-163
Highlights –  http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667562.pdf

CRS — Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background (October 30, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Clean Water Act prescribes performance levels to be attained by municipal sewage treatment plants in order to prevent the discharge of harmful wastes into surface waters. The act also provides financial assistance so that communities can construct treatment facilities to comply with the law. The availability of funding for this purpose continues to be a major concern of states and local governments.

This report provides background on municipal wastewater treatment issues, federal treatment requirements and funding, and recent legislative activity. Meeting the nation’s wastewater infrastructure needs efficiently and effectively is likely to remain an issue of considerable interest to policymakers.

CRS — Ocean Dumping Act: A Summary of the Law (October 30, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Ocean Dumping Act: A Summary of the Law (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act has two basic aims: to regulate intentional ocean disposal of materials, and to authorize related research. Permit and enforcement provisions of the law are often referred to as the Ocean Dumping Act. The basic provisions of the act have remained virtually unchanged since 1972, when it was enacted to establish a comprehensive waste management system to regulate disposal or dumping of all materials into marine waters that are within U.S. jurisdiction, although a number of new authorities have been added. This report presents a summary of the law.

CRS — Allocation of Wastewater Treatment Assistance: Formula and Other Changes (October 30, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Allocation of Wastewater Treatment Assistance: Formula and Other Changes (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Congress established a statutory formula governing distribution of financial aid for municipal wastewater treatment in the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972. Since then, Congress has modified the formula and incorporated other eligibility changes five times. Federal funds are provided to states through annual appropriations according to the statutory formula to assist local governments in constructing wastewater treatment projects in compliance with federal standards. The most recent formula change, enacted in 1987, continues to apply to distribution of federal grants to capitalize state revolving loan funds (SRFs) for similar activities.

The current state-by-state allotment is a complex formulation consisting basically of two elements, state population and “need.” The latter refers to states’ estimates of capital costs for wastewater projects necessary for compliance with the act. Surveys of funding needs have been done since the 1960s and became an element of distributing CWA funds in 1972. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in consultation with states has prepared 15 clean water needs surveys since then (the most recent was released in 2010) to provide information to policymakers on the nation’s total funding needs, as well as needs for certain types of projects.

New From the GAO

December 15, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

James Webb Space Telescope: Project Facing Increased Schedule Risk with Significant Work Remaining. GAO-15-100, December 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-100
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667527.pdf

ASTHO Announces Release of 2014 National Health Security Preparedness Index™

December 15, 2014 Comments off

ASTHO Announces Release of 2014 National Health Security Preparedness Index™
Source: Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and CDC

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and more than 35 development partners, released today the 2014 National Health Security Preparedness Index™ (NHSPI™), which measures and advances the nation’s readiness to protect people during a health emergency or disaster. The 2014 Index includes updated data and new content, especially in the areas of healthcare delivery and environmental health.

The 2014 national result,7.4 on a scale of 10, suggests that substantial health security preparedness capability exists across the nation with progress to sustain and build upon. It also suggests significant work still needs to be done. As with 2013 findings, 2014 areas of relative strength include Countermeasure Management, Incident & Information Management, and Health Security Surveillance. Areas suggesting need for greater development include the new domain of Environmental & Occupational Health, and Healthcare Delivery (previously Surge Management) and Community Planning & Engagement.

Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea

December 15, 2014 Comments off

Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea
Source: PLoS ONE

Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world’s oceans from 24 expeditions (2007–2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N = 680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N = 891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic 4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.

Categories: environment, PLoS ONE, water
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