Week of May 7, 2007





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Bacteria Found That Can Clean Up PCBs without Dredging

ATLANTA, (ENS) - Researchers have identified a group of bacteria that can detoxify a common type of polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs. These carcinogenic compounds, once used as coolants and lubricants, have contaminated more than 250 U.S. sites, including lake and river sediments. The discovery is a first step toward a bioremediation strategy that would naturally detoxify the PCBs without risky removal of the sediments in which they persist.


Development of bioremediation technologies for PCB cleanup would offer an alternative to sediment dredging and disposal in landfills, which is the most commonly used method for removing PCBs used today. Dredging is controversial because of the invasive nature of this technology and the risk of spreading contaminants. Researchers have known for more than 20 years that naturally occurring microorganisms could slowly dechlorinate PCBs, which were once commonly used by industry. The compounds were banned from production in the United States in 1977 because of their toxicity to humans and animals.


In research funded by the National Science Foundation and General Electric, PCB expert Donna Bedard, a biology professor at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, analyzed sediments from the Housatonic River in Massachusetts. Bedard collaborated with microbiologists at the Georgia Institute of Technology to study microbial degradation in Aroclor 1260, a common, highly chlorinated PCB mixture.


Working with sediment samples from the Housatonic, the team was able to determine that bacteria in the Dehalococcoides, Dhc, group were responsible for the dechlorination of Aroclor 1260. These microbes replace the chlorine atoms in Aroclor 1260 with hydrogen, which fuels their growth and initiates the PCB degradation process, explained Frank Loeffler, an associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Biology.


Once Dhc bacteria dechlorinate Aroclor 1260 to a certain level, other microbes will degrade it further and completely detoxify PCBs, Loeffler said.  "Identifying the bacteria responsible for Aroclor degradation represents a crucial step. Now we can start to design tools to look for these microbes in sediments and then develop engineering approaches to stimulate their growth and activity in river or lake sediments," Loeffler said.

"Then the decontamination will occur more rapidly. Instead of taking decades, the microbes might be able to degrade the PCBs in a few years," he said.  Loeffler is optimistic about a bioremediation strategy for PCBs because of his lab’s earlier success in identifying microbes that degrade the common solvents tetrachloroethene, PCE, and trichloroethene, TCE. These toxic compounds, which contaminated subsurface environments and groundwater decades ago when their use was unregulated, are used in dry cleaning operations and degreasing of metal components.


After Loeffler’s discovery, it took less than five years for scientists and engineers to develop and implement bioremediation strategies that use these microbes to detoxify PCE and TCE.


Loeffler predicts that bioremediation technologies for addressing PCB detoxification will be developed first for lakes, such as Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. Then it will be refined to clean up river sediments, where the flow rate is greater and bioremediation may be more difficult to implement.   Polychlorinated biphenyls are mixtures of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds.


PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they do not burn easily and are good insulators.  The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the United States in 1977 because of evidence they build up in the environment and can cause harmful health effects. Old fluorescent lighting fixtures and electrical devices and old microscope and hydraulic oils may still contain PCBs.


PCBs are taken up by small organisms and fish in water. They are also taken up by other animals that eat these aquatic animals as food. PCBs accumulate in fish and marine mammals, reaching levels that may be many thousands of times higher than in water. The main dietary sources of PCBs are fish, especially sportfish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers, meat, and dairy products.


The Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that PCBs may reasonably be anticipated to be carcinogens. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have determined that PCBs are probably carcinogenic to humans.   www.ens-newswire.com/ens/may2007/2007-05-01-02.asp

Fish Oil preserves thinking ability in Elderly: Study


NEW YORK -- High blood levels of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids, found in fish oil, may help preserve thinking ability in the elderly, according to the findings of two studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  The results were particularly striking among subjects with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.


Accumulating evidence suggests that diets that include omega-3 fatty acids, specifically, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), protect against the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, according to a Dutch research team. However, the effect of EPA+DHA consumption on thinking ability, or "cognitive function," has received less scrutiny.

So Dr. Boukje Maria van Gelder, from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, and associates evaluated data for 210 healthy men in the "Zutphen Study," who were 79 to 89 years old in 1990 and had normal mental capacity. Their diets were assessed in 1990, and cognitive function was tested in 1990 and again in 1995. Subjects who ate fish had a slower decline in cognitive function than subjects who did not eat fish. The investigators conclude that "fish consumption and EPA+DHA intake are not significantly related to cognitive impairment but are significantly related to cognitive decline."


Van Gelder's team recommends the daily consumption of roughly 400 mg of EPA and DHA, found in fish, meat, eggs, leeks, and cereal products.  SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2007.


Barrier Operation

The demonstration barrier is still running, though the condition of three of the remaining 12 electrodes is questionable. Failure of one more electrode is likely to result in failure of the barrier. The U.S. Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers have an agreement in place to operate the new barrier (IIA) on an emergency basis if barrier I fails prior to the completion of satisfactory safety testing on Barrier II.


The House has approved a bill that includes wording to fund and make permanent the Waterway Barrier.  H.R. 1495, Water Resources Development Act was approved on April 19 by a vote of 394-25. We now need the US Senate to show a sense of urgency and pass a similar bill.


The new barrier is about 50% complete. It is being built in two

parts, IIA and IIB. Barrier array IIA is complete and ready to operate pending the safety testing results mentioned above. Barrier IIB needs to be completed at an estimated additional cost of $8 million.


The safety testing for IIA was completed last month. The Corps was able to successfully operate barrier IIA under three electrode scenarios without creating visible sparks between fleeing barges downstream. Final assessment of the data readings is being undertaken by the Corps. A determination regarding the safe operation of Barrier IIA will come later in the year, perhaps sometime this summer. Meanwhile, the Navy special dive team is conducting an assessment of the risk in a man overboard situation. Their report is due in September.


Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for May 4, 2007

Lake Level Conditions:

Currently, Lake Superior is 12 inches below its level of a year ago, while Lake Michigan-Huron is an inch above last year’s level.  Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario are 7 to 10 inches above their levels of a year ago.  Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are expected to rise 4 and 3 inches, respectively, over the next 30 days.  Lake St. Clair is predicted to remain at the same level.  Lake Erie is projected to drop an inch over the next month, while Lake Ontario is expected to rise an inch. During the next few months, Lake Superior is predicted to remain well below its water level of a year ago, while water levels of the remaining lakes are expected to be similar or slightly above last year’s levels. See our Daily Levels web page for more water level information.


Current Outflows/Channel Conditions:

Outflow from the St. Marys River is predicted to be well below average for May. Flows through the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers are also predicted to be lower than average this month. Flow in the Niagara River, as well as the St. Lawrence River, is expected to be above average.



Due to abnormally dry conditions on the Lake Superior basin over the last several months, | Lake Superior’s water level is currently below chart datum and is expected to remain below datum through September.  Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.





St. Clair



Level for May 4






Datum, in ft






Diff in inches


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Things you never knew your cell phone could do

There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies. Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival. Check out the things that you can do with it:


FIRST: Emergency

The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112.  If you find yourself out of the coverage area of your mobile; network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly this number 112 can be dialed even if the keypad is locked. Try it out.


SECOND: Have you locked your keys in the car?

Does your car have remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday.  Good reason to own a cell phone: If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their cell phone from your cell phone. Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their end. Your car will unlock. It will save you from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you can reach someone who has the other "remote" for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk).


THIRD: Hidden Battery Power

Imagine your cell battery is very low. To activate, press the keys *3370# your cell will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your cell next time.


FOURTH: How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone?

To check your Mobile phone's serial number, key in the following digits on your phone: * # 0 6 #.  A 15 digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. When your phone gets stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless.  You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.



Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411 information calls when they don't have to. Most of us do not carry a telephone directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even more of a problem. When you need to use the 411 information option,


simply dial: (800) FREE 411, or (800) 373-3411 without incurring any charge at all. Program this into your cell phone now.


Agencies begin Cormorant egg oiling

State, federal agencies hope to preserve fish populations

LUDINGTON— Federal employees treated hundreds of cormorant eggs with vegetable oil on May 2 at the rock breakwater off the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant. The oil will keep the eggs from hatching.  The action was a joint effort between state and federal agencies that were hoping to protect not just stocked brown trout in Lake Michigan and surrounding rivermouth lakes, but also great lakes forage species such as alewife and smelt.


“This is a good first step," said Tom Rozich, Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist supervisor. “There is no reason we need to feed tens of thousands of pounds of alewives to cormorants. They are better suited as forage for all of our gamefish. This control will serve to protect the brown trout we stock in Ludington harbor.  “It’ll protect the long-term recovery of perch that’s going on in Lake Michigan.”


Jim Fenner, president of the Ludington Area Charterboat Association, said he was pleased to hear about the cormorant control measures.

"That’s great," Fenner said. "I love it. We’re all for it. This is what we’ve been hoping for.  Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the cormorant colony in Ludington and it should signal the beginning of the return of the perch fishery."


Fenner’s group gave $3,500 to USDA Wildlife Services for cormorant control in Michigan last year. “By making that contribution we made the USDA aware that we were serious and we knew we had a problem here,” Fenner said. “They looked into it last summer and they thought it was worth



A survey last summer revealed 482 nests in the colony. Pete Butchko of the USDA's Wildlife Services said the number was reduced slightly when crews visited Wednesday, probably because it’s so early in the year. He said he hoped to have crews return every two weeks, which is standard protocol for controlling reproduction. Butchko said he also hopes to eliminate 10 % of the population of the colony — 200 of the roughly 2,000 birds. Federal officials plan to use guns to shoot and kill the birds. There are currently no plans to eliminate the colony.


But the hurdle for Butchko’s plans is funding. He expects $150,000 from the federal government, an amount planned for the project since 2004, but not yet received. The delay in his federal funding is tying up state matching funds.  “In the meantime, cormorants are nesting and we can’t wait,” Butchko said. “We’re getting started with some of our activities." He said his budget could be anywhere from $150,000 to $310,000, but he doesn’t know how much it will be.


“I think we’ll have enough to do some things,” Butchko said. “We may not have enough to do everything. We’ve added a fairly major project in the Beaver islands this year. We’ve added Ludington, which is small by comparison, but it does take people and it does take hours for them to do that.”


Courtesy,   Ludington Daily News by Brian Mulherin   www.ludingtondailynews.com/news.php?story_id=35976


DNR Reaches Out to Asian Business Owners to Increase Awareness of Dangers of Asian Carp

A recent presentation by a conservation officer of the Department Natural Resources to the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in the Detroit area highlighted the potential adverse effects of introducing Asian carps - black, bighead, grass and silver - to Michigan waters.


DNR Commercial Fish Specialist Steven Huff gave the presentation in April to 85 members of the organization at a recent meeting in Detroit. Huff emphasized the impact the fish could have on the state’s commercial and sport fisheries.


In 2006, DNR law enforcement personnel, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture seized 84 grass carp that were being unlawfully sold at two Asian food markets in Southeast Michigan. The fish, which customers prefer to buy in a live condition, are considered a delicacy in some Asian communities.


Possession or transport of live Asian carp, including the grass carp, silver carp, bighead carp and black carp, and snakehead fish, is prohibited by state law. Last year’s action was the first known seizure of these prohibited species in Michigan.


As national and state efforts continue to prevent Asian carp

from entering Lake Michigan via the Illinois River, DNR officials are concerned that these non-indigenous species have the potential to cause great harm to the Great Lakes ecosystem. Non-indigenous species that are successful in establishing populations typically are impossible to eradicate, and difficult and costly to control.


Huff gave the presentation at the request of the chamber, and saw it as a good way to educate Asian business owners who might deal in the fish.  “This was our effort to reach out to the Asian business community and provide them with valuable information about the fish and why we want to make sure we keep them out of Michigan waters,” Huff said. “We will continue to discuss these issues with the Asian community and help make them more aware of our concerns about these species of fish.”


Huff was assisted in his presentation by American Association of University Women Program Vice-President Amy D. Seetoo, who served as an interpreter. Li-Yin Kuo, chamber president, also assisted with the program.  Anyone having information of the possession, sale or importation of live prohibited species is urged to contact the DNR Report All Poaching Hotline at (800) 292-7800.


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