Arsenic puzzle in Michigan ground water

US Geological Survey scientists are unsure as to how anomalously high levels of arsenic have entered domestic drinking water supply wells in Michigan.

Arsenic levels exceeding US standards for drinking water are present in drinking supply wells distributed over nine counties in the state according to a USGS Drinking Water Initiative studies conducted in southeastern Michigan.

“The counties affected have a combined population of more than 2 million people,” says Dr. Allan Kolker of the USGS. “Most of the affected wells are completed in the Marshall sandstone, the principal bedrock aquifer in the region. While arsenic concentrations in the Marshall are sufficient to explain the anomalous arsenic in ground water, the mechanism by which arsenic is released is less certain. High levels of arsenic occur naturally in pyrite, a widespread minor constituent of the sandstone,” says Dr. Kolker.

Blending Coal With Switchgrass

A public and private research partnership are working collaboratively to study ways to grow and harvest switchgrass to blend with coal as a fuel for power generation. Switchgrass is a rugged native grass, ideally suited for the southeastern US and can be grown on marginal land. Reaching heights of up to 12-feet, it requires very little fertilization and herbicide, and can be harvested twice a year with existing equipment. The variety used in this project is Alamo switchgrass, native to Texas, but developed by the Department of Energy and Auburn University for use throughout the Southeast.

“This switchgrass pilot project is an important step in the department’s efforts to increase industrial adaptation of biomass as a renewable energy source,” said Dan Reicher, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE. “Its success can result in a cleaner environment and a new cash crop for some of Alabama’s farmers.”

Pennsylvania solar power plant plan

Green Mountain Energy Resources this week announced an exclusive agreement with Sun Power Electric for a new 50kW solar power plant. Under this agreement, Sun Power Electric, the world’s first all-solar electric utility, will build and own the 50kW solar plant and sell the output to Green Mountain. The solar array, expected to begin producing electricity from the sun by Spring 1999, will be located in the Philadelphia area at a site to be selected.

“We’re delighted to work with Sun Power Electric so that Pennsylvania can reduce its reliance on polluting sources of electricity,” said Kevin Hartley, Green Mountain’s Vice President of Marketing. “Our first 50 kW plant will be the largest solar power plant in Pennsylvania.”

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