SWANA pushes pesticide-container recycling

The Solid Waste Association of North America is asking the EPA to pass a rule that mandates recycling of pesticide containers. According to executive director John Skinner, the containers should be kept out of the stream at municipal recycling centers to avoid contaminating conventional recyclables and reducing the market value of recovered materials.

Restoration plan boasts billion-dollar price tag

After decades of dreaming about restoring old salt ponds, farm fields, and abandoned properties around the San Francisco Bay to native wetlands, a report prices the effort at $1.43 billion.

The money would be used to restore more than 36,000 acres of land around the bay, doubling the wetlands' current size. Wetlands, in addition to aesthetic appeal, benefit a region by providing natural pollution and flood control.

“If you spread it out over 50 years and everybody paid a share, it would be less than $4/year per person,” says David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay. “It's a big number, but we think it's achievable.”

The group's research suggests that residents in the nine counties that surround the bay would be happy to foot the bill for the project. A poll indicated that 83% of respondents would be willing to pay up to $10/year more in taxes or fees to make the dream a reality.

In order to collect the money, a special district—much like the existing East Bay Regional Park District that currently serves the area—would need to be created, bringing in representatives from key state, regional, or local governmental bodies. That plan has support from residents as well as businesses, which see the measure as benefiting the area's pocketbook, in addition to the environment and water system.

“A clean environment is one of the most important features you can have in an innovation economy,” says John Grubb, spokesperson for the Bay Area Council, a group of area executives. “The opportunities that nature provides is one of the draws here—and the reason costs are so high. But you get what you pay for.”

Samples Used to Fight Crime

When residents are doing something they shouldn't—namely, illicit substances like crystal methamphetamine and cocaine—your influent shows it.

A team of researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Washington has developed an automated monitoring method that tests samples of municipal wastewater to detect traces of illegal drugs in the system. The data can be used to monitor patterns of drug use among residents.

“It's like a very diluted urine sample collected from an entire community,” says Jennifer Field, a chemist from OSU.

Drugs, both legal and otherwise, have been tracked in wastewater effluent for several years. However, this method tests the sewage as it enters a treatment plant, and detection is possible from very small samples taken over a 24-hour period.

Methamphetamine-related deaths in Oregon and Washington have gone up 300% in recent years, so it's a problem those states are eager to solve. Finding geographic patterns of drug consumption locates areas where city officials and law enforcement can focus on helping residents just say no.

Bridge-Fatigue Whiz Wins Prize

Jennifer Righman McConnell, PhD, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Delaware, has received the 2007 Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture for her research on steel bridge designs.

The award, designed to encourage engineers just starting out in structural engineering, was given by the American Iron and Steel Institute's Steel Bridge Task Force.

“Though early in her career, she has already made a mark on steel bridge design through her research,” says Alex Wilson, chair of the task force.

McConnell's research focuses on the inelastic behavior of steel bridges, as well as the blast resistance of bridges and other civil infrastructure systems. In August, she spoke before the task force on “Rotational Compatibility Approach to Moment Redistribution for Design and Rating of Steel I-Girder Bridges.” In the aftermath of the Minnesota bridge collapse, such research could become increasingly important as national attention on bridges and other infrastructure increases.

Texas DOT Builds Innovative Bridge

In its efforts to find more durable, affordable construction methods, TxDOT has constructed a drainage-ditch bridge out of fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite beams.

The structure, which replaces a single-span girder bridge, is 50 feet long and 32 feet wide and sits 35 miles from Corpus Christi. The second FRP bridge in the state, it consists of a concrete deck and customized FRP flanged U-shaped beams. The composition of the beams makes them durable and corrosion-resistant.

After the beams were fabricated by Independence, Mo.-based MFG Construction Products Co., they were placed on-site, and the deck was placed on top, tied to the beams with horizontal pipe. Since the bridge was completed in April 2007, TxDOT's load-testing research has found the beams to be stronger than anticipated. The structure's long-term performance will be observed in coming months.