Mississippi bridge takes a tumble

As if bridges weren't already suffering (thanks to old age and lack of funding), a Biloxi bridge is now coming under scrutiny after a high-profile failure.

A100-ton concrete girder tumbled from the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge, which is under construction, in mid-October. Although it splashed harmlessly into the water, the incident has commuters nervous—especially because statements issued by the Mississippi DOT (MDOT) and eyewitnesses don't jibe.

MDOT claims the beam had been temporarily set on the eastbound side of the bridge and simply fell into the Biloxi Bay, where it broke in two.

But Henry Humphrey, who was fishing with friend Ron McCravey 500 yards from the construction site, says the beam snapped in half before its descent. McCravey says the beam appeared to be set in place and broke before hitting the water.

The beams are constructed so that, when laid upright, one can support a tremendous amount of weight; but if laid flat, cannot support its own weight.

An investigation is pending. In the meantime, MDOT officials say the bridge is structurally sound, the other 781 beams on the bridge are fine, and the span will be safe to drive on when one side opens in November.

Wastewater plants: water polluters?

According to a study of water pollution in northern New Mexico, wastewater plants are among the most egregious violators.

In October, Environment New Mexico released a report asserting that in 2005, more than half of the municipal and industrial facilities discharged more pollution into nearby waterways than allowed under Clean Water Act stipulations.

Among that group, municipal sewage treatment plants were among the most serious offenders, with a high number of recorded regulation violations against them. For example, the city of Espaola has paid $8700 in penalties for its plant, and has been in noncompliance with EPA requirements for all but one of the last 12 quarters.

At least one violator, however, has wiped the slate clean. Los Alamos County's facility in Bayo Canyon—an outdated plant that had discharged excessive levels of fecal coliform, mercury, and other pollutants—has been closed and replaced with a more modern, $11.5 million facility in Pueblo Creek.

The study was released in conjunction with the Clean Water Act's 35th anniversary. For more information or to view the report, visit www.environmentnewmexico.org.

Water infrastructure needs money poured in

According to a national association, Congress needs to boost funding to avert crisis.

The Water Infrastructure Network (WIN)—a coalition of drinking water managers, wastewater service providers, and elected officials—says that during the early years of the Clean Water Act, the federal government poured more than $72 billion into building waste-water treatment plants. However, federal funds for water infrastructure have fallen 70% since 1980, and nearly 50% in the past six years.

“Without adequate federal funding for infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement, sustained water quality is an impossible goal,” says American Public Works Association president Larry Frevert. “We urge Congress to act now to adopt water infrastructure funding legislation.”

WIN recommends the Senate pass legislation similar to the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007, the House legislation that would provide $14 billion over four years for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

For more information, visit www.win-water.org.