Oxon Hill Sewage Pipe Spilled 15,000 Gallons of Sewage Into the Potomac River
Jun30

Oxon Hill Sewage Pipe Spilled 15,000 Gallons of Sewage Into the Potomac River

The Potomac River received some unwelcome waste after a sewer main near Oxon Hill, Maryland sprung a leak. TheBayNet.com reports that last month, residents of Oxon Hill were advised to avoid certain parts along the Potomac as repair crews were hard at work stopping the leak. Workers from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) faced an especially challenging job considering that fixing a sewer main involves building tributary pipes to divert the sewage. “Fixing a broken sewer main is very different than fixing a broken water main,” said Lyn Riggins, a spokeswoman for WSSC. “You can’t just shut off the wastewater. The wastewater has to keep flowing or it will back up somewhere.” The leak itself comes from a 14-inch crack in the main sewer line. The line was buried roughly two feet underground. In order to prevent back up, the repair crews built a temporary 7,000-foot pipeline to safely re-route the sewage around the cracked pipe. They also inspected the busted pipeline with a camera before they actually touched it. Because the pipes were buried underground, they were prime candidates for the trenchless pipe repair method. As the name suggests, the method does not require digging large trenches in order to reach the pipes. Rather, the method calls for the use of existing pipes in order to guide special flexible pipes in them. Already available for residential projects for the past 10-15 years (although still relatively unknown), the trenchless method is considered more efficient and considerably less destructive than traditional methods. All in all, the repair work took about a week to complete. More than 15,000 gallons of sewage was spilled before the work was done. WSSC maintains that the leak could have been a lot worse had Oxon Hill not been located in a low-lying area. Due to the town’s topography, much of the sewage was effectively blocked off from the Potomac. Some of it, however, managed to seep into the river through the Oxon Run tributary. WSSC and Oxon Hill officials reassured residents that their water was safe to drink since the sewage and wastewater treatment plants that treat the nearly water is separate from the drinking water plant. Still, officials warned residents to avoid certain areas close to the spillage and put up warning signs just in case. “Even though there is waste water leaking in this area, the drinking water system is safe,” Riggins...

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For Children With Autism, Reading Can Be Magic
Jun30

For Children With Autism, Reading Can Be Magic

Ten weeks of intensive reading intervention was enough to help strengthen brain activity and reading comprehension for children with autism spectrum disorder, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently found. This research proves that the brain is a plastic, flexible organ that can be strengthened and whose function can be improved regardless of age, reported the Medical Daily. Individuals on the autism spectrum are affected by a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs one’s ability to communicate and interact with others. The disorder manifests itself on a wide spectrum, with symptoms ranging from mild to very severe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 50 schoolchildren in the U.S. will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. In addition to hindering one’s communication skills, autism spectrum disorder also impairs connectivity between parts in the brain’s reading area. However, the University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers found that this connectivity was strengthened among the children they studied after giving them face-to-face reading instruction for four hours a day, five days a week. The study observed 13 children, whose average age was 10.9 years old. The families taking part in the study received this intensive intervention free of charge, News-Medical.net reported. After taking part in the study, the children displayed boosted activity in the parts of the brain that handle language and visual/spatial processing. The study’s authors call this the “magic of intervention,” in which people with autism spectrum disorder may be able to control or even overcome some of the negative aspects of their disorder. For children who are diagnosed with this disorder early enough, this “magic” could actually reverse some of the symptoms associated with their disorder. “This study is the first to do reading intervention with ASD children using brain imaging techniques, and the findings reflect the plasticity of the brain,” Rajesh Kana, associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the study’s lead author, said. “Some parents think, if their child is 8 or 10 years old when diagnosed, the game is lost. What I stress constantly is the importance of intervention, and the magic of intervention, on the brain in general and brain connectivity in...

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California’s Drought Worsens as Farmers Sue the State and the State Fines Farmers
Jun30

California’s Drought Worsens as Farmers Sue the State and the State Fines Farmers

In the latest installment of Drought Drama faced by nine major Californian cities, politicians have been frantically trying to privatize and optimize water supplies by means of imposing legal regulations and fines — all while farmers are ignoring the regulations and big corporations are passively accepting the fees that are now result from excess water consumption. In other words, the state of California appears to be a hot mess, from inside legislative assembly rooms to outside in the fields. The Sacramento Bee reported last week that Senate Bill 88 passed through the state’s legislative body, getting a vote of 24-14 in the Senate and 52-28 in the Assembly, “with all Republicans opposed.” Senate Bill 88 requires that anyone diverting 10 acre-feet or more of water will have to report the diversion, and anyone who violates water conservation efforts could be fined up to $10,000. The goal is to help Californians (particularly low-income residents) access clean drinking water, and as USA Today reported, activities such as watering lawns and washing cars have been banned or restricted entirely in the affected nine cities. After the 2007-2009 Californian drought, the California Department of Water Resources declared a state of emergency, and officials again decided to declare another emergency during the 2012-2014 drought, which was reportedly the driest three-year period (on record) the state has ever seen. However, as USA Today also noted, the state is drying up yet again, and this time it’s expected to have some major economic consequences. Businesses that can afford to pay fees for excess water consumption may very well use up more than their fair share, while other businesses that rely on water could end up shutting down indefinitely. And if large factories and office buildings shut down, there could be a completely different set of problems. A large industrial factory, for example, could require up to 80,000 cubic meters of water per hour for a cooling tower system; if this water isn’t available, the factory can’t operate at safe temperatures. Ultimately, this would end with widespread layoffs and staff reductions — which, according to researchers from the University of California at Davis, happened during 2014 and resulted in 17,000 lost jobs. For farmers, the situation is even more dire. CBS News reported recently that only 31% of farms and irrigation districts have complied with state mandates to stop taking water from nearby Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Farmers have begun suing the state for cutting off their water supply, while state authorities have made it a point to tell the farmers that they’ll be fined $1,000 per day that they violate the restrictions. At this point,...

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