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"Can’t Think Straight? Grab a Glass of Water." That story and more in the latest edition of "This Week in Water" [ Show/Hide Transcript ]

Relaxation of Coal Ash Rules Stresses Out Many

The interim head of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, signed new rules last week that relax requirements for handling toxic waste from the burning of coal. The resulting ash has contaminated waterways and groundwater from Virginia to Alaska. Wheeler’s action comes after utilities resisted regulations passed during the Obama administration. The Guardian reports that before he became EPA administrator, Wheeler worked as a lobbyist for Murray Energy, which supported reconsideration of the Obama coal ash rules. Wheeler said the move will save power companies about $30 million a year.

But environmentalists argue that the lessening of standards endangers the health of those who live near coal ash storage sites or power plants. The head of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign said they will oppose the roll back every step of the way. The new standards do allow states to set their own more stringent coal ash safeguards such as those set in North Carolina, where Duke Energy paid a large fine after a coal ash spill in 2014.

Proposed EPA Science Rule Rejects...Science

The EPA held a hearing last week about its proposal to drastically limit the scientific studies it considers in shaping human health protections. The Associated Press reports that, if adopted, the new rule would allow EPA to reject a study if the underlying data—such as private patient medical records—is not made public. A study, such as that done by Harvard Public Health nearly thirty years ago that established links between death rates and dirty air in cities, could be rejected, if the new rule is accepted because it doesn’t reveal confidential patient information. Rep. Paul Tomko, (D-NY), said the new rule is a thinly veiled attempt to reject research that supports critical regulatory action.

Baltimore Sues Fossil Fuel Companies as Zero Hour Movement Takes Off

The city of Baltimore filed suit last week against 26 fossil fuel companies to hold them financially accountable for threats to the city’s waterfront from sea level rise.

Inside Climate News reports that Baltimore wants compensation and is also seeking damages because the companies mislead the public about the effects of burning fossil fuels. Baltimore’s case was filed less than a day after a federal judge threw out New York City’s similar effort saying that, while climate change is a fact of life not contested by fossil fuel companies, the courts are not the branch of government to fix the problem. His ruling followed that of another judge in California, who tossed similar claims by San Francisco and Oakland. In contrast, Baltimore’s case, like some others, is brought in state court, not federal. Some legal scholars say that they may have better chances in front of state judges.

Meanwhile nine suits filed by or on behalf of children are still pending against governmental entities claiming they must address and prevent the consequences of climate change on land, water, and the atmosphere.

Speaking of young people, on Saturday, July 21st, youth activists across the globe engaged in marches and demonstrations as a part of the "Zero Hour" movement that focuses on climate change and environmental justice. Speakers called on elected officials to reject money from fossil fuel companies, ban all new dirty energy developments, and safeguard the planet for future generations.

Fires and Drought Causing Aquatic Suffering

Fish are having a tough time not far from the southwestern town of Durango, Colorado. About 300 were saved on Wednesday from the deadly runoff caused by the large 416 Wildfire, but thousands in the Animas River have already been killed. The Durango Herald reports that the burn area recently received needed precipitation, but it brought down ash and dirt into the river suffocating fish.

Besides these problems, the Animas River has been experiencing extremely low flows—down to about 200 cubic feet per second from the usual 1,000 at this time of year. The low flows and higher water temperatures also stress fish. Cold water species like trout as well as aquatic insects are affected by heat and lower flows because the dissolved oxygen content in the water drops. The same aquatic suffering is occurring in New Mexico where drought is ravaging the state. The Taos News reports that anglers are being asked to go out earlier in the morning, higher in the mountains, and not to fish after noon.

OSHA Urged to Pass Safety Standards Due to Extreme Heat and Record Temps

The record-setting heat this summer has spurred a movement to protect those who work outside particularly farm and construction workers. On Tuesday, a coalition of 130 public health and environmental groups submitted a petition to OSHA that would require employers to provide their workers with water, access to shady or cooled spaces, and mandatory breaks. From 1992 to 2016, heat killed 783 workers in the U.S. and seriously injured nearly 70,000, according to a study by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. And that number is likely understated because workers fear retaliation and some even deportation if they complain.

Inside Climate News reports that right now, employers must provide workplaces that are free of hazards; but the coalition said employers are falling short. Specific heat related rules are necessary as global warming leads to hot spells and record temperatures.

Georgia Institute of Technology Says: "Less Fluid, More Goofs"

While high heat can be serious for workers, just being dehydrated can affect a person’s ability to think. According to new study by the Georgia Institute of Technology cognitive functions wilt as water leaves the body. Researchers found a strong correlation between dehydration and the ability to focus, coordinate, and problem solve. They say that could raise the risk of an accident, particularly in settings that combine heavy sweating and dangerous machinery.

So how much water do you have to lose to affect concentration? About 2 percent of body mass, according to the lead investigator. For example, a 200-pound person could lose 4 pounds of water during an hour of moderate activity, at a temperature in the mid-80s. So when you’re feeling a little foggy, even when sitting at your desk, go for that water bottle. It might save you from sending an email or a report with an embarrassing typo.

Music Credits: The Fixer, Funkygroove  | Qin, Dr.Guonake  | Jah Moon, Sun Ska Riddim Originale  |  Scott Holmes, Cat and Mouse  |  Grégoire Lourme, Rain  |  Maze, Dark Clouds  |  Creative Commons

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