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Drinking water kills fish

(AP) -- At least 30 fish were killed after a drinking water pipe burst and sent thousands of gallons of chlorinated water into a San Francisco Bay area creek.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the city's Public Utilities Commission discovered the leak on Saturday near Crystal Springs Reservoir, part of a drinking water system that serves 2.5 million Bay Area residents.

Officials said they expect the fish death toll -- which may have included threatened steelhead trout -- to rise, possibly to hundreds.

San Mateo Creek flows about five miles from the reservoir to San Francisco Bay.

Steven Ritchie, assistant general manager for water at the commission, said the cause of the break in the 1932-era pipe is still unknown.

No scientific misconduct

(AP) -- An internal government watchdog has found no scientific misconduct by the National Park Service in determining the environmental impacts of a Point Reyes National Seashore oyster farm.

The U.S. Department of Interior's Inspector General said there was no fraud, waste, abuse or misrepresentation of data by researchers who found that boats used by the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. had an impact on nearby harbor seals.

Oyster farm supporters claimed the park service failed to use the “best science available” when determining the farm's noise impact on the waterway.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided against renewing the facility's lease, saying the waterway should instead be returned to wilderness status, as Congress dictated in 1976.

Farm owner Kevin Lunny has sued the government in an effort to overturn Salazar's decision.

Starwood securities sale

(Bloomberg) -- Starwood Property Trust sold $525 million of convertible securities, the commercial mortgage company founded by Barry Sternlicht said Tuesday.

The firm issued 4.55 percent debt with a conversion price of $28.14 per share, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The proceeds of the offering will be used to acquire commercial property loans and other investments, according to company. Portions may also be used to fund Greenwich, Conn.-based Starwood's (NYSE: STWD) purchase of LNR Property LLC, the largest U.S. servicer of troubled commercial mortgages packaged into bonds.

Goldman Sachs decline

(Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s (NYSE: GS) headcount for the mortgage business fell 40 percent from 2008 to 2012, Chief Financial Officer Harvey M. Schwartz said.

The unit's pretax earnings declined 22 percent during the period, Schwartz, 48, said Tuesday.

Sandy second-costliest

(AP) -- Superstorm Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in the nation's history, according to a report released Tuesday.

The storm's effects reached far and wide, according to the National Hurricane Center report.

While Sandy visited devastation on the East Coast, principally New Jersey and New York, it created wind gusts as far west as Wisconsin and as far north as Canada and caused water levels to rise from Florida to Maine, the center found.

The report estimated damage caused by Sandy at $50 billion, greater than any U.S. hurricane except Katrina, which in 2005 caused $108 billion in damage, or $128 billion adjusted to 2012 dollars.

Hurricane Andrew in 1992 caused $26.5 billion in damage in Florida, or the equivalent of $44 billion today.

Lehman Brothers sale

(Bloomberg) -- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. has a tentative deal to sell 237 Park Ave., a 21-story office tower near New York's Grand Central Terminal, to a joint venture including Scott Rechler’s RXR Realty LLC.

Rechler is teaming with Walton Street Capital LLC, a closely held real estate investment firm based in Chicago, according to a statement from the buyers.

The group agreed to pay about $800 million for the 1.25 million-square-foot property, said a person with knowledge of the deal, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private.

The deal would continue Lehman's (PNK: LEMHQ) sell-off of real estate that began as it was negotiating its emergence from the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

In November, it agreed to sell the assets of Archstone Inc., an apartment landlord, to Equity Residential (NYSE: EQR) and AvalonBay Communities Inc. (NYSE: AVB) for $6.5 billion.

Eviction suicide

(AP) -- Spanish police say a retired married couple committed suicide and left a note saying they were going to lose their home.

The case has stoked an outcry over Spain's tough eviction laws as Parliament debates possible changes.

A Civil Guard spokesman said police suspect the 68-year-old man and 67-year-old woman took an overdose of prescription drugs at their home in Mallorca.

Their deaths increased to five the number of suicides linked to mortgage defaults and evictions in recent months. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules.

Also Tuesday, the ruling Popular Party yielded to demands for Parliament to review the country's mortgage and eviction laws as more people lose their homes amid recession and 26 percent unemployment.

More than 350,000 Spaniards received eviction orders since 2008.

New Zealand building expands

(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand's building industry will expand at a record pace in 2014 and 2015, led by repairs and new construction after the Christchurch earthquake, according to BIS Shrapnel Pty, a Sydney-based forecaster.

The value of building will probably rise to about NZ$10 billion ($8.4 billion) a year, the forecaster said. Construction was NZ$7 billion in the year through September 2012, according to government figures.

About 8,000 homes in Christchurch and surrounding districts require replacement after being demolished while 30,000 damaged homes need significant repair, BIS Shrapnel said.

Building in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, is likely to accelerate to help eliminate a shortage of homes, which is likely to be about 10,000 units over the next two years before declining, said Adeline Wong, senior projects manager at BIS Shrapnel.

Privatized EU water

(Bloomberg) -- A group that wants to prevent the privatization of water in the European Union and keep water services in the public sector said its petition has surpassed 1 million signatures.

“Water is a Human Right,” a group run mainly by trade unions that wants water services to remain accessible to all in public hands, collected 1.05 million signatures and seeks to double that by September, the group's website showed.

Petitioners must collect at least 1 million signatures from seven of the EU's 27 member states in order to call on the commission to draft formal legislation.

Most of the signatures in January came from Germany and Austria, the group said.

Seeking solar parks

(Bloomberg) -- Public Power Corp., Greece's biggest power company, started its second tender in a month seeking developers to build large-scale solar parks.

The company's renewables unit will accept bids for two 15-megawatt photovoltaic projects until March 26, it said Tuesday.

The budget for the engineering, procurement and construction contract is 39 million euros ($52 million), excluding valued-added tax.

Greek solar capacity more than doubled last year to reach 1,500 megawatts driven by the European Union's highest tariffs.

Adriatic resort

(Bloomberg) -- Montenegro may accept this week an offer from Abu Dhabi's Royal Group to develop a 180 million-euro ($242 million) resort on its Adriatic coast, the government said.

The group is the only bidder for the 105-acre site between the cities of Budva and Bar, said Dragan Simovic, in charge of the sale at Montenegro's Privatization Council.

The company is offering 21.2 million euros for the land and plans to complete the project in eight years, he said.

Funding osmosis

(Bloomberg) -- Modern Water Plc, a British water treatment company, said 10 million pounds ($15.6 million) was raised in a share placement, proceeds of which will help fund its forward osmosis business in China and the Middle East.

The funds will enable the company to invest abroad, with a particular focus on China, Neil McDougall, executive chairman of Guildford-based Modern Water, said Tuesday.

“We intend to invest in further improvements in membrane efficiency for the membrane-processes division and to expand the monitoring division through acquisitions.”

The company has helped produce water in Gibraltar and at a pilot plant in Oman.

It commissioned the Al Najdah facility there last year that's the world’s first forward osmosis plant, a process it champions as less energy-intensive than reverse osmosis desalination applications that make salt water potable.

UK house prices

(Bloomberg) -- An index of U.K. house prices fell in January as heavy snow affecting most of the country depressed interest from potential buyers, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

A gauge by London-based RICS declined to minus 4 from minus 1 in December, it said Tuesday.

While a measure of new buyer inquiries fell to minus 9 from 10, the outlook for home values improved, it said.

A decline in mortgage interest rates is helping to boost demand, according to RICS, which said a sales gauge increased for a fourth month in January.

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