Environment: Blacktop runoff is deadly to stream life

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Off the road, into the stream … Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation.

Coal-tar sealant fingered as highly damaging to DNA

Staff Report

FRISCO — New research led by U.S. Geological Survey scientists shows that pavement sealants made with coal tar are highly toxic. Runoff from surfaces treated with such sealants can kill fish and other stream organisms for months after it’s applied, the researchers concluded in a pair of recent studies.

Pavement sealant is a black liquid sprayed or painted on the asphalt pavement of parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to improve appearance and protect the underlying asphalt.

Pavement sealants that contain coal tar have extremely high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Coal tar is a known human carcinogen; several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and some are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Continue reading

Satellite data may yield early warning on toxic algae blooms

Toxic algal blooms like this one in Lake Erie in 2011 can cause human and animal health risks, fish kills, and degrade drinking water supplies. Image Credit:  USGS/NASA Earth Observatory

Toxic algal blooms like this one in Lake Erie in 2011 can cause human and animal health risks, fish kills, and degrade drinking water supplies. Image Credit: USGS/NASA Earth Observatory.

NASA and partners to track developing algal blooms from space

Staff Report

FRISCO — As global warming threatens to make toxic algal blooms more frequent and more intense, NASA, NOAA, the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have teamed up to try and develop an early warning system based on satellite data.

Algal blooms are a global environmental problem. They pose a health risk to people and animals and threaten drinking water supplies. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie.

The new $3.6 million, multi-agency effort will use ocean color satellite data to develop an early warning indicator for toxic and nuisance algal blooms in freshwater systems and an information distribution system to aid expedient public health advisories. Continue reading

Federal court OKs Grand Canyon uranium mine

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Havasu Falls, in the Grand Canyon. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Havasupai Tribe contemplates appeal

Staff Report

FRISCO — A federal court ruling last week opens the door for new uranium mining just six miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and four miles from a sacred Native American site.

U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell said conservation groups and the Havasupai Tribe failed to show that the U.S. Forest Service violated environmental laws in the long-running wrangling over the mine, which was first approved in 1986. Continue reading

Colorado Supreme Court ruling bolsters stream protection

The San Miguel River near its headwaters in Telluride, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

The San Miguel River near its headwaters in Telluride, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Challenge to instream flow rejected by state’s top judges

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Colorado Supreme Court this week rejected a legal challenge to a state program designed to protect rivers and streams.

The ruling makes it clear that the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s instream flow program furthers state policy of preserving the natural environment for the people of Colorado.

At issue is in the case is an instream flow right in the wild and remote San Miguel River, flowing out of the high San Juans near Telluride to its confluence with the Dolores River in Montrose County. The San Miguel is one of the last relatively free-flowing rivers in Colorado. As such, water experts say it still has some water that could be developed in the future. The instream flow right will help ensure that any future diversions won’t harm the river’s animals and plants. Continue reading

Growth hormone for cattle disrupts fish reproduction

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Growth hormones for cattle can disrupt aquatic ecosystems.

Researchers eye potentially devastating long term evolutionary and ecological impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — A common hormone used to spur growth in cattle around the world has been found to change sexual behavior in fish. Even at very low concentrations in waterways, the hormone could have  serious ecological and evolutionary consequences, according to researchers with Australia’s Monash University and Åbo Akademi University in Finland.

The endocrine-disrupting steroid influences the ratio of male courtship (where the female chooses her mate) to forced copulatory behavior (sneaking), whereby the female is inseminated internally from behind and does not choose her mate. The results of his research indicated a marked increase in sneaking behavior. Continue reading

Microplastic pollution a growing Great Lakes concern

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Are the Great Lakes a hotspot for microplastic pollution?

Human garbage is choking ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Microplastic pollution is showing up in alarming quantities in the Great Lakes, with concentrations in Lake Erie as high as in some of the well-documents ocean garbage patches, according to scientists, who say more research is needed to help craft rules that could address the problem.

Based on a new report from Canadian researchers, a member of Canada’s parliament is calling on the government to list microbeads as a potential toxic substance. The tiny plastic flakes are used in cosmetics, but act like sponges for certain pollutants and are easily ingested by aquatic organisms, including fish and shellfish. Continue reading

Environment: Study shows endocrine-disrupting chemicals can affect multiple generations of fish

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New study confirms the transgenic impacts of endocrine disrupting pollutants in aquatic species.

Researchers warn of long-term impacts to aquatic ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Fish exposed to trace amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA  may not show any immediate ill effects, but the adverse impacts can show up three generations later, researchers said after conducting lab tests that confirm the transgenic effects of the pollutants.

The chemicals are part of a new class of pollutants that often aren’t addressed by traditional water treatment facilities, and aquatic environments are the ultimate reservoirs for many of the contaminants, some of which mimic the functions of natural hormones. Continue reading

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