Environment: New analysis helps pinpoint fracking pollution in Pennsylvania drinking water

Fracked nation.

Fracked nation.

Fracking substances found almost two miles away from faulty drilling operation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists in Pennsylvania said they’ve been able to track pollution from fracking as the source of contamination in drinking water wells more than 1 mile from the fracked shale gas wells.

The stray natural gas and wastewater moved laterally along shallow to intermediate depth fractures to the source of the homes’ well water. The chemicals foamed from water faucets in three homes near a reported well-pad leak. The homes were sold to the gas company as part of a legal settlement in 2012, but scientists received samples before the transfer.

Previous studies had not been able to identify the cause of the foaming, but the new analysis found a chemical compound, 2-BE, and an unidentified complex mixture of organic contaminants, both commonly seen in flowback water from Marcellus shale activity.  Continue reading

Environment: Rivers recover quickly after dam removal

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The Colorado River at Kremmling. @bberwyn photo.

Study findings will help river restoration efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say rivers recover quickly when dams are removed. In some cases, it only takes a few months or years, rather than decades, for most river channels to stabilize, particularly when dams are removed rapidly.

The new study, published in Science, came after the research team compiled a database of research and studies involving more than 125 dam removals. Important factors include the size of the dam, the volume and type of sediment accumulated in the reservoir, and overall watershed characteristics and history.  Continue reading

Colorado: Water sharing a good deal for rivers

State water board, conservation group team up to create innovative new water rights agreement

By Bob Berwyn

Photos courtesy Colorado Water Trust

* Tools like the Little Cimarron agreement could be used to improve environmental conditions in many of the state’s rivers, and the evolving Colorado Water Plan can help identify places where deals like this could be used. Read more about the Colorado Water plan here.

FRISCO —For thousands of years, the Little Cimarron River trickled out of the snowfields of the San Juan Mountains, coursing unimpeded through steep alpine canyons and rolling sagebrush foothills before merging with the Gunnison River.

That changed when European settlers arrived in the region. Eager to tame the rugged land, ranchers and farmers took to the hills with shovels and picks, diverting part of the river’s flow to water hayfields and pastures. The back-breaking work brought the imprint of civilization to the area, but just as surely wrought huge changes to natural systems that had been self-regulating themselves since the end of the last ice age.

Like nearly every other river in Colorado, the Little Cimarron was free-flowing no more. Continue reading

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

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