Environment: Study finds neonicotinoid pesticides widespread in streams across the U.S.

Bad for bees, bad for people? @bberwyn photo.

Bad for bees, bad for people? @bberwyn photo.

Will fish and water bugs be decimated by systemic pesticides?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Neonicotinoid pesticides are spreading throughout the environment with as-yet unknown effects on human health, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency found the systemic pesticides in more than half the streams sampled across the country and in Puerto Rico during a survey between 2011 and 2014. This study is the first to take a nationwide look at the prevalence of neonicotinoid insecticides in agricultural and urban settings.

The research spanned 24 states and Puerto Rico and was completed as part of ongoing USGS investigations of pesticide and other contaminant levels in streams.

Neonicotinoids have been found to kill bee’s brain cells, and are also taking a toll on wild bee populations. Use of neonicotinoids has been banned in national wildlife refuges.

European food safety experts are already taking a hard look at the potential for human health impacts, saying that acetamiprid and imidacloprid may have harmful effects on people’s brain development and recommended lowering levels of acceptable exposures. Earlier this year, citing unacceptable hazards to bees — and on the recommendation of the EFSA — the European Union put a two-year moratorium on the use of three widely used neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid. Continue reading

Global warming: Central Asian glaciers dwindling fast

Ice loss has huge implications for regional water resources

North facing slope of the Jetim-Bel range, Kyrgyzstan. Glacier melt is an essential water resource in an otherwise dry environment.

North facing slope of the Jetim-Bel range, Kyrgyzstan. Glacier melt is an essential water resource in an otherwise dry environment. Photo courtesy Daniel Farinotti.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Glaciers in the Tien Shan, Central Asia’s largest mountain range, have lost 27 percent of their mass and 18 percent of their area during the last 50 years, shedding an average of 5.4 gigatons of ice per year.

By 2050 about half of Tien Shan’s glacier volume could be depleted, a team of scientists estimated in a new paper published in the current online issue of Nature Geoscience.

The study was led by scientists with the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences and the institute of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at Rennes University. Continue reading

Upper Colorado River Basin states buy ag and municipal water to shore up Lake Powell storage

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A pilot water purchasing program could help preserve storage in Lake Powell, Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

‘Forbearance’ of water use eyed as new tool in race to avoid water crisis

Staff Report

FRISCO — Water allocation in the Colorado River Basin may be entering a new era, officials said last week as they announced finalization of 10 pilot projects that will allow farmers, municipalities and other water users to voluntarily and temporarily forego use of their water in exchange for compensation.

The pilot projects, including one in the Yampa River Basin, are the result of a cooperative effort by Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico to shore up declining reservoir levels if the 15-year drought that has plagued the Colorado River continues into the future. Continue reading

Toxic threat of cyanobacteria may be growing worldwide

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Global warming is likely one factor driving blooms of toxin-producing blue-green algae. @bberwyn photo.

Study calls for better monitoring, more warnings

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dammed rivers, global warming and increased agricultural runoff all contribute to the growing threat of toxic cyanobacteria, scientists said after taking a far-reaching look at the issue of blue-green algae blooms in fresh water.

The study, conducted by researchers with Oregon State University and the University of North Carolina, found that the threat is poorly monitored and represents an under-appreciated risk to recreational and drinking water quality in the United States. More testing and monitoring is needed to track potential threats to human health, the scientists concluded. Continue reading

Animas River reopens for recreation

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Tainted water from the Gold King Mine spill in a temporary containment pond near the site of the spill. Photo via EPA.

State health officials give cautious greenlight for boaters, some agricultural uses

Staff Report

FRISCO — Nine days after the Gold King Mine disaster, state officials say the Animas River is once again safe for rafters and boaters.

The river, coursing down a scenic canyon from Silverton through Durango, turned bright orange after about 3 million gallons of tainted water poured from the mine. The spill was triggered as workers moved debris in one of the mine openings. Continue reading

EPA plans internal, external investigations of Gold King Mine disaster

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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy meets with staff at the Unified EPA Area Command in Durango, CO. The Unified EPA Area Command is charged with coordinating the Gold King Mine incident response.

Colorado, New Mexico lawmakers ask President Obama for federal help with disaster response

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said her agency is taking full responsibility for the toxic spill from the Gold King Mine into Cement Creek, near Silverton, Colorado. As much as 3 million gallons of water polluted with heavy metals surged downstream into the Animas River and on to the San Juan River in Utah.

The spill was triggered by workers at the mine who were doing work on behalf of the EPA, and McCarthy said the agency will conduct an internal investigation, and also ask for an outside review of the incident.

“We couldn’t be more sorry and upset … and we will hold ourselves to a higher standard,” McCarthy said during her Aug. 12 press conference in Durango. She acknowledged concerns about notification procedures early during the incident and said those questions would be addressed as part of the investigations. Continue reading

EPA says there’s no sign of widespread fish mortality after Gold King Mine spill

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Containment and treatment ponds near the Gold King Mine have helped reduce the flow of contaminants into Cement Creek and the Animas River. Photo via EPA.

Emergency work at spill site is reducing pollution discharge

Staff Report

FRISCO — Environmental experts say that, so far, there’s no sign of widespread fish mortality in the Animas River after the Aug. 5 spill from the Gold King Mine, near Silverton that sent about 1 million gallons of tainted water surging downstream.

The discharge included heavy metals like zinc, which can kill trout, but in an Aug. 10 update, the EPA said that fish cages placed directly in the Animas River by Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists indicate one mortality out of 108 fish tested.  The agency is working with the New Mexico Department of Game Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate reports of impacts to wildlife. Continue reading

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