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Study warns of widespread fracking ecosystem impacts

Holistic evaluation of impacts needed

Caption: In areas where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy, a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads turn continuous forests and grasslands into fragmented islands. Credit: Simon Fraser University PAMR

In areas where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy, a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads turn continuous forests and grasslands into fragmented islands. Photo courtesy Simon Fraser University PAMR.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Fracking battles often develop over neighborhood concerns about pollution, but that local focus may mean that we’re losing sight of the bigger picture. On a landscape level, the current and projected scale of shale gas exploitation poses a huge threat to ecosystems, as each individual well contributes to air, water, noise and light pollution.

Those impacts need to be examined on a cumulative level, scientists said in a new study that calls for scientists, industry representatives and policymakers to collaborate closely on minimizing damage to the natural world from shale gas development. Continue reading

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Environment: USGS study shows neonicotinoid pesticide pollution common in Midwest streams

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Bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides widespread in Midwest streams, USGS study finds. bberwyn photo.

Concentrations in some streams are high enough to kill aquatic organisms

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey studying streams in the Midwest have found levels of neonicotinoid insecticides at up to 20 times the concentrations deemed toxic to aquatic organisms. The systemic pesticides have raised concerns because they’ve been linked with honey bee declines.

Traces of the chemicals were widespread in streams throughout the region — not surprising in the heart of the country’s agricultural belt. In all, nine rivers and streams, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, were included in the study. The rivers studied drain most of Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states have the highest use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Nation, and the chemicals were found in all nine rivers and streams. Continue reading

Can trout evolve to survive toxic heavy metals?

Research documents genetic changes in UK trout population

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At least one brown trout population in the UK has evolved with more genetic resistance to toxic heavy metals in a polluted river in Cornwall.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Some brown trout may be evolving to develop a higher tolerance for toxic metals, researchers in the UK said after studying fish from the contaminated waters of the River Hayle in Cornwall.

Concentrations of metals are so high that they would be lethal to fish from unpolluted sites. The biologists from the University of Exeter and King’s College London believe the higher tolerance of the River Hayle trout is  due to changes in the expression of their genes. The research was funded by NERC and the Salmon and Trout Association.

“The work demonstrates that this population of brown trout has developed strategies for dealing with the metal pollution in the water and accumulation in their tissues avoiding the lethal damage that such concentrations of metals would normally cause,” said researcher Tamsyn Uren Webster, with the University of Exeter. Continue reading

Colorado: Pennsylvania Mine cleanup set to begin

EPA removal action aims to reduce acid mine drainage at polluted site

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The ruins of the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine.

USGS and EPA experts sample soils near the Pennsylvania Mine.

USGS and EPA experts sample soils near the Pennsylvania Mine.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — After years of study, state and federal mine reclamation experts say they’re ready to try and reduce the amount of tainted water oozing out of the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, in Summit County, Colorado.

The old mining site high in the Peru Creek drainage above Keystone has been identified as a key source of toxic heavy metals that impair water quality for miles downstream. Concentrations of lead, cadmium, managanese and especially zinc exceed standards set to protect aquatic life in the stream.

The mine operated between 1879 and 1908, and intermittently through the 1940s, producing gold, silver, lead, copper and zinc. As water and oxygen interact with the highly mineralized rocks, so-called acid mine drainage forms, loading the stream with dissolved heavy metals. Continue reading

Colorado: Peru Creek cleanup to hit high gear

Agencies ready to tackle acid mine drainage at abandoned Pennsylvania Mine

USGS and EPA scientists take earth and water samples below the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine in Summit County, Colorado.

USGS and EPA scientists take earth and water samples below the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine in Summit County, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

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Tainted water at the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine.

By Bob Berwyn

*Extensive Summit Voice coverage of the Pennsylvania Mine is online here.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nearly a century after miners finished digging millions of dollars worth of silver, lead and zinc out of the Pennsylvania Mine, heavy machinery will once again rumble through the high alpine Peru Creek Valley.

But instead of burrowing deep into the ground to find precious metals, the workers this time will be trying to clean up the big mess left behind when the mine was abandoned. For decades, water coursing through the mine shafts has been dissolving minerals, resulting in acid mine drainage that pollutes Peru Creek and the Snake River. Concentrations of some metals, especially zinc, are high enough to kill trout.

After years of studying the mine, experts with federal and state agencies now say they are ready to try and tackle the pollution. They will provide details on the cleanup plan at the May 29 meeting of the Snake River Watershed Task Force. The public meeting is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Keystone Center, 1628 St. John Road, Keystone. Continue reading

Environment: Federal court clears way for new EPA regulations on water pollution from fossil fuel power plants

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New EPA rules will reduce toxic water pollution from fossil fuel power plants. Photo via Wikipedia under a GNU Free Documentation License.

Cutting discharges of selenium, lead and arsenic will protect the environment

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A federal appeals court this week cleared the way for the EPA to issue new regulations aimed at stemming mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium water pollution from power plant discharges.

Steam electric power plants alone contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by all industrial categories currently regulated in the Unites States. The proposed rule sets the first federal limits on levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants. Continue reading

Udall visits Summit County to tout new mine cleanup rules

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Pollution from an abandoned mine turned the Blue River bright orange in April 2006. Bob Berwyn photo.

Public event planned Jan. 18 near Breckenridge

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Around the West, there are thousands of abandoned mines polluting streams and killing fish, and many volunteer cleanup efforts have been stymied by strict Clean Water Act liability provisions.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) for years has been working with the EPA to try and make it easier for Good Samaritan groups to tackle remediation projects without taking on responsibility for future pollution. Those efforts showed results in December, when the EPA issued new guidance specifying that Good Samaritans are generally not responsible for obtaining a Clean Water Act permit during or after a successful cleanup conducted according to a Good Samaritan agreement with EPA. Read the memo here.

Udall will be in Summit County Friday (Jan. 18) along with EPA Regional Administrator Jim Martin to discuss the new policy and the public is invited to attend the event, set for 11 a.m. at the Iron Springs Mill off Boreas Pass Road. Continue reading

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