Public meeting on Animas River spill to be live-streamed


Sampling data after the toxic spill into the Animas River shows spikes in heavy metal concentrations.

Initial sampling shows huge spike in zinc concentrations, which could be bad news for fish

Staff Report

FRISCO — Engineers still have been able to completely staunch the flow of water from a mine portal near Silverton, Colorado, where a major spill sent at least 1 million gallons of polluted water surging into the Animas River.

In its Aug. 8 update, the EPA said the mine adit is still discharging approximately 500 gallons per minute, although the flow is decreasing and a makeshift treatment system of detention ponds appears to be effectively lowering the acidity of the discharge. Continue reading

Animas River pollution surges into New Mexico, Navajo Nation


The Gold King Mine portal that was the source of the massive spill of polution into the Animas River Basin, Photo via EPA.

Pollution plume reaches New Mexico and Navajo Nation

Staff Report

FRISCO — The massive Aug. 5 spill into the Animas River from the Gold King Mine, near Silverton, has turned the river as acidic as black coffee just downstream of the spill site, the EPA reported after evaluating early water quality samples.

According to an EPA Region 9 Emergency Response web page, the spill was triggered when workers trying to clear debris accidentally damaged a makeshift berm that was containing polluted water. Continue reading

EPA fracking study eyes drinking water impacts


A fracking rig in western Colorado.

Environmental agency found no evidence of widespread impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a draft fracking study that was subject to a political tug-of-war even before it was released, the EPA found no evidence of “widespread, systemic” impacts to drinking water, but identified numerous weaknesses in the fracking process that could lead to contamination. Continue reading

Environment: Danube plastic pollution out of control, scientists say after intensive sampling effort

At times, there’s more plastic than baby fish in Europe’s second-largest river

Sunrise along the Danube in Linz, Austria.

Sunrise along the Danube in Linz, Austria. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —The Danube River has long been a source of inspiration for songs, fairytales and dreams. But in recent decades, those dreams have morphed into plastic nightmare of sorts, as the mighty European stream sends at least 1,500 tons of plastic debris surging into the Black Sea each year.

So much plastic is being washed into the Danube that, at times, the debris outweighs the amount of fish larvae drifting down Europe’s second-largest river, a team of Austrian scientists found after two years of intensive sampling.

Most of the plastic (about 80 percent) is from pre-consumer industrial sources — in other words, from the factories that make the tiny plastic pellets and flakes that, in turn, are used to make everything from toothbrushes to kids toys, says Aaron Lechner, a researcher with the University of Vienna who teamed up with other scientists to take a close look at the problem. Continue reading

Growth hormone for cattle disrupts fish reproduction


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

Environment: Nutrient pollution disrupts stream carbon cycle


Excess nutrient pollution in streams means less organic carbon available for aquatic organicsms. bberwyn photo

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus speed breakdown of forest litter

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with causing unwanted and potentially toxic blooms of algae, nutrient pollution also causes a significant loss of forest-derived carbon in stream ecosystems — to the detriment of aquatic life, according to a research team led by University of Georgia scientists.

Even moderate amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in a stream cause the carbon to break down twice as fast, their research found. In Colorado, regulators have made efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in streams. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists document the rise of blue-green algae in lakes around the world


Algae blooms spreading in high mountain lakes.

Even remote alpine lakes at risk from increased nutrient pollution

Staff Report

FRISCO — The immoderate use of fertilizers in the last half century is literally choking some lakes to death and raises the risk of human exposure to dangerous toxins, scientists said after studying the proliferation of blue-green algae.

Those organisms have spread much more rapidly than any other type of algae in North American and European lakes, according to McGill University scientists, who published their findings in the the journal Ecology Letters. In many cases, the rate of increase has sharply accelerated since the mid-20th century. Continue reading


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