50-foot section of failed Montana oil pipeline was exposed on bed of Yellowstone River near site of spill

Cleanup hampered by icy conditions

Cleanup crews try to contain oil from a pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River, near Glendive, Montana. Photo courtesy EPA.

Cleanup crews try to contain oil from a pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River, near Glendive, Montana. Photo courtesy EPA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sonar surveys show that the failed Poplar Pipeline in Montana is exposed on the river bed for approximately 50 feet near the site of a breach that may have spilled as much as 50,000 gallon of oil into the Yellowstone River.

After the spill, oil sheens were spotted on the river as far as 60 miles downstream, according to the EPA. Residents in the town of Glendive, a few miles from the spill, were warned not to drink their tap water after testing found traces of oil in the town’s water supply, but after additional testing, the town’s drinking water system was deemed safe on Jan. 23.

According to the EPA, the bottom of the river bed is about one foot below the pipeline in one area, though the last official inspection of the pipeline in 2012 indicated that it was buried about eight feet below the riverbed. The EPA said the exposed section of pipeline doesn’t explain how the spill happened, but the information will help investigators determine the cause of the breach. More EPA updates at this web page. Continue reading

Anti-fracking groups seek ban in California

Fracked nation.

Fracked nation.

Activists say report downplays threat to water

Staff Report

FRISCO — California regulators this week released the first section of a new environmental review of fracking impacts.  But the study fails to take a hard look at many of the potentially harmful impacts, according to environmental activists.

The review by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources was released even though state scientists are still six months away from completing their analysis of the risks and harms of the controversial form of oil and gas extraction, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Continue reading

Study eyes ‘pond scum’ environmental feedback loop

‘This is important because cyanobacteria are on the increase in response to global change …’

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Blue-green algae blooms can feed themselves by unlocking nutrients. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Fish-killing bacterial blooms are becoming more common in lakes around the world as the climate warms, and new research shows that aquatic microbes themselves can drive nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, resulting in a on-two environmental punch.

The findings of the study suggest cyanobacteria — sometimes known as pond scum or blue-green algae — that get a toe-hold in low-to-moderate nutrient lakes can set up positive feedback loops that amplify the effects of pollutants and climate change and make conditions even more favorable for blooms, which already pose a threat to water resources and public health worldwide. Continue reading

Climate: USGS study tracks Chesapeake Bay warming

Chesapeake Bay in a Landsat photo.

Chesapeake Bay in a Landsat photo.

Water temps up 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit in 50 years

Staff Report

FRISCO— The huge Chesapeake Bay watershed — the country’s largest estuary — is warming steadily, USGS scientists say, warning that increase in temperatures is likely to have big consequences for the region’s ecosystems. Continue reading

Environment: Cold weather road ecology institute seeks alternatives to chemical road de-icers

This is what we like to see!

Clearing the roads in Frisco, Colorado.

A little bit of salt on your french fries is fine; a lot of salt on the road kills trees and fish

Staff Report

FRISCO — Highway engineers and scientists know that that massive use of chemical road de-icers has significant environmental impacts. Salt and the various derivatives used to keep roadways open kills trees and degrades water quality.

Just last year, the EPA found salt building up in groundwater near highways in the eastern U.S. Across the country, the U.S. spends $2.3 billion each year on the removal of highway snow and ice plus another $5 billion to mitigate the hidden costs associated with the process.

The hidden costs include long-term impacts of salt, sand and chemical deicers on the natural environment and road infrastructure as well as short-term impacts on semi-trailer trucks and other vehicles from rust and corrosion. Continue reading

Toxic legacy of acid rain lingers in Canadian lakes

Calcium loss turning lakes to ‘jelly’

Even high mountain lakes are feeling the sting of nitrogen pollution.

Acid rain has fundamentally changed the chemistry and biology of some lakes.

Michael Arts, Canada Centre for Inland Waters

Tiny jelly covered plankton are displacing other organisms in some Canadian lakes to the detriment of fisheries and public water supplies. Photo courtesy Michael Arts, Canada Centre for Inland Waters.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The toxic legacy of acid rain lives on in lakes in Canada, and possibly other places around the world, according scientists who say they’ve traced a trend of reduced calcium levels leading to a “jellification” of some lakes.

Specifically, the changes in water chemistry have reduced populations of  calcium-rich plankton such as Daphnia — water fleas that dominate these ecosystems. Falling calcium levels mean Daphnia cannot get the nutrients they need to survive and reproduce, leading to a rise in other plankton species, including small jelly-clad organisms.

According to the new research, populations of those organisms has exploded in lakes across eastern Canada in the past 30 years. The average  population of these small invertebrate jellies in many Ontario lakes doubled between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s. Continue reading

New test enables better tracking of fracking pollution

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Stable tracers can help pinpoint ground and surface water contamination

Staff Report

FRISCO — There’s more and more evidence that fracking wastewater can — and sometimes does — pollute ground and surface water, but it’s not always easy to trace the pollution, especially since drillers often keep secret their fracking fluid recipes.

But after field tests at a spill site in West Virginia and downstream from an oil and gas brine wastewater treatment plant in Pennsylvania, scientists say they can reliably identify hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids that have been spilled or released into the environment by using stable boron and lithium tracers that distinctive chemical fingerprints. Continue reading

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