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Microplastic pollution widespread in St. Lawrence River

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A NASA Earth Observatory image shows ice formations on the St. Lawrence river.

Microbeads are pathway for other environmental contaminants

Staff Report

FRISCO — Microplastics have long been documented as an environmental threat to oceans. European researchers recently warned of similar problems in Italian lakes, and now, Canadian scientists say they’ve found 2-millimeter plastic microbeads widely distributed along the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.

The team of researchers from McGill University and the Quebec government published their study this month in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

The paper explains that the pollution probably comes from cosmetics, household cleansers, or industrial cleansers, to which they are commonly added as abrasives. Owing to their small size and buoyancy, they may readily pass through sewage treatment plants.  Microplastics are a global contaminant in the world’s oceans, but have only recently been detected in the surface waters of lakes and rivers. Continue reading

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Environment: Pesticide pollution rising in urban streams

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About half the nation’s streams are polluted by pesticides at a level of concern for aquatic life.

90 percent of urban streams show signs of contamination

Staff Report

FRISCO — A huge number of rivers and streams around the country are still polluted with pesticides that can kill bugs and other aquatic organisms at the base of the food chain.

Streams in agricultural areas are polluted at about the same level as they were 1990s, but pesticide pollution is increasing in urban streams, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study spanning about 20 years. Continue reading

Study: All kinds of nasty stuff in the water

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The water may not always be as pure as it looks.

USGS takes close look at landfill water pollution

Staff Report

FRISCO — Water quality experts with the U.S. Geological Survey say chemicals from pharmaceuticals and personal-care products are widespread in water that has passed through landfill waste.

The researchers collected samples from water that has passed through landfills, — known as leachates — from 19 sites across the country as part of a national assessment, analyzing the water for 202 chemicals across a wide range of uses, including pharmaceuticals, hygiene products, home-use chemicals, pesticides and plastics. Of those 202 chemicals, 129 were found. Continue reading

Colorado: Builder fined $310,000 for stormwater runoff violations at Air Force Academy

Meadow Creek, near Frisco, Colorado, raging with spring runoff.

Tainted stormwater runoff is a significant threat to water quality in many Colorado streams.

EPA tackling major violations around the country

Staff Report

FRISCO — A Colorado construction company has been fined $310,000 after multiple failures to comply with an EPA stormwater permit. The civil penalty is outlined in a settlement agreement sanctioned by the U.S. District Court for Colorado.

Under the settlement, Hunt Building has agreed to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at two military housing construction sites at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. The violations were discovered during EPA inspections at the site. Continue reading

Environment: Northeast lakes rebound from acid rain

Air quality regs pay off, as New England lakes and streams bounce back from acid rain.

Air quality regs pay off, as New England lakes and streams bounce back from acid rain.

It’s simple: Cleaning the air improves water quality

Staff Report

FRISCO — Acid rain, once the scourge of freshwater ecosystems in the eastern U.S., is waning, and the health of New England lakes and streams is improving, scientists said this week after documenting declines in sulfate concentrations in snow and rain.

The data gathered by scientists working under the auspices of the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, show that sulfate concentration in rain and snow declined by more than 40 percent in the 2000s. Sulfate concentration in lakes declined at a greater rate from 2002 to 2010 than during the 1980s or 1990s. During the 2000s, nitrate concentration in rain and snow declined by more than 50 percent and nitrate concentration declined in lakes. Continue reading

Environment: Rock snot mystery solved?

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Caption: This is the freshwater algae known as “rock snot” or “didymo.” Credit: Carole-Anne Gillis.

Global warming likely to intensify outbreaks of unwanted algae, but eradication efforts may be futile

Staff Report

FRISCO — The recent proliferation of freshwater rock snot algae is probably related to changing environmental conditions, Dartmouth scientists reported in a new study last week.

The algae have been native to much of the world for thousands of years, but conditions promoting visible growths were absent or rare. It’s not likely the recent emergence of rock snot was caused by accidental introductions by fishermen or the emergence of a new genetic strain.

That means efforts to wipe out the algae with chemicals or fishing restrictions probably won’t work. Instead, resource managers should try to understand and mitigate the environmental factors that trigger the blooms. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists find widespread contamination of food web in Columbia River

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The Columbia River Basin, courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Some chemicals exceed limits set to protect human health

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even the Northwest’s mighty Columbia River isn’t immune to persistent chemical pollution federal scientists said last week, publicizing a new study that found fish with traces of pesticides and PCBs at levels that raise health concerns.

The data have been sent to state health officials in Oregon and Washington who will evaluate the new information to determine exactly how much of the resident fish are safe to eat.

The researchers measured contaminants, including pesticides, flame retardant compounds, and ingredients from common household products in the water and osprey eggs at 10 different locations along the Columbia River. Continue reading

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