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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

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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

Colorado wetlands to regain federal protection

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High alpine wetlands that aren’t directly connected with larger rivers will regain more protection under a proposed new federal rule. bberwyn photo.

New rule aims to clear up regulatory limbo for seasonal streams and isolated wetlands

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A proposed federal rule would restore protection to hundreds of Colorado streams and big swaths of wetlands, including beloved alpine creeks and the sandy washes of the Front Range that only hold water seasonally.

The seasonal streams and disconnected wetlands long were covered under the Clean Water Act, but a pair of complex U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 opened some loopholes the regulations. At the least, the legal limbo caused headaches for scientists and regulators trying to assess impacts of housing developments and new roads. In some cases, they weren’t sure if they even had authority to regulate filling or draining of some wetlands. Continue reading

Oyster farming could clean up Potomac River

New NOAA-USGS study evaluates aquaculture cleanup potential

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Oysters could help clear the water in the Potomac River estuary.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Degraded water quality in the Potomac River estuary could be improved with intensive cultivation of oysters according to a new NOAA and U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Aquatic Geochemistry.

As filter feeders, oysters could remove all of the nitrogen currently polluting the river if 40 percent of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality, leading to unwanted algae blooms and dead zones. Continue reading

Environment: USGS study measures success of abandoned mine cleanups in Montana

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Abandoned mine cleanups can help clean up polluted streams, a new USGS study in Montana finds. 

Water quality improving in Upper Clark Fork Basin

Staff Report

FRISCO — There are hopeful signs that the ongoing cleanup of abandoned mines around the West will pay off.

The U.S. Geological Survey, reported decreased levels  of toxic heavy metals in the streams of Montana’s Upper Clark Fork Basin that have been targeted by remediation efforts. Continue reading

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