Environment: Plastic pollution found in mountain lakes

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Lake Garda, Italy. Photo courtesy NASA.

Toxic materials a concern for freshwater ecosystems

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — By now, everyone has heard about the giant ocean eddies of plastic debris — the final resting place, as it were, for the detritus of our throw-away society. As it turns out, the ocean isn’t the only place that’s been polluted by human thoughtlessness.

German scientists say their recent study of Lake Garda, a subalpine lake at the southern edge of the Italian Alps, is also polluted with potentially hazardous plastics. The findings are a warming sign that many other freshwater lakes may be similarly polluted, and that those tiny microplastics are likely finding their way into the food web through a wide range of freshwater invertebrates, too. Continue reading

Environment: Streams at risk from ‘Frankenstein’ steroids

Research shows how some bioactive pollutants can hide from sampling

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Blue River, Summit County, Colorado.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with remnants of makeup, antibiotics and even caffeine, researchers now say that some steroids are also likely to persist in the environment for a long time, posing a threat to water quality and aquatic species.

Some steroids may even “hide” by breaking down in sunlight, but regenerating at night, according to a new study, led by University of Iowa scientists that took a close look at the anabolic steroid trenbolone acetate and two other drugs. Continue reading

Enviroment: Study shows clear link between Kentucky fish die-off and fracking fluid spill

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A die-off of federally listed blackside dace in Kentucky has been linked to a spill of fracking fluids. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

‘A precautionary tale … ‘

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite ongoing obfuscation by fossil fuel companies, most people instinctively understand that fracking fluids are bad for the environment, and a new study by federal scientists supports that conclusion.

The research in Kentucky by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that hydraulic fracturing fluids leaking from natural gas wells probably caused  the widespread death or distress of aquatic species in Kentucky’s Acorn Fork. The small Appalachian creek is habitat for the federally threatened Blackside dace, a small colorful minnow. The Acorn Fork is designated by Kentucky as an Outstanding State Resource Waters. Continue reading

Energy: BLM to study California fracking impacts

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Widespread deposits of valuable natural gas and oil in shale formations has spurred the fracking boom.

Some leasing likely to be on hold for at least a year

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Following a legal challenge, federal officials said last week they will re-evaluate the potential impacts of fracking to public lands in California. The federal environmental study will be accompanied by a statewide independent scientific assessment of fracking in central California.

The new studies were announced after a federal court upheld a legal challenge of the  BLM’s decision to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in Monterey County to oil companies. The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. Continue reading

USGS study finds widespread stream degradation

Streamflow modifications, pollution impacts affect majority of waterways in urban and agricultural areas

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Pristine streams like Meadow Creek, which flows out of a wilderness area, are hard to find.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — More than 80 percent of streams in urban and agricultural areas show signs of reduced stream health, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A new report from the agency documents how stream health is being degraded by streamflow modifications and elevated levels of nutrients and pesticides.

The national assessment of stream health was unprecedented. Instead of just measuring chemical or physical properties of water, the study took a more comprehensive look at entire biological communities, as well as measurements of more than 100 chemical constituents in water and streambed sediments. Continue reading

Environment: Annual beach report card from NRDC highlights need to better manage stormwater runoff

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More work is needed to clean up polluted beaches.

Pollution still causing significant beach closures

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — There’s still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to cleaning up coastal waters, where stormwater runoff and untreated sewage are still causing problems for beach-goers. Last year, there were more than 20,000 beach closings and advisories, confirming that serious water pollution persists at many U.S. shores, according to the annual beach report card from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Sewage and contaminated runoff in the water can spoil a family vacation real fast, turning a day of lounging at the beach into a day at the doctor’s office with a sick child,” said NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine. “It’s no surprise that pollution in the waves is bad for business in beach communities. Our government leaders can help support local economies and salvage countless summer getaways nationwide by tackling … stormwater runoff.” Continue reading

Colorado craft brewers join fracking fight

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Good beer needs clean water.

Letter to Gov. Hickenlooper calls for better balance between energy development and resource protection

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado’s brewers — including two Summit County based operations — are flexing a little political muscle and calling on Gov. John Hickenlooper to strike a better balance between energy development and conservation.

Rick Tork, manager of Frisco’s Backcountry Brewery, and Pug Ryan’s Steakhouse and Brewery owner Annie Holton, signed on to represent Summit County.

In a letter to Hickenlooper, the brewers, 26 in all, cited the importance of Colorado’s image and marketability for craft brewing and the important economic impact of keeping Colorado’s skies and waters clear and clean, saying that the state’s brand and high quality of life “attracts new residents, businesses, entrepreneurs and millions of tourists annually.”

A spokesman at the governor’s office said Hickenlooper recognizes the value of the craft-brewing industry.

“The craft brewing industry is a great economic driver for Colorado and we value our relationship with brewers across the state. We will review the letter and respond appropriately,” said communications director Eric Brown. Continue reading

Environment: Forest stream study traces nitrates

Even some ‘pristine’ streams show signs of human impacts

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New research helps shed light on long-term nutrient level changes. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nitrates are increasing even in some pristine forest streams in the mountain West and the South, while declining in the Pacific Northwest, in the Northeast, and in Puerto Rico, according to a new study led by Oregon State University researchers.

The long-term data from the Forest Service Experimental Forest and Range network, a system of 80 locations across the country. Many of the sites have long-term monitoring programs and data sets spanning decades and so provide unique opportunities to evaluate long-term trends. Continue reading

Environment: New Florida water quality plan flawed

Measures don’t meet Clean Water Act requirements

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Florida’s Everglades are threatened by a new state water plan. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Watchdog grous are characterizing a proposed Florida water quality plan as a give-away to polluting industries, creating even more loopholes to spew sewage, manure, and fertilizer into Florida waters, according to watchdog groups who sued the state and federal government in 2008 for their failure to set pollution limits, as required by the Clean Water Act.

“We have record numbers of dead manatees washing up on southwest Florida right now, in the prime of our tourist season,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “Where is the leadership? This is an absolute sell out. This bogus plan gives deep-pocketed polluters even more loopholes. And what do we, the public, get? More gross, slimy algae in the water.”

Earthjustice said the plan was developed in a shady backroom deal without public input, and pointed out that a federal court has to review the plan under the terms of an earlier settlement agreement. 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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