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Oceans: NOAA report offers guides for sustainable aquaculture

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Fish farms can be operated sustainably with good planning and best management practices, according to NOAA.

Good safeguards can help minimize environmental impacts

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite reported environmental problems reported with existing aquaculture operations, federal scientists say coastal fish farming can be done minimal or no harm to the coastal ocean environment.

The new report by researchers at NOAA’s National Ocean Service finds that water quality impacts are limited to slightly raised levels of nitrogen and phosphorus within a few hundred feet of aquaculture facilites, but that impacts can be limited with good planning and environmental safeguards. Continue reading

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Feds say Oregon must improve coastal pollution controls

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Runoff from agriculture and logging threaten marine ecosystems along the Oregon coast. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

State could lose funding for key water programs

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Oregon is at risk of losing federal funding for coastal and Clean Water Act funding if it doesn’t beef up its coastal nonpoint pollution control program, federal agencies said this week.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA say the state plan doesn’t adequately address nonpoint source impacts from agricultural activities. Specifically,

Oregon needs to show how it will control impacts from logging, including measures for protecting small and medium sized streams; measures to protect landslide prone areas; and measures to address runoff from forest roads built prior to modern construction and drainage requirements. Continue reading

Environment: River otters in Illinois contaminated with chemicals that were banned decades ago

A new study found that river otters in Illinois are being exposed to dieldrin, DDE (a byproduct of DDT), PCBs and other chemicals banned decades ago. Photo courtesy Ivan Petrov.

A new study shows river otters in Illinois are being exposed to dieldrin, DDE (a byproduct of DDT), PCBs and other chemicals that were banned decades ago. Photo courtesy Ivan Petrov.

Study shows how long some pollutants can persist in nature

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s common knowledge that some of the most toxic chemical pollutants can persist in the environment for many years. A new study in Illinois shows that they can sometimes even linger for decades, as river otters in the region are being exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides that were banned in the U.S. in the 1970s and ’80s.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources collected 23 river otters between 2009 and 2011, after the animals were incidentally killed (hit by cars or accidentally caught in traps, for example).

The agency passed the carcasses along to researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey for an analysis, which found that average concentrations of one of the compounds they analyzed, dieldrin — an insecticide (and byproduct of the pesticide aldrin) that was used across the Midwest before it was banned in 1987 — exceeded those measured in eight river otters collected in Illinois from 1984 to 1989. Continue reading

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

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