Category: water quality

Study tracks amphetamine pollution in Baltimore streams

Illegal drugs harming stream aquatic ecosystems

This is the local stream, Meadow Creek, that starts high in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and flows through our backyard.
A new study found that amphetamine pollution may be harming stream health. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

As if toxic waste from chemical manufacturing and other industrial processes weren’t enough, scientists say some streams are also being fouled by remnants of amphetamines — in some cases at high enough levels to alter the base of aquatic food chain.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, traced the presence of illicit drugs at six  stream sites around Baltimore, focusing on the Gwynns Falls watershed, which is part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research program. Two rural streams were also sampled in the Oregon Ridge watershed, the closest forested region. Continue reading “Study tracks amphetamine pollution in Baltimore streams”

Pharmaceutical pollution widespread in Southeast U.S. streams

Many streams are at risk from pharmaceutical pollution

Cumulative median concentrations of pharmaceutical chemicals detected during the sampling conducted in June of 2014 in 59 small streams. The four urban study areas are shown in boxes, with details in the study.
Cumulative median concentrations of pharmaceutical chemicals detected during the sampling conducted in June of 2014 in 59 small streams. The four urban study areas are shown in boxes, with details in the study. Via USGS.

Staff Report

Traces of pain-relieving substances, diabetes drugs and allergy medicines are widespread in small streams across the Southeast, especially in urban zones like Raleigh, North Carolina, the U.S. Geological Survey found in a new study.

The USGS in 2014 sampled 59 small streams in portions of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia for 108 different pharmaceutical compounds and detected one or more pharmaceuticals in all 59 streams. The average number of pharmaceuticals detected in the streams was six. Continue reading “Pharmaceutical pollution widespread in Southeast U.S. streams”

Study eyes climate threat to Crater Lake

Warming temps could affect clarity, quality of famed Oregon lake

crater lake climate change
A new study shows how global warming may affect Crater Lake. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Unique climatic conditions that combine to make Oregon’s Crater Lake one of the clearest bodies of freshwater in the world are expected to become more rare as the Earth gets warmer. The changes could impair the lake’s clarity and health, scientists said in a new study published in early May by the U.S. Geological Survey. Continue reading “Study eyes climate threat to Crater Lake”

Blue River loses gold medal trout stream designation

Low flows, habitat destruction degrade fishery

Summit County Colorado photography
Sunrise along the Blue River in Summit County, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.
Biologists and volunteers count trout in the Blue River just below Dillon Reservoir and the Dillon Dam. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Colorado’s continued unsustainable use water has taken a toll on trout in the Blue River, where Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists have decided to remove the gold medal designation from a 19-mile reach stretching from just north of Silverthorne to Green Mountain Reservoir.

According to CPW aquatic biologist Jon Ewert, unnatural stream flows, sparse aquatic invertebrate populations, low nutrient content and degraded habitat all contributed to the decline of the fishery. The agency said that stretch of the river hasn’t met the Gold Medal standard for about 15 years.

There’s better news farther downstream, where CPW designated a 24-mile reach of the Colorado River, from Canyon Creek, at the mouth of Gore Canyon, to the confluence of Rock Creek, near the town of McCoy, as a new gold medal fishery. In Colorado, Gold Medal status is reserved for state waters that produce a minimum of 60-pounds of trout per acre and 12 trout measuring 14-inches or longer per acre. Continue reading “Blue River loses gold medal trout stream designation”

Algal toxins found in many streams in the Southeast

How safe is your local stream? @bberwyn photo.

Scientists gain better understanding of health risks associated with microsystins

Staff Report

Taking a swim in a cool, clear stream on a hot summer day always seems like a good idea, but if you’re in the southeastern U.S., you may want to stop and think. According to a new U.S. Geological Survey study, close to 40 percent of the streams in the region may be contaminated by algal toxins known as microsystins.

Public health practitioners and medical researchers have observed a range of symptoms in humans after exposure to microcystins.  Symptoms can include nausea, dermatitis and, in severe cases, liver failure.  Toxicity issues have been reported for humans, companion animals, livestock and wildlife. Continue reading “Algal toxins found in many streams in the Southeast”

Environment: Congress passes plastic microbead ban

Microplastic pollution from the Rhine River. Photo courtesy University of Basel.

New law seen as big win for aquatic environments

Staff Report

After years of studies showing how plastic microbeads are polluting streams, lakes and oceans, the U.S. is set to adopt a new law that will phase out the manufacture of plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017 and the sale of beauty products containing plastic microbeads by July 1, 2018.

Similar to California’s historic microbead ban signed into law earlier this year, the Microbead Free Waters Act (H.R. 1321) bans all plastic microbeads, including those made from so-called “biodegradable plastics,” the majority of which do not biodegrade in marine environments.

The law is a big win for the environment, where the microbeads have been found in birds, crabs and fish, making their way through the food chain.

One recent study found that up to 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested plastic microparticles. In Australia, researchers say that plastic pollution adds insult to injury for already stressed corals along the Great Barrier Reef. And the problem won’t disappear with a ban — the plastic particles are also building up in ocean sediments. Continue reading “Environment: Congress passes plastic microbead ban”

USGS study finds high prevalence of intersex bass in Northeastern U.S. wildlife refuges

Smallmouth bass illegally introduced to Colorado waters threaten native fish.
Bass in and near wildlife refuges in the Northeastern U.S. are gender-confused.

Are endocrine disrupting chemicals to blame?

Staff Report

US Geological Survey researchers say they’re not 100 percent sure if endocrine-disrupting chemicals are to blame, but they’ve found that a full 85  percent of male smallmouth bass and 27 percent of male largemouth bass tested in waters in or near 19 National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast U.S. were intersex.

Intersex is when one sex develops characteristics of the opposite sex. It is tied to the exposure of fish to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can affect the reproductive system and cause the development of characteristics of the opposite sex, such as immature eggs in the testes of male fish. Continue reading “USGS study finds high prevalence of intersex bass in Northeastern U.S. wildlife refuges”