Category: water quality

Western fires take toll on water supplies

Erosion a huge factor as burned areas grow

A wildfire burns in Texas. Photo via U.S. Forest Service.

Staff Report

The growth of wildfires in the West could double the amount of sediment moving through the region’s rivers, U.S. Geological researchers found in a new study. Increased sediments can affect both water quality and the amount of water available for communities.

The USGS scientists analyzed a collection of climate, fire and erosion models for 471 large watersheds throughout the western U.S. They found that by 2050, the amount of sediment in more than one-third of watersheds could at least double. In nearly nine-tenths of the watersheds, sedimentation is projected to increase by more than 10 percent.

Continue reading “Western fires take toll on water supplies”

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Trump’s EPA cuts threaten Colorado environment

USGS and EPA scientists take earth and water samples below the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine in Summit County, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

EDF report details risks to clean air, water programs

Staff Report

The Trump administration’s attempted dismantling of the EPA could have far-reaching consequences for Colorado, according to a new report issued by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The organization warns that the proposed 30 percent budget cut would affect public health and environmental cleanups by reducing the agency’s budget to levels last seen in the 1970s.

“The president seeks to roll back common-sense environmental safeguards that have protected the health and well-being of Colorado for decades,” said Elgie Holstein, EDF’s senior director of strategic planning, “This is not just an assault on an agency. It is an assault on public health and safety.” Continue reading “Trump’s EPA cuts threaten Colorado environment”

Study tracks startling salinization trend in U.S. lakes

Road salt, development blamed for spiking chloride levels

Water quality in freshwater lakes near roads where salt is used is rapidly deteriorating. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Lakes from New England to the Midwest are getting saltier from the massive use of chemicals to melt ice on roads, as well as from urban development. Under the current trend,  many North American lakes will surpass EPA-recommended chloride levels in 50 years, spelling trouble for aquatic ecosystems.

The majority of the lakes (284) were located in a North American Lakes Region that includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ontario, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Continue reading “Study tracks startling salinization trend in U.S. lakes”

Sunday set: Wien scene

City sights …


A short photographic stroll through a city that consistently ranks near the very top worldwide for quality of life.  Vienna’s coffee houses and parks are definitely part of its charms, but it’s also a European hub science, culture, literature and tech innovation. And there are connections to my old stomping grounds in Colorado. For example, I spent several years following the story of how parasitic whirling disease wiped out most of Colorado’s rainbows, and how biologists were working to restore the popular game fish with a population resistant to the disease. Then last summer, as I was working on a story about a massive fish die-off in the Yellowstone River, my research led me to an Egyptian-born research scientist at the University of Vienna who has been studying various parasitic trout diseases, and linking them with global warming. Turns out that Mansour El-Matbouli also was an instrumental figure in the efforts to breed the strain of rainbow trout that are resistant to whirling disease, and that he had worked closely with aquatic biologists in Colorado that I also had interviewed for my stories in Colorado. We’re facing global environmental challenges, and they require a global and science-based response. It’s a small world.

Coal ash pollution poisoning fish in North Carolina

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Toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants builds up in fresh water fish. @bberwyn photo.

Trump’s proposed Cuts to federal regulations likely to lead to more environmental woes

Staff Report

Coal ash waste is poisoning fish in North Carolina lakes, scientists said this week announcing findings from a new study supported in part by the EPA. The research by scientists from Duke University showed that potentially harmful levels of selenium are building up because of emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“Across the board, we’re seeing elevated selenium levels in fish from lakes affected by coal combustion residual effluents,” said Jessica Brandt, a doctoral student in environmental health at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study, published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Continue reading “Coal ash pollution poisoning fish in North Carolina”

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”