Tag: water quality

Environment: EPA extends comment period on new rule to cut pharmaceutical pollution

i
Water pollution from waste pharmaceuticals is becoming ubiquitous, to the detriment of the environment. @bberwyn photo.

Watchdogs offer suggestions to beef up regulation

Staff Report

After years of studies showing how pharmaceutical wastes are polluting streams and lakes, the EPA has finally proposed a modest rule to start curbing the contaminants.

A proposed rule published in August would create new standards for  healthcare facilities (including pharmacies) and reverse distributors. According to the agency, the rule would prevent the flushing of more than 6,400 tons of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals annually by banning healthcare facilities from flushing hazardous waste pharmaceuticals down the sink and toilet.

More Summit Voice stories on pharmaceutical pollution:

Continue reading “Environment: EPA extends comment period on new rule to cut pharmaceutical pollution”

Study tracks methane emission from streams

Snake River, Summit County Colorado
Freshwater streams disturbed by human activity are significant sources of heat-trapping methane pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Protecting water quality has climate benefits

Staff Report

Climate models may be significantly underestimating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by fresh water streams, researchers said in a new study released this week.

Published in the journal Ecological Monographs, the findings suggest that human disturbances on watersheds are a key factor in raising concentrations of methane, a particularly potent heat-trapping pollutant. Based on the research, the world’s rivers and streams pump about 10 times more methane into our atmosphere than previously estimated. Continue reading “Study tracks methane emission from streams”

Rhine River plastic pollution is the highest measured

3.9 million plastic items per square kilometer …

asfg
A sample from the Rhine near Duisburg shows the variety of plastic pollution found in the water. Photo courtesy University of Basel.

Staff Report

Given the fact that microplastic debris is so widespread, it’s probably no surprise that the Rhine — Europe’s workhorse river — has been found to be among the most polluted by plastic.

The Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area has the highest concentration, at about 2,333,665 particles per square kilometer, with a peak at Rees on the Nederhijn, where 3.9 million plastic items per square kilometer (or 21,839 particles per 1000 cubic meters) were found in a single water sample. In general, extreme peaks may be reached after heavy rain or accidents. Continue reading “Rhine River plastic pollution is the highest measured”

How does pharmaceutical pollution affect fish?

The Snake River courses through a boulder field near Keystone. Colorado.
Traces of medicine in freshwater streams have a wide range of impacts on fish.

New study documents wide range of impacts

Staff Report

Fish exposed to remnant traces of medicines, including pain relievers, muscle relaxants and antidepressants, grow more slowly and have a harder time escaping predators, say scientists who carefully studied the effects of pharmaceutical pollutants.

The study analyzed effects from nine individual pharmaceuticals, as well as varying mixtures of these chemicals, on both juvenile and adult fathead minnows. It was conducted by the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory at St. Cloud State University and the U.S. Geological Survey, with the findings published in a special edition of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry. Continue reading “How does pharmaceutical pollution affect fish?”

Nitrate pollution remains high in many U.S. rivers

asdf
Agricultural runoff has left many major rivers polluted with nitrates.

‘Unfortunately, there is no widespread evidence of improving conditions …’

Staff Report

Massive efforts to improve water quality haven’t been effective in many large U.S. rivers, where nitrate levels remain at high levels after surging in the second half of the 20th century.

Between 1945 and 1980, nitrate levels in large U.S. rivers increased up to fivefold as chemical fertilizer use increased dramatically in the Midwest. In some urbanized areas along the East and West coasts during the same period, river nitrate levels doubled.

In recent decades, nitrate changes have been smaller but nitrate levels have remained high in most of the rivers examined in a new U.S. Geological Survey study. Continue reading “Nitrate pollution remains high in many U.S. rivers”

Environment: Beavers are cooler than you think!

sdfg
Beavers can help improve water quality by reducing levels of nitrogen. @bberwyn photo.

Beaver ponds remove nitrogen pollution from streams

Staff Report

Long-known as beneficial ecosystem engineers, beavers not only build important wetland habitats for plants and animals, but also help reduce the amount of harmful nitrogen downstream of their ponds.

A team of scientists, led by Arthur Gold at the University of Rhode Island, took a close look at how beavers help reduce pollution. The research is important because nitrogen levels have been increasing in Northeast waters for years. The use of nitrogen fertilizers has risen and urbanization has brought in influences such as septic systems. This nitrogen is released into small streams and ponds and eventually travels to estuaries, where rivers meet the sea. Continue reading “Environment: Beavers are cooler than you think!”

Report says Animas River spill could have been avoided

Hasty excavation without adequate technical info led to disastrous Gold King mine blowout in Colorado

asdf
Tainted abandoned mine drainage is common in the mountains of Colorado. Photo courtesy Bureau of Reclamation.

By Bob Berwyn

Federal and state environmental engineers, along with their contractors, misjudged conditions inside the Gold King Mine before they unleashed a toxic flood of water into Cement Creek down the Animas and into the Colorado in early August.

The technical details about the spill were released this week by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which did an independent review of the accident.  Most importantly, the workers underestimated the water level inside the mine. That error “resulted in development of a plan to open the mine in a manner that appeared to guard against blowout, but instead led directly to the failure,” the Bureau of Reclamation wrote in the report. Continue reading “Report says Animas River spill could have been avoided”