Tag: water quality

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”

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New report shows U.S. wetlands could use more TLC

National assessment helps pinpoint conservation issues

Peru Creek, Keystone Colorado
A partially frozen wetlands pond along lower Peru Creek, near Keystone, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The health of American wetlands — at least what’s left of them — in the U.S. is a 50-50 proposition, according to the EPA, which this week released a first-ever national assessment of wetlands conditions, part of a national aquatic resource survey.

Wetlands, once maligned as no-good swamps, are critical for ecosystem health, water quality and flood attenuation, but development and agriculture have chipped away at the waterlogged areas for decades, leaving many degraded.

Overall, the EPA said 48 percent of the nation’s wetlands are in good health. Twenty percent are in fair health, and nearly a third — 32 percent — are in poor health. Continue reading “New report shows U.S. wetlands could use more TLC”

Algal toxins found in many streams in the Southeast

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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

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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”

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

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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 …

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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”