The Animas River Stakeholders Group is bringing on Boston-based InnoCentive to help solve the acid mine drainage problem around Silverton

October 20, 2012

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The problem will be turned over to InnoCentive, a Boston firm that has 260,000 individual “solvers” eager to tackle challenges in chemistry, food production, business, engineering, information technology and physical and life sciences.

Members of the stakeholder steering committee Wednesday devised a tentative agenda outlining problems they want to solve. The group will meet again within a month to refine its proposal.

“InnoCentive has all these problem-solvers who think out of the box and check in looking for a challenge,” committee member Bill Simon said. “In the end, the solution is ours to use.”

The problem-solver and InnoCentive get paid, and it isn’t cheap, Simon said. But acidic drainage from mines is a worldwide problem, which could win financial support from mining interests, environmental groups and government agencies…

Today, four mines – Sunnyside, Mogul, Gold King No. 7 and Red & Bonita – send up to 800 gallons a minute of iron, zinc, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, manganese and aluminum into Cement Creek, a tributary to the Animas River at Silverton.

The stream is so toxic that biologists think the water never sustained aquatic life.

More Animas River Watershed coverage here.


New EPA rules for coal-fired electrical generation plants may reduce mercury in waterways

December 27, 2011

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From the Colorado News Connection (Kathleen Ryan) via The Durango Herald:

David Ellenberger, Rocky Mountain regional coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation, says the scrubbers will reduce mercury pollution by at least 91 percent. He adds that cleaner air translates into cleaner water for Colorado’s lakes and rivers. “It’s absolutely a huge step forward in protecting public health, our children and our wildlife from these aspects of this hazardous air pollution.”[...]

Elemental mercury finds its way into lakes and reservoirs from prevailing winds, precipitation and runoff. It is converted to toxic methylmercury by microorganisms, the bottom of the food chain. Arsenic and selenium also contaminate fish but to a lesser degree than mercury…

Some utilities criticize the new rules as too onerous, especially as they pertain to older coal plants that may not be suitable for scrubber retrofits. The EPA estimates meeting the standards will cost utilities about $11 million nationwide. Ellenberger claims the savings in health-care costs more than make up for the expense. “The EPA estimates that for every dollar the utilities are about to spend on pollution controls at their coal-fired power plants, public health is going to benefit by about $13, which is pretty impressive,” he said.

More mercury pollution coverage here.


San Juan Mountains: Research into high mercury levels

January 25, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

“In 2007 we began to study mercury because very little was known about its presence in Southwest Colorado other than that reservoirs had fish-consumption advisories, and that precipitation sometimes deposited heavy concentrations of mercury at Mesa Verde National Park,” former institute director Koren Nydick said last week by telephone.

As result of mercury accumulation in fish, the state of Colorado has posted advisories at McPhee, Totten, Narraguinnep and Vallecito reservoirs and Najavo Lake cautioning about consumption of fish from those waters.

Kelly Palmer, a Bureau of Land Management hydrologist, said as a result of the Mountain Studies Institute pilot study at Molas Pass, the San Juan National Forest in 2009 initiated a long-term mercury-monitoring program there.

“It appears the levels of mercury are notable,” Palmer said last week…

Analysis of mercury and weather data collected from 2002 to 2008 at Mesa Verde points to coal-fired power plants in New Mexico as potential sources of mercury. Analysis of pollution components as well as potential sources and storm pathways support the theory, Nydick said.

But they don’t pinpoint specific sources and don’t definitely rule out the possibility that storms were carrying pollution from elsewhere when they passed over the New Mexico plants…

In June 2009, researchers from MSI and other agencies spent a day in Mancos Canyon trapping and releasing songbirds after testing their blood for mercury. They also collected crayfish, spiders, sow bugs, cicadas and centipedes and planned to return to electro-shock fish for testing.

“Wetland-dependent songbirds were chosen for study, in addition to fish and crayfish, because research shows they can accumulate methyl mercury,” Nydick said at the time. “It appears they accumulate methyl mercury from prey such as spiders that are a link between the aquatic and terrestrial food webs. That is why we collect invertebrates, soil and dead foliage to analyze for mercury, too.”

More mercury pollution coverage here and here.


Energy policy — coal: Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants rise recently across the U.S.

March 21, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Renee Schoof):

Many coal- fired power plants lack widely available pollution controls for the highly toxic metal mercury, and mercury emissions recently increased at more than half of the country’s 50 largest mercury-emitting power plants, according to a report released Wednesday. Five of the 10 plants with the highest amount of mercury emitted are in Texas, according to the nonpartisan Environmental Integrity Project. Plants in Georgia, Missouri, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Michigan also are in the top 10. The report, which used the most recent data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, found that mercury emissions increased at 27 of the top 50 plants from 2007 to 2008. Overall, power- plant emissions of mercury decreased 4.7 percent in that period, but that amount was far less than what would be possible with available emissions controls, the report said. No Colorado plants were among the top 50 cited.

More coal coverage here and here.


Colorado to release 303d list on Tuesday

March 7, 2010

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Emily Anderson):

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Tuesday will adopt a lengthy list (pdf) of Colorado waters it has deemed impaired.

Despite the city of Grand Junction’s attempts to reverse the decision, the list likely will include Juniata Reservoir on Grand Mesa, which provides a majority of Grand Junction’s drinking water. The city temporarily closed the reservoir to visitors and fishermen before opening it again in late February, when the Health Department told the city the closure would not get the reservoir off the impaired-waters list…

Steve Gunderson, director of the state Health Department’s water-quality division, said most items on the list have water-contamination problems, but some areas get listed just for having active fish-consumption advisories, such as the one Juniata has…

City Attorney John Shaver said the city likely will offer suggestions to the Health Department staff about changing the methodology for listing bodies of water on the impaired list so the list would reflect water, and not fish, contamination.

More mercury pollution coverage here and here.


Juniata Reservoir fish consumption advisory due to mercury

February 21, 2010

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Emily Anderson):

The statement adds that the city “is extremely concerned about public misinterpretations of the potential listing of its pristine terminal drinking water source reservoir as being impaired by mercury,” because the reservoir is at risk for addition to a state list of bodies of water that don’t meet water quality standards. The reservoir was adopted as a “high priority” on the list when it received preliminary approval from the state Water Quality Control Commission on Feb. 8. Although most bodies of water on the list are included because of water contamination, Juniata Reservoir and a few other bodies were included solely for having a fish-consumption advisory, according to Steve Gunderson, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s water quality division. “The levels of mercury in the water, you wouldn’t be able to detect them,” Gunderson said. “You’re talking extremely low mercury, but it accumulates in the fish. Gunderson said state health officials are meeting with city officials about taking Juniata off the list if they can get rid of all contaminated fish or isolate the reservoir. The final list will not be adopted until March 9.

More infrastructure coverage here.


USGS: Mercury in fish widespread

August 23, 2009

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Here’s the abstract from the study:

Mercury (Hg) was examined in top-predator fish, bed sediment, and water from streams that spanned regional and national gradients of Hg source strength and other factors thought to influence methylmercury (MeHg) bioaccumulation. Sampled settings include stream basins that were agricultural, urbanized, undeveloped (forested, grassland, shrubland, and wetland land cover), and mined (for gold and Hg). Each site was sampled one time during seasonal low flow. Predator fish were targeted for collection, and composited samples of fish (primarily skin-off fillets) were analyzed for total Hg (THg), as most of the Hg found in fish tissue (95–99 percent) is MeHg. Samples of bed sediment and stream water were analyzed for THg, MeHg, and characteristics thought to affect Hg methylation, such as loss-on-ignition (LOI, a measure of organic matter content) and acid-volatile sulfide in bed sediment, and pH, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and dissolved sulfate in water. Fish-Hg concentrations at 27 percent of sampled sites exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency human-health criterion of 0.3 micrograms per gram wet weight. Exceedances were geographically widespread, although the study design targeted specific sites and fish species and sizes, so results do not represent a true nationwide percentage of exceedances. The highest THg concentrations in fish were from blackwater coastal-plain streams draining forests or wetlands in the eastern and southeastern United States, as well as from streams draining gold- or Hg-mined basins in the western United States (1.80 and 1.95 micrograms THg per gram wet weight, respectively). For unmined basins, length-normalized Hg concentrations in largemouth bass were significantly higher in fish from predominantly undeveloped or mixed-land-use basins compared to urban basins. Hg concentrations in largemouth bass from unmined basins were correlated positively with basin percentages of evergreen forest and also woody wetland, especially with increasing proximity of these two land-cover types to the sampling site; this underscores the greater likelihood for Hg bioaccumulation to occur in these types of settings. Increasing concentrations of MeHg in unfiltered stream water, and of bed-sediment MeHg normalized by LOI, and decreasing pH and dissolved sulfate were also important in explaining increasing Hg concentrations in largemouth bass. MeHg concentrations in bed sediment correlated positively with THg, LOI, and acid-volatile sulfide. Concentrations of MeHg in water correlated positively with DOC, ultraviolet absorbance, and THg in water, the percentage of MeHg in bed sediment, and the percentage of wetland in the basin.

More mecury pollution coverage here and here.


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