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Old 03-14-2010, 03:14 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,848,135 times
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Since this is a serpentine subject, I'll confine myself to one specific area. Others might mention areas and conditions they know best.

Any who have visited will surely appreciate how spectacularly lovely Rocky Mountain National Park is. It remains one of our pristine jewels, if not as much as before. All the rivers and lakes of this Park, at the very highest and most remote alpine redoubts, are threatened by the actions of mankind. If a number of causes, the primary one is nitrogen deposition of airborne pollutants from the front range. This is changing the Ph of these waters, changing their balance, and in sum causing them to be increasingly less pristine than formerly. This impacts not just the clarity and beauty of these waters, but also their ability to the sustain the life of various creatures which live within certain tolerances.

A related issue is our warming climate, which affects these waters also in such ways as less overall snow pack and flow. Also in effects to the surrounding forest and land, which in their health or not impact the waters.

Fortunately most of the waters within Rocky Mountain National Park are still relatively pristine, if ever increasingly less so. In many good examples, one fairly accessible is that of the North Fork of the St. Vrain river at Wild Basin. A short walk from the tailhead along this river, or even from the vantage of the dirt road leading to it, will reveal what water can be. It is clear and cold, rushing over, through and past glistening rocks and boulders. It is the very picture of what so many imagine when thinking of Colorado mountains and wild natural beauty.

Sadly this is changing fast, and one doesn't have to venture very far afield to notice the effects. Two rivers that issue from this Park, the Fall and North Fork of the Big Thompson, are now badly compromised. Both exhibit heavy unnatural growths of algae, which is the result of excess nitrogen. If from airborne deposition within the Park, also possibly from such things as septic systems just beyond the boundaries of the Park.

Last summer the length of the Fall river, directly through the center of Estes Park, was heavily invested with algae. This in a river that in seasons past has naturally flowed clean and pure, and should. Its distance from there to the Park is but a few miles, although even in the lower reaches of the Endo Valley, within RMNP, one could discover traces of the same algae.

This same algae heavily invests the North Fork of the Big Thompson, even now in the dead of winter. Only come summer it is even more profuse. It serves as a green, slimy watermark on all rocks, waving in the current on them below the surface as well. This river also suffers a heavy and unnatural concentration of silt which coats the entire bed of the river in a brown gunk. The Fall river too, to an extent, but not as badly.

In either case this in rivers but a few miles from their largely pristine headwaters within the Park. This pollution the direct result of what your neighbors here are willfully doing to these rivers. This the pollution these rivers would not suffer otherwise, and if released from could in time cleanse themselves of. This also the pollution that no member of our state government is willing to take an interest in, or remedy.

At a glance one might look at either of these rivers and see a largely beautiful mountain stream. If traveling to where our rivers are still, mostly, really clean, such as the St. Vrain, or even the upper reaches of the Fall, then one will see the difference in an instant.

It is enough to make one cry.
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Old 03-14-2010, 04:04 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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Is the nitrogen really from airborne pollution? In most places it's the result of lawn and farm fertilizers being washed into the rivers and streams as runoff. At least that's where it's from here along the Chesapeake watershed. Maybe where you're talking it's too high up for that?
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Old 03-14-2010, 04:45 PM
 
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Wink Airborne

There are a variety of sources. Runoff from residential lawns and commercial farms can fowl rivers with excess nitrogen and other chemicals.

As for the highest reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park, such as largely inaccessible lakes and rivers at 12,000 feet or more, the only source for such pollutants would be airborne.
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Old 03-15-2010, 11:59 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
4,888 posts, read 8,922,291 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
Any who have visited will surely appreciate how spectacularly lovely Rocky Mountain National Park is. It remains one of our pristine jewels, if not as much as before. All the rivers and lakes of this Park, at the very highest and most remote alpine redoubts, are threatened by the actions of mankind. If a number of causes, the primary one is nitrogen deposition of airborne pollutants from the front range. This is changing the Ph of these waters
In my opinion, the mercury levels of various lakes in Colorado is a much more important issue. As a fisherman, I have to pay attention to mercury advisories and adjust my eating habits accordingly. When I fish a lake or river, I don't care how much algae it has due to nitrogen deposition.

Quote:
Fortunately most of the waters within Rocky Mountain National Park are still relatively pristine
Looks can be deceiving. Most waters these days, even clear pristine headwaters, have a certain amount of contamination.
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Old 03-15-2010, 01:08 PM
 
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Wink Algae & Mercury

"Maybe we're at the point where it isn't in the fish, but we could be around the corner," said Keith Keenan, regional coordinator for Trout Unlimited. [2]



While I would prefer to keep this discussion focused on reports of polluted waters within Colorado, it should surprise few that the waters of the United States are increasingly polluted. If we might more easily dismiss that without our door, the end result often ends up flowing out of one's own kitchen faucet. [1]

And it is true that algae is not the only concern. Many chemicals can be found in water. Mercury is one of the more serious from a health standpoint, with coal fired power plants being one of the largest emitters.

It is an exercise in health to visit a place such as Rocky Mountain National Park, and within one can easily see what truly clean water can be. But of course this in part illusion, only in context they are so much more pristine than other places. Yet there remains the serious deposition of such things as mercury throughout the waters of the Park, in such places as Loch Vale for instance. [2]

Thus the sign of something as simple as algae when it should not be should serve as sign, and warning that all is not right. It can herald far worse. And just in common sense that something is out of balance, and to the extent that we allow it, we too.

1) 'Tap Water in 42 States Contaminated by Chemicals,' About.com
Tap Water Contamination - Tap Water in 42 States Contaminated by Chemicals

2) 'Rocky Mountain lake is high in toxic metal,' Sweetwater LLC
Loch Vale high in Mercury
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Old 03-15-2010, 01:34 PM
 
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Excerpt from the Loch Vale link: "Research suggests that 70 percent of mercury in the atmosphere is from industrial processes.... most likely source is coal-fired power plants, ... In the mercury cycle, the chemical gets spewed into the atmosphere in an elemental form and can travel the globe for months before being deposited back on land and water. Higher elevations get more precipitation and therefore get more mercury... In the Loch Vale study, rains in the spring and summer have produced levels of mercury three to four times higher than in winter...."

Our old friend, coal fired plants, strike again. Not to mention other forms of airborne pollution. The book "Righteous Porkchop" points out that swine factory farms concentrate pig manure into huge lagoons where 70,000 tons of ammonia are released into the atmosphere each year, i.e., the cost to deal with that is socialized onto the rest of us, rather than make the hog, cattle, dairy and chicken CAFO's put in sewage treatment plants.
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Old 03-15-2010, 02:20 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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I think it's sad I can't necessarily eat all the fish I pull out of a lake. Depends on the lake. Depends on the species of fish. Some species collect more mercury in their flesh, others don't.
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