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KSJD Newscast - September 3rd, 2015

  • Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment says fish from the Animas River are safe to eat after Gold King Mine waste spill.
  • Study shows energy development adversely affects mule deer habitat.

Go ahead and sink your teeth into trout from the Animas River, they’re safe to eat. That’s the latest message from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which issued a statement Sept. 1 saying that tissue analyses of rainbow and brown trout following the Gold King Mine spill of August fifth did not show elevated levels of metals. The spill, which occurred when EPA workers accidentally breached a wall at the mine’s mouth, released 3 million gallons of waste containing some two dozen heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and lead. The department of health collected 10 fish from the Animas downstream from Durango and analyzed them for 13 metals. Results showed no detectable levels for ten of the thirteen. While mercury, selenium, and arsenic were detectable, they were well below safety thresholds. Because metals can accumulate in fish over time, the health department and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to monitor Animas River fish.

In other wildlife news, energy development alters mule deer habitat, according to a recently released study by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado State University that looked at the energy-rich Piceance Basin in Northwest Colorado. The researchers say that in many areas across the West, hydrocarbon development occurs on mule-deer winter range, where the animals are already stressed by cold and hunger. They found that deer were “strongly influenced” by energy production, avoiding roads and activity, particularly drilling sites. With statewide mule-deer numbers in decline for the past decade and a half, the report suggests ways energy companies can mitigate impacts such as by placing numerous wells on one pad, avoiding drilling in the winter, and providing strategically placed wildlife seclusion areas  and buffer zones. Wildlife managers emphasize that energy companies have helped by paying for much of the research and that deer populations are being impacted by many other factors including drought, predation, disease, vehicle collisions, and recreation.?

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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