State urges Coloradans to be aware, avoid toxic algae — Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (MaryAnn Nason):

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reminds people recreating in Colorado waters to be aware of the potential for toxic algae and take precautions to avoid it. State testing so far this summer has found toxic algae in Prospect Lake in Colorado Springs, Barr Lake, Cherry Creek Reservoir, and Steamboat Lake. It likely is present in other lakes and slow-moving waters as well.

Toxic algae are made up of what many people call blue-green algae or harmful algae blooms. This algae is common and natural to our waters in Colorado, but sometimes it grows and produces toxins that can harm people and be fatal to animals like dogs.

“If you suspect toxic algae is present, do not let your kids, pets, or livestock touch or drink the water — when in doubt, stay out,” said Kristy Richardson, state toxicologist. “If any person or animal has had contact with the water, make sure they shower immediately and watch for symptoms.”

Symptoms for people include skin rash, gastrointestinal upset, fever, headache, sore throat, muscle, and joint pain. Symptoms for pets include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling, stumbling, seizures, disorientation, or difficulty breathing. There have been a number of possible cases of toxic algae-associated illness reported to the state this summer.

Only lab tests or test strips can determine if an algae bloom is toxic, but algae that may contain toxins has certain characteristics. It may resemble thick pea soup, spilled paint on the water’s surface, and/or create a thick mat of foam along the shoreline. Toxic algae are typically not stringy or mustard yellow in color (the latter is probably pollen). If you see possible signs of toxic algae:

  • Keep kids and animals out of the water.
  • Don’t swim or wade.
  • Don’t drink the water and know it’s never safe to drink water from lakes or rivers.
  • When boating, avoid the areas with the algae.
  • Clean fish well with potable water, and discard the guts.
  • Contact poison control at 1-800-222-1222, or a health care provider, if people or animals have symptoms.
    Some lake managers test for toxic algae at certain locations and report it to the state. The state takes this information and updates an online dashboard at the end of the season to show historical trends and help raise awareness for the future season. The state encourages other managers of water bodies to also report to the state if they inspect or test for toxic algae.

    “With resources granted by the legislature in 2018, we were able to start a toxic algae program to better understand the problem in Colorado,” said Nicole Rowan, Clean Water Program Manager for the department. “These resources cover testing for just a small portion of Colorado’s lakes and ponds, so we depend on other waterbody managers to be aware and vigilant about this problem.”

    Toxic algae is most common in the hottest months of summer. Excess nutrients, high temperatures, and standing or slow-moving water provide an optimal environment for toxic algae, so it’s not commonly found in rivers or high mountain lakes.

    “There isn’t an easy fix for this,” Melynda May, Water Quality Specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “There are some physical and chemical controls but they are expensive and they don’t guarantee the removal of the toxic algae. Everyone can be algae aware and play a role to help prevent toxic algae blooms from forming in the first place.”

    Simple acts such as not using excess fertilizer, picking up pet waste, and not using de-icers that contain urea can help reduce the amount of nutrients entering our waterways and ultimately reduce the risk of algae blooms.

    More information, including guidance for managers or owners of waterbodies or owners of pets can be found at

    Cherry Creek Reservoir photo of algae that tested positive for toxins
    Taken July 14, 2020. Credit: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

    Monsoon flops, #drought intensifies in #AZ — The White Mountain Independent #monsoon #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #ActOnClimate

    North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

    From The White Mountain Independent (Peter Aleshire):

    Bone dry.

    Sweltering hot.

    Welcome to Monsoon 2020.

    Westwide SNOTEL April 3, 2020 via the NRCS.

    Despite a near-normal winter, a hot, dry spring and a fizzled monsoon has cast Arizona back into drought and water shortages.

    Although the Rocky Mountains got 105% of a normal winter snowfall, runoff into Lake Powell remains just 52% of normal…

    Combined with declining reservoir levels and plunging water tables statewide, the return to a water crisis in the state underscores the enviable position of Payson with its supplemental C.C. Cragin water supply and White Mountain communities like Show Low, Pinetop and others with ample groundwater.

    The bizarre lurch from a normal winter to a reservoir-draining drought has also validated climate model predictions suggesting the gradual warming of the planet will create a fitful, ongoing water crisis in the Southwest. Studies show it’s not enough to have a good winter if a hot, dry spring melts the snow quickly and increases evapotranspiration, sapping the spring runoff.

    So far, this year ranks as the third-driest on record statewide. Most of the state so far ranks as “much below average” with some areas in the south setting records. Most of California is now in record-breaking territory as the drought returns with a vengeance. Wildfires are burning out of control, with thousands of homes threatened.

    Xcel as a transportation company — The Mountain Town News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Utility plans for EVs align with Colorado’s decarbonization goals, says analyst

    Xcel Energy announced Wednesday a vision to drive toward 1.5 million electric vehicles in its service areas—including a large chunk of Colorado—by 2030. The company also operates in seven other states.

    In a sense, this announcement merely confirms the legislative marching orders given the utility by Colorado and several other among the eight states in which it operates. In the case of Colorado, SB 19-077 required Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy, the two investor-owned utilities to apply to the state’s Public Utilities Commission to build facilities to support electric vehicles and recover the costs. Xcel in May submitted its plan, which is expected to be approved later this year by PUC commissioners.

    The announcement should be seen in an even broader context, says Travis Madsen, transportation program manager for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, a major player in driving public policy in the energy sector in Colorado.

    “Xcel, he said, “is evolving beyond just being an electricity company. It’s also becoming a transportation company. I am excited that the company is embracing the idea that part of what it’s doing is to enable electric vehicles.”

    This is from the Aug. 14, 2020, issue of Big Pivots. Go HERE to subscribe.

    Colorado legislators in 2019 adopted a raft of energy legislation, the most over-arching economy wise decarbonization goals: 26% by 2025 and, more challenging by far, 50% by 2030. Gov. Jared Polis reasserted and expanded somewhat the goal adopted by his predecessor, Gov. John Hickenlooper, to have 940,000 EVs on Colorado roads by 2030. Polis expanded the plan by including medium and heavy-duty vehicles, although Colorado does not have tax incentives for them, unlike cars.

    Xcel’s ambitions and those of Colorado align very well, says Madsen. He points to an Xcel filing with the PUC of its goal of having roughly 500,000 electric vehicles in its service territory in Colorado. Xcel delivers more than 60% of the state’s electricity.

    Travis Madsen. Photo via The Mountain Town News

    Madsen says he expects Colorado will meet and then exceed the EV goals because of the simple fact that the economics of vehicle electrification are starting to align. Vehicle costs are changing, and electricity has always been cheaper than petroleum. This was noted by Xcel in the press release posted on its website. “By 2030, an EV would cost $700 less per year to fuel than a gas-powered car, saving customers $1 billion annually.

    Xcel’s goals also align with the state’s efforts to decarbonize its electricity. “This activity by Xcel is one of the key ingredients in making that happen,” he says. This vehicle electrification by 2030 will reduce emissions from transportation 40%.

    There’s another component: air quality. Air pollution poses a serious health threat to people, and new studies reinforce and expand that understanding. The northern Front Range has had air pollution issues for many decades, less now than 50 years ago, but still dangerous and with a stubborn persistence. There are multiple causes, including oil-and-gas drilling, but transportation exhausts are the single largest cause.

    “The more we learn about air pollution and how bad it is, the greater the push to switch,” says Madsen. “The switch to EVs is one of the major tools.”

    In its May filings with the PUC, Xcel laid out a multi-pronged approach to aiding the charging of EVs in its Transportation Electrification Plan. It proposes to invest $100 million during three years in electric vehicle infrastructure and programs. See the 48-page plan filed with the PUC here.

    These include programs to help people rewire their garages for charging, as most charging is expected to be done at home. The program also calls for efforts to allow those in multi-family housing, such as condominiums and apartments, to have access to charging. Another component addresses fleet-charging. And, if a relatively small part of the program, Xcel proposes how it will figure out where to put expensive fast-chargers in locations that private companies, like EVgo and ChargePoint, do not, because of infrequent use.

    Madsen expects PUC approval for Xcel’s plans by early 2021 and the laying out of the programs, which will then accelerate the adoption of EVs in Colorado. The deadline for adoption of the plan was specified by legislators as March 1, 2021.

    Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist who publishes an e-magazine called Big Pivots. Reach him at or 303.463.8630.

    Cloth masks do protect the wearer – breathing in less #coronavirus means you get less sick — The Conversation #COVID19

    When people wear masks, they can still get infected, but they’re more likely to have milder symptoms.
    Wenmei Zhou/Digital Vision Vectors via Getty Images

    Monica Gandhi, University of California, San Francisco

    Masks slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by reducing how much infected people spray the virus into the environment around them when they cough or talk. Evidence from laboratory experiments, hospitals and whole countries show that masks work, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings for the U.S. public. With all this evidence, mask wearing has become the norm in many places.

    I am an infectious disease doctor and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. As governments and workplaces began to recommend or mandate mask wearing, my colleagues and I noticed an interesting trend. In places where most people wore masks, those who did get infected seemed dramatically less likely to get severely ill compared to places with less mask-wearing.

    It seems people get less sick if they wear a mask.

    When you wear a mask – even a cloth mask – you typically are exposed to a lower dose of the coronavirus than if you didn’t. Both recent experiments in animal models using coronavirus and nearly a hundred years of viral research show that lower viral doses usually means less severe disease.

    No mask is perfect, and wearing one might not prevent you from getting infected. But it might be the difference between a case of COVID-19 that sends you to the hospital and a case so mild you don’t even realize you’re infected.

    Healthcare workers wheel a patient into a New York hospital on a gurney.
    The higher the viral dose, the higher the chance of developing severe COVID-19 that could require hospitalization.
    AP Photo/Kathy Willens

    Exposure dose determines severity of disease

    When you breathe in a respiratory virus, it immediately begins hijacking any cells it lands near to turn them into virus production machines. The immune system tries to stop this process to halt the spread of the virus.

    The amount of virus that you’re exposed to – called the viral inoculum, or dose – has a lot to do with how sick you get. If the exposure dose is very high, the immune response can become overwhelmed. Between the virus taking over huge numbers of cells and the immune system’s drastic efforts to contain the infection, a lot of damage is done to the body and a person can become very sick.

    On the other hand, if the initial dose of the virus is small, the immune system is able to contain the virus with less drastic measures. If this happens, the person experiences fewer symptoms, if any.

    This concept of viral dose being related to disease severity has been around for almost a century. Many animal studies have shown that the higher the dose of a virus you give an animal, the more sick it becomes. In 2015, researchers tested this concept in human volunteers using a nonlethal flu virus and found the same result. The higher the flu virus dose given to the volunteers, the sicker they became.

    In July, researchers published a paper showing that viral dose was related to disease severity in hamsters exposed to the coronavirus. Hamsters who were given a higher viral dose got more sick than hamsters given a lower dose.

    Based on this body of research, it seems very likely that if you are exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the lower the dose, the less sick you will get.

    So what can a person do to lower the exposure dose?

    Masks reduce viral dose

    A man in a red shirt holding a soda while wearing a mask in front of a display of mannequins all wearing masks
    A surgical or cloth mask can’t block out 100% of the virus, but it can reduce how much you inhale.
    AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

    Most infectious disease researchers and epidemiologists believe that the coronavirus is mostly spread by airborne droplets and, to a lesser extent, tiny aerosols. Research shows that both cloth and surgical masks can block the majority of particles that could contain SARS-CoV-2. While no mask is perfect, the goal is not to block all of the virus, but simply reduce the amount that you might inhale. Almost any mask will successfully block some amount.

    Laboratory experiments have shown that good cloth masks and surgical masks could block at least 80% of viral particles from entering your nose and mouth. Those particles and other contaminants will get trapped in the fibers of the mask, so the CDC recommends washing your cloth mask after each use if possible.

    The final piece of experimental evidence showing that masks reduce viral dose comes from another hamster experiment. Hamsters were divided into an unmasked group and a masked group by placing surgical mask material over the pipes that brought air into the cages of the masked group. Hamsters infected with the coronavirus were placed in cages next to the masked and unmasked hamsters, and air was pumped from the infected cages into the cages with uninfected hamsters.

    As expected, the masked hamsters were less likely to get infected with COVID-19. But when some of the masked hamsters did get infected, they had more mild disease than the unmasked hamsters.

    Four passengers wearing masks wave from a balcony aboard the Greg Mortimer cruise ship.
    Every passenger aboard the Greg Mortimer, a cruise ship bound for Antarctica, was given a surgical face mask.
    AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico

    Masks increase rate of asymptomatic cases

    In July, the CDC estimated that around 40% of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are asymptomatic, and a number of other studies have confirmed this number.

    However, in places where everyone wears masks, the rate of asymptomatic infection seems to be much higher. In an outbreak on an Australian cruise ship called the Greg Mortimer in late March, the passengers were all given surgical masks and the staff were given N95 masks after the first case of COVID-19 was identified. Mask usage was apparently very high, and even though 128 of the 217 passengers and staff eventually tested positive for the coronavirus, 81% of the infected people remained asymptomatic.

    Further evidence has come from two more recent outbreaks, the first at a seafood processing plant in Oregon and the second at a chicken processing plant in Arkansas. In both places, the workers were provided masks and required to wear them at all times. In the outbreaks from both plants, nearly 95% of infected people were asymptomatic.

    There is no doubt that universal mask wearing slows the spread of the coronavirus. My colleagues and I believe that evidence from laboratory experiments, case studies like the cruise ship and food processing plant outbreaks and long-known biological principles make a strong case that masks protect the wearer too.

    The goal of any tool to fight this pandemic is to slow the spread of the virus and save lives. Universal masking will do both.The Conversation

    Monica Gandhi, Professor of Medicine, Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    What drought conditions statewide mean for Denver’s water supply — News on TAP

    Summer 2020 marked by forest fires, lots of 90-degree days and thirsty lawns. The post What drought conditions statewide mean for Denver’s water supply appeared first on News on TAP.

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    Denver Water’s newest treatment plant rising from the ground — News on TAP

    When finished in 2024, the new plant will be able to treat up to 75 million gallons of water per day. The post Denver Water’s newest treatment plant rising from the ground appeared first on News on TAP.

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