@EPA announces #Colorado-based office dedicated to cleaning up abandoned mines — The Colorado Sun

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

From The Colorado Sun (Lucy Haggard):

The Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains will take charge of remediating abandoned mine lands, including the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado

The Environmental Protection Agency is creating a new office in Lakewood that will focus on cleaning up abandoned hardrock mining sites west of the Mississippi River, including the Bonita Peak Mining District where the Gold King Mine disaster originated in 2015.

The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

The Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains will be located in the EPA’s regional office at the Denver Federal Center, the agency announced during a news conference at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry in Colorado Springs on Wednesday. EPA’s National Mining Team Leader Shahid Mahmud will be the acting director, and the team will have nine full-time staff positions.

The office, which will use existing agency funds, will primarily focus on remediation work at Superfund sites and other abandoned mining locations, which release millions of gallons of pollution into streams each year. Remediation efforts will include cleaning up sites and the surrounding environment, and in some cases rebuilding the mine for operations.

There are more than 63 Superfund Mining and Mineral Processing Sites west of the Mississippi River, including nine in Colorado. In Colorado alone, there are roughly 23,000 abandoned mines.

Colorado abandoned mines

Many historic mining sites don’t have an owner or operator to facilitate cleanup operations themselves, placing it in the EPA’s hands…

The new office will also help speed up project timelines, including to clean up hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

An agreement finalized in February designated funding and resources to clean up 24 of the highest priority mines, five years after the federal government and tribe first reached a settlement on the mines…

Another goal of the office is to make it easier for so-called “good Samaritan” cleanup operations, such as those facilitated by Trout Unlimited or The Nature Conservancy. Current law says that if a group wants to contribute to cleanup efforts, they could be responsible for finishing the job, whether they’re capable of doing so or not. While the law is what it is, Benevento said, the new office will do what it can to make collaborative cleanup efforts “as unbureaucratic as possible.”

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

Larimer County commissioners approve 1041 permit for #NISP by 2-1 vote — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

Cache la Poudre River watershed via the NRCS

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

Larimer County’s Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project on Wednesday, with John Kefalas casting the lone “no” vote.

Explaining his dissent, the District 1 commissioner said he felt the 12 land use criteria used by the board fell short and failed to create a “level playing field,” although he acknowledged the board’s efforts to allow public comment virtually…

He discussed the projected impacts of climate change on the upper Colorado River Basin, and echoed the concerns of many commenters regarding the reduction in flow that the Poudre River could see from the creation of the Glade Reservoir.

He pointed out that Fort Collins, which is bisected by the river, has concerns about the flows in the Cache la Poudre.

“I acknowledge that Northern (Water) has done their utmost to look at mitigation and other impacts on the Poudre River ecology, riparian areas and natural areas,” he said. “There still remains the fact that the city of Fort Collins has concerns about the potential impact on the Poudre River.”

Commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson each walked through the land use criteria and how the project satisfied them…

The vote on the permit came after an extensive public hearing — one session saw representatives of the Northern Water Conservancy District advocate for the project, two sessions invited public comment, and Northern Water representatives answered questions during a fourth session.

While a large part of the presentation Wednesday was taken up by the commissioners explaining each of their votes, the commissioners also heard from Northern Water representatives who asked for adjustments to some of the conditions placed on the proposal.

The commissioners agreed to include a suggestion by Northern Water that, if the alignment of a related pipeline had to be adjusted by more than 100 feet without a landowner’s consent, that section of the pipeline would again have to be reviewed.

They also agreed to include restrictions proposed by Northern Water on construction activities in the Eagle Lake area.

Here’s a photo gallery from the hearing via The Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Drought news: Little or no precipitation fell on most of the central and southern Plains, and from the central Rockies to the Pacific Coast in the past week

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

The big weather news this past week surrounded the rain and wind from Hurricane Laura as it pushed through the lower Mississippi Valley, then northeastward south of the Ohio River to the central Appalachians. Southwestern Louisiana was most severely impacted. Winds gusted to 135 mph in Lake Charles, LA before the anemometer failed. Rains totaled 5 inches to locally over a foot along central and western Louisiana, adjacent Texas, much of Arkansas, and southeastern Oklahoma for the 7-days ending Tuesday morning. Other areas accumulating more than 4 inches included parts of Alabama and Mississippi (especially in the northern reaches) and scattered sections of the central Appalachians and eastern Ohio Valley, central Wisconsin, the western Florida Peninsula, and part of interior North Carolina. In contrast, little or no precipitation fell on most of the Carolinas and eastern Georgia, the upper Midwest, most of the central and southern Plains, and from the central Rockies to the Pacific Coast…

High Plains

Between 0.5 and 2.0 inches of rain fell on parts of the Dakotas, much of Minnesota, and central to southwestern sections of Kansas. Several tenths of an inch at best fell elsewhere. As a result, some improvement was noted in parts of eastern South Dakota and west-central Kansas, but dryness and drought persisted or intensified elsewhere. Deterioration was most widespread from central and southern Wyoming eastward through Nebraska as the effects of several weeks to a few months of drier and warmer than normal conditions are taking their toll. As a result, most of Colorado and the central and eastern parts of Wyoming are enduring severe to extreme drought, along with the Nebraska Panhandle and parts of southwestern Kansas and the eastern half of Nebraska…


Little or no rain was observed region-wide this past week. This is a relatively dry time of year in many areas, especially in California, but a weak monsoon season and periods of excessive heat have led to widespread severe to extreme drought in a large area covering northern and eastern New Mexico and most of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, northern California, Oregon, and central Washington. Only eastern and western Washington, central Idaho and the Panhandle, central and west-central Montana, southwestern California, and part of central New Mexico are free of dryness and drought as of this writing. Wildfires continued to scorch parts of the region, although fires spread more slowly recently in northern California than during the prior few weeks…


Thanks in large part to Hurricane Laura, only patchy D0 conditions exist from central Oklahoma and eastern Texas eastward despite temperatures averaging 3 to 7 degrees above normal this past month. In contrast, serious drought is plaguing western Oklahoma and the central and western portions of Texas, with small areas of exceptional drought (D4) just south of the Texas Panhandle and over the interior Big Bend region. Precipitation shortfalls of 4 to 6 inches for the past 60 days – and 6 to 8 inches for June-August — cover parts of the Big Bend. Two- to five-inch deficits for the past 60 days were measured in the rest of central and western Texas, while June-August totals 4 to 6 inches less than normal affect most of central Texas and parts of western Oklahoma…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days (September 3-7), WPC’s QPF forecasts little or no precipitation (and thus persisting or intensifying drought) to the north and west of Texas. Similarly, light precipitation at best is expected across the interior Southeast and much of the northern Ohio Valley. Moderate precipitation (several tenths to 1.5 inches) should fall on the Great Lakes, upper Midwest, the Northeast, and most of Florida. Heavy precipitation is expected over a large swath across central and northeastern Texas, where totals from 1.5 to locally over 4 inches are expected. Robust precipitation is also forecast in a band stretching from Arkansas to West Virginia, where many areas should record 1.5 to 2.5 inches. Meanwhile, well-above-normal temperatures are expected from the High Plains to the Pacific Coast. High temperatures should average more than 12 degrees above normal from the Rockies to near the Pacific Coast, exceeding 18 degrees above normal in the Great Basin. Farther east, conditions will be less remarkable. Nighttime lows will be a few degrees above normal across the East, Southeast, and South-Central regions, and near normal in the Great Plains and upper Midwest. During the day, temperatures should top out a few degrees below normal on average in the northern Plains, and closer to normal in other parts of the eastern half of the contiguous states.

The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day outlook (September 8-12) favors above-normal rainfall in the central and southern Plains and from the Mississippi Valley eastward. The odds also tilt toward surplus precipitation in most of Alaska, outside the Panhandle. In contrast, subnormal precipitation is expected in the northern Plains, the southern High Plains, the Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. At the same time, below-normal temperatures are heavily favored in the Plains and surrounding areas, and odds tilt toward cooler than normal weather from the Rockies to the Appalachians. From the Appalachians eastward and from the Intermountain West to the Pacific Coast, warmer than normal weather is expected. Across Alaska, the northern tier should average cooler than normal while above-normal temperatures are favored along the southern tier.

Here’s the one week change map ending September 1, 2020.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending September 1, 2020.

Just for grins here’s a gallery early September US Drought Monitor maps for the last several years.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Will the new 15-minute #COVID19 test solve US testing problems? — The Conversation #coronavirus

Easy, fast coronavirus testing is critical to controlling the virus.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Zoë McLaren, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

On Aug. 26, the Food and Drug Administration granted an Emergency Use Authorization to a new rapid antigen test for COVID-19 called the BinaxNOW test.

I study public health policy to combat infectious disease epidemics. Testing is one of the most powerful tools available to fight the spread of COVID-19. The new test is inexpensive, rapid and easy to use. It will massively scale up access to testing, but hurdles remain in achieving widespread, frequent COVID-19 testing.

A digital results page for the BinaxNOW test.
The Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test claims to give results in 15 minutes.

What type of test is BinaxNOW?

The credit-card-sized test is an antigen test that detects a specific viral protein from SARS-CoV-2. It costs US$5 and doesn’t require a lab or a machine for processing.

Performing the test is simple. A health care worker or technician would use a swab to collect a sample from less than 1 inch inside the nostril. They would then combine the sample with a few drops of chemicals inside the test card. Within 15 minutes, the test strip would show a positive or negative result. The test is also paired with an app that produces a digital code that can be scanned to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

A sign showing the FDA logo with the FDA headquarters in the background.
The FDA granted emergency use authorization for the test, but only for use on patients with symptoms of COVID-19.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

What does the Emergency Use Authorization allow for?

The BinaxNOW test is currently only authorized for patients who have had COVID-19 symptoms for seven days or less, which is when virus levels in the body are likely to be high. It must be prescribed by a physician and performed by a trained technician or other health care worker.

The PCR test for COVID-19 is currently widely used and considered the gold standard, but requires patient samples to be sent to a lab and can take days to provide results. The new antigen test is designed to be a cheap and quick alternative to PCR testing for diagnostic purposes in a medical setting. It would add critical capacity to an overstretched testing system.

The emergency use authorization provides preliminary authorization for doctors to prescribe the antigen test while the full FDA approval process is ongoing. The authorization could be revoked if the test is not as accurate or reliable as expected.

[Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.]

How accurate is this test?

Abbott, the health technology company that produces the test, reports that when patients had symptoms the test was in agreement with PCR testing for 97.1% for COVID-19 positive cases and 98.5% for COVID-19 negative cases. This is high enough for diagnostic settings where accuracy is critical.

However, the true accuracy could be lower because the performance testing group was only 102 people and the accuracy hasn’t been validated by the FDA as part of the full approval process. There will inevitably be some false negatives and false positives with the BinaxNOW test since accuracy isn’t 100%, but the FDA will monitor the data to make sure the test meets the reported accuracy.

People waiting in a line of cars with health care workers standing under pop-up shade structures.
Long lines and slow turnaround times have limited access to testing, but the new Abbott test should be far easier and faster.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Can this test be used for widespread screening?

The BinaxNOW test is cheap, rapid, able to be mass-produced and easy to use outside a lab. This makes it a promising candidate for widespread screening. However, the test is currently only authorized for people with COVID-19 symptoms.

This is an obstacle because an estimated 40% of all COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic and these people likely don’t know that they’re contagious. To maximize the effectiveness of any COVID-19 screening program, it is important to test people whether they have symptoms or not.

Health care providers are able to prescribe the BinaxNOW test for asymptomatic patients for off-label use, but health officials don’t yet know how accurate the test is when performed on asymptomatic people.

Is this test a game-changer?

The massive expansion of testing access made possible by the BinaxNOW test will almost surely outweigh the downsides of a small number of inaccurate results. Abbott plans to manufacture 50 million tests per month starting in October. This will quickly exceed the 76 million COVID-19 tests the U.S. has performed over the last six months.

Widespread, frequent testing is effective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The new testing capacity made possible by the authorization of this rapid antigen test represents a major advance in bringing the pandemic under control.The Conversation

Zoë McLaren, Associate Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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

Navajo Dam operations update

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to a warmer and dryer forecast weather pattern, Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 850 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 950 cfs on Thursday, September 3rd, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended flows in the critical habitat reach as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. This target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.