Environment briefs: free radon testing, hottest year ever, recycling good for state economy
January 23, 2015
Radon is an odorless, colorless, cancer-causing radioactive gas that naturally occurs at high levels in Summit County. Radon levels inside homes tend to be highest during cold weather, making winter the best time to test for radon.
"If you wait till the warmer months to perform a radon test, it's more difficult to get an accurate picture of what's going on in your home," said Maya Kulick, county environmental health specialist. "Every home in our community should be tested."
The county's environmental health division offers free radon test kits that can detect the carcinogen. The test kits, which monitor radon over a period of three to seven days, are available in the Environmental Health offices in the County Commons, 37 Peak One Drive, in Frisco, on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends radon-reduction activity in buildings with levels of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) or higher. Summit County homes have average radon levels of 10 pCi/L. The average indoor radon level in the U.S. is 1.3 pCi/L, while outdoor radon levels average about 0.4 pCi/L.
Homes found to have high levels of radon generally don't require major changes. A certified radon mitigator can seal cracks and install venting systems and fans that cost-effectively reduce radon levels.
For more information on radon, indoor air quality or obtaining a free radon test kit, visit http://www.co.summit.co.us/radon.
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Frisco accepts Christmas trees for bonfire
Still haven't disposed of your Christmas tree?
Through Jan. 31, the town of Frisco is accepting Christmas trees to fuel the Spontaneous Combustion bonfire on Feb. 7.
Trees must be stripped of all lights, tinsel, garland, tree stands and decorations prior to drop-off at the Frisco Bay Marina dirt lot at the corner of Summit Boulevard/Highway 9 and Marina Road.
Only real trees will be accepted. The tree drop-off is open 24 hours a day.
The Spontaneous Combustion bonfire is part of Frisco's 45th annual Gold Rush events. Frisco's Gold Rush is the longest-running Nordic event in Colorado and features classic and skate ski races of various distances. The races benefit the Summit Nordic Ski Club and a portion of the proceeds raised will help send local athletes to Junior Nationals. The ski events are followed by the Spontaneous Combustion bonfire fueled by Christmas trees at 6 p.m. with fireworks at 8 p.m.
For information about tree drop-off and Spontaneous Combustion, contact Nora Gilbertson at (970) 668-9132.
CPW says protect dogs, wildlife with leashes
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are seeing an increase in problems with dogs chasing wildlife.
The issue becomes more serious in the winter when dogs can easily run down deer and elk in the snow and injure or kill them. So far this winter, wildlife officers in every part of the state have reported chasing incidents.
In January just north of Durango, a dog chased a herd of about 20 elk into the Animas River, said Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager in Durango.
Deer and elk can lose up to 40 percent of their body weight during winter. The animals feed on dormant grass and woody plant material, with little nutritional value.
"Deer and elk are barely surviving during the winter," he said. "Because of that dog they stood in the cold water of the river for most of the rest of the day burning up calories they couldn't afford to lose."
The owner of the dog was ticketed and paid a fine of $276.50.
In another incident, four dogs killed three elk near Crestone in the San Luis Valley. Officers wrote the owners three tickets for $275 each, fines that will compensate the state for the loss of wildlife.
According to CPW, dog attacks often injure big game animals and leave them clinging to life, so officers euthanize them.
Many pet owners believe their dogs would never chase wildlife, but dogs, given the chance, will follow their predator instincts. That behavior can lead to a dog's demise.
If a wildlife officer or other law enforcement officer sees dogs chasing deer or elk, Colorado law allows the dog to be shot.
Officers encouraged pet owners to keep their dogs on leashes to protect pets from mountain lions and other animals and to ensure pets don't become a hazard to wildlife, people and other dogs.
NOAA, NASA call 2014 hottest year on record
2014 was the hottest year on record, according to multiple agencies that track global temperature, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.
This marks the 38th consecutive year in which the global annual temperature has exceeded the 20th century average, according to NOAA. That means roughly half of all Americans and about 65 percent of the global population have never lived through an average year, said Brenda Ekwurzel, senior climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"As long as industrial emissions keep rising, temperature records will keep breaking. It's more than just temperature, too," she said. "The past several years have produced record-high sea levels, record-low Arctic ice volume and many other new records."
The world has already warmed 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, she said, and emissions are on pace to produce more than quadruple the amount of warming already recorded.
"The good news is that the extent of future climate change depends largely on the decisions we make today about how much more heat-trapping industrial emissions go into the atmosphere," she said. "Climate change is still presenting us with choices; failing to act is by far the riskiest among them."
Recycling boosts Colorado's economy
Recycling, reuse and remanufacturing have positive impacts on the state's economy, according to a study commissioned by the Department of Public Health and Environment.
The study found the waste diversion industry sustains about 85,000 jobs, creates jobs outside the industry in a 1-to-1 ratio, generates nearly $1.3 billion per year in state and local tax revenues and accounts for about 5 percent of Colorado's overall economic output.
"This study reveals that investing in infrastructure that helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills is a win-win situation for the economy and the environment," said Eric Heyboer, the department's recycling grant program administrator.
ENVIRON International, the consulting firm hired to complete the study, used the economic input-output modeling system IMPLAN, or Impact Analysis for Planning, as the basis of its analysis. The firm also conducted a survey of businesses, nonprofits and local governments directly associated with the industry.
Read the entire report, Economic Study of Recycling in Colorado, on the department's website.