Rocky Mountain National Park works to reduce pollution |

Rocky Mountain National Park works to reduce pollution

ESTES PARK ” In an effort to reduce pollution at Rocky Mountain National Park, officials are trying to determine how much nitrogen oxide the park’s streams and lakes can absorb before they become acidic and kill fish, park and state health officials said Tuesday.

The survey, expected to be completed this summer, will be used by the state health department and the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the pollution from cars, fertilized fields and livestock that a study shows is polluting the park.

Determining the so-called critical load will help officials set a goal, said Mike Silverstein, manager of the planning policy program at Air Pollution Control Division of the state health department.

“(Vehicle) emissions are going to be lower in the future than they are today … the agricultural side is another issue,” he said. “We need to come up with innovative approaches for (farmers) to reduce their emissions.”

He said the first step is working with agricultural communities on “best management practices,” such as changing feed, promptly picking up waste and using reformulated fertilizers.

But its still too early to tell what the state could do, Silverstein added. “Its really the beginning,” he said. “The science is telling us that things are changing … and I think there’s a pretty good consensus that there are real issues.

Nitrogen levels in the park are 18 to 20 times higher than in preindustrial times, according to a 23-year research project headed by U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Jill Baron.

The research also shows that nitrogen levels in the park are increasing by 2 percent a year, which if left unchecked eventually could acidify lakes and streams, killing fish and causing countless other changes in the park.

In December, the park, state health department, and the EPA signed a memorandum of understanding to address air quality issues in the park.

“It commits this collaborative effort (between agencies) in writing,” park biologist Carl Cordova said.

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