Two Colorado power plants are cleaning up their act, but it may be a case of too little too late. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey studying the Mount Zirkel Wilderness near Steamboat Springs, Colo., have found that air pollution from coal-burning power plants in the towns of Hayden and Craig harms wildlife.
The plants release sulfur dioxide,
which pollutes the snowpack and, eventually, ponds and streams. The
result: Mount Zirkel's snowpack is the most acidic of any measured
in the Rockies, the Cascades or the Sierras. The damage may be
making its way into the food chain. Researchers found dead tiger
salamander eggs in Dumont Lake near Mount Zirkel, and their report
predicts that the acidic spring melt will harm the bottom of the
food chain, killing zooplankton, fish and amphibian
The Environmental Protection Agency, which
says the Hayden power plant had some 29,000 violations of the Clean
Air Act in the past five years, recently ordered the plant to
reduce smokestack emissions by 85 percent, at an estimated cost of
$130 million. The Craig plant has lawsuits pending against it as
well, and is now improving its facilities. But USGS hydrologist Don
Campbell says even these large-scale changes may do little to
reverse the damage already evident in the wilderness
Steve Dayney of Public Service of Colorado,
which owns 50 percent of the Hayden facility, doesn't deny there's
pollution. But he says it comes mainly from urban and industrial
For a copy of John T. Turk and Donald H.
Campbell's four-page report, contact the District Chief at the U.S.
Geological Survey, Water Resources Division, Bldg. 53., Denver
Federal Center, Mail Stop 415, Box 25046, Denver, CO 80225