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Emerging Contaminants

What's in Your Water?

"Emerging contaminants" are chemicals that are being detected in water resources and are suspected of posing environmental or public health risks.
Of the over 84,000 chemicals in commercial use today, only nine are banned or regulated. The rest? They're in household products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and toys. Because they're so pervasive they're turning up everywhere—from high alpine lakes, urban streams, and rural ponds—even in the middle of the ocean.

South Platte Stories: Leave No Trace

The South Platte River starts high up in the Rocky Mountains and is fed by many tributaries. The river nourishes cities and farms as it makes its way through the eastern plains, but its water isn’t as pristine as some of the snow-clad peaks might suggest. A recent study found a range of pharmaceuticals, from heart medication to birth control, high up in the watershed far from any urban center. How did they get there? They were most likely brought by hikers, backpackers, and others enjoying an outdoor experience. So, should we not venture into the backcountry because we could inadvertently affect the water? Absolutely not. There are easy ways to enjoy the outdoors, yet leave no trace behind. Get the Full Story>>

South Platte Stories: Can River Safety and Recreation Mix?

E. coli is a type of bacterium that lives in our intestines and in all warm-blooded animals. Most varieties are harmless, but some can lead to serious illness. High levels of E. coli, coming from leaking infrastructure, pet waste, or runoff from streets, are common in the South Platte River. In warm summer months—when the water is the most inviting—it creates a conundrum for public health officials and city planners: How do you engage people to care about a river they can't touch? For the city of Denver, one solution is hiding in plain sight. Get the Full Story>>

Colorado Water Providers React to New EPA Health Advisory About
PFOA and PFOS

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued new stricter guidelines for two perfluorinated chemicals: PFOA and PFOS. The agency said the new limits were to provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to the chemicals that have been linked to adverse health effects including cancer.

In Colorado, three water districts were found to have the chemicals in their systems. Does their location near a military base offer any clues as to the source? Get the Full Story>>

Known Unknowns: The Toxic Chemicals Swirling Through Your Veins
and Why It Didn’t Have to Be That Way

There was a time, back in the 1970s, when the United States was at the cutting edge of protecting human health and the environment. We passed the "Clean Water Act," the "Clean Air Act," and something called the "Toxic Substances Control Act," also known as "TSCA," which was intended to regulate chemicals for safety. But TSCA failed to live up to its promise. Of the over 84,000 chemicals in commercial use today, only nine are banned or regulated. The rest? They're in household products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and toys—many without adequate study about their health effects. Get the Full Story>>

Forgotten. Did the State of Colorado Leave the Residents of
the Raton Basin with Bad Water?

Gas drilling came to the Raton Basin of southern Colorado in the late 1990s and along with it heavy traffic, noise—and what many locals believe— contaminated water.

This story picks up from where our reporting in the fall of 2014 left off. Numerous residents had discovered they had a chemical in their water, "tert-Butyl alcohol" or "TBA." No one could figure out how this man-made substance got there—a chemical that wasn't detected until after gas drilling came to the area. It was a mystery, so the COGCC, the state agency that regulates oil and gas activities, investigated and published a report suggesting TBA was naturally occurring, among other explanations. Now the case is closed and the report, not only leaves more questions than it answers—it resigns residents to live with water they feel they dare not drink. Did the state of Colorado do enough to help? Get the Full Story>>

All stories are available for download at PRX.org and Audioport.org.
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Raise awareness about threats to water supplies in order to protect this most vital resource on which all life depends.

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Journalism About Water and the Environment
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