water quality

Wyoming Outdoor Council

After public outcry over the 2014 decision by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to downgrade the status of 75 percent of the state’s streams, allowing for the presence of more bacteria like e. coli, the agency has revised its decision. But outdoor recreation advocates say the new decision looks a lot like the old one.

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Several environmental groups filed a petition Wednesday with the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to overhaul a program that exempts underground aquifers from protection under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Melodie Edwards

It was standing room only in Casper Wednesday night at a public meeting addressing the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality's decision to downgrade 87,000 miles of the state's streams.

Christine Lictenfells is a longtime guide and outdoor educator. She says the DEQ's decision wasn't based on a clear understanding of how people use high mountain waters. She says  backpackers and horsepackers bathe there and expect clean waters. She had a suggestion for the DEQ.

Wyoming Outdoor Council

Next Wednesday, September 16 in Casper, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will host a public discussion of a decision to downgrade about 87,000 miles of streams in the state. The DEQ argues such waters are too shallow for swimming. Outdoor groups disagree, saying campers and hunters bathe and swim in them and that it could lead to more illness due to higher levels of the bacteria e. coli.

Western Watersheds Project Wyoming Director Jon Ratner has made quite a stir over the last few years, monitoring stream quality in areas where cattle graze, sometimes crossing private property to do so.

“What our work over the last decade has found is that virtually everywhere that livestock grazing is found, you will have violations of state water quality standards.”

He says, when he gave his data to the DEQ, he got push back. In fact, in the last legislative session, two new statutes shut down his data collection by prohibiting trespassing.

Wyoming Outdoor Council

The phrase “mountain streams” usually comes with the word “pristine” in front of it. But here in Wyoming, some outdoor recreation groups are saying, not for long. That’s because last year, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality downgraded the status of about 87,000 miles of small creeks and drainages in the state’s highest country. For years, these streams have been considered primary recreation, which means they could be used for swimming and the DEQ would clean them up even if a small amount of e. coli, was found in them.

Hub Witt

How will the recent downgrade of mountain stream quality change your use of them?

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Rhetoric is heating up in Wyoming over new proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency. Governor Matt Mead and Senator John Barrasso both claim it will have a huge impact on Wyoming farmers, ranchers and businesses and will give the EPA jurisdiction over more water than ever before.

But Professor Mark Squillace of the University of Colorado School of Law disagrees.

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A proposal to test water quality at oil and gas wells before and after drilling is making its way through the rulemaking process. The governor’s office and industry hope it will answer some of the questions surrounding groundwater contamination near oil and gas development, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, the rule may not actually be able to answer the question of who’s responsible, if contamination occurs, and that has some people questioning whether it’s valuable at all.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted Tuesday to start the formal rulemaking process to establish baseline water testing in the state. The rule would require oil and gas operators to collect water samples before beginning development.  

The Wyoming Rural Water Association supports the state’s plan to limit water pollution caused by leaking landfills… But says it’s already taken too long to get started on the effort, and it could be a while before Wyoming sees significant improvements.

At a press conference last week, Governor Matt Mead reminded the public of two bills the legislature passed this session. They created a municipal solid waste landfill remediation program as well as an initiative to help sub-par landfills close and transfer new garbage to better facilities.

A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey finds that coal-bed natural gas production can affect water quality in nearby streams.

The study monitored water quality over a ten-year period in Wyoming and Montana, and found that in places like the Powder River, sodium levels increased. Other test sites showed little or no change in water quality.

Report author Melanie Clark says the changes occur because water that’s extracted during gas production sometimes flows into the streams and rivers.

But she says the additional sodium in the water isn’t particularly worrisome.