Category: Pollution

Open Burning Suffocating Entire Neighborhoods

Smoke from an open burning fire smothered an entire neighborhood this afternoon just 1/4 mile from Mesa Mall.

Smoke from an open burning fire suffocated an entire neighborhood this afternoon on F 1/4 Road, just 1/4 mile from Mesa Mall.

Suddenly you can’t breathe inside your own home. Parents rush their asthmatic children to the doctors’ offices and emergency rooms. People at home on oxygen have to leave their homes or head to hospitals for relief. People attending weddings, dining, shopping or otherwise enjoying their Saturdays as normal are forced to leave events early because they feel sick, with sore throats and eyes that are burning and tearing uncontrollably.

Welcome to springtime in Mesa County, where open burning season ruins springtime for thousands of valley residents who have the misfortune of living near a burner. The normally clear, fresh valley air at this time of year gets pumped full of particulates and ash, as a smoky haze casts a pall over the area as residents suffer when neighbors burn their leaves, grass, branches and garbage openly.

Is this legal?

Yes.

Mesa County in one of the few areas left in the country where people can openly engage in the archaic practice of openly burning debris and freely polluting the air at the expense of their neighbors.

A Great Place to Retire? Think Again

Open burning of fields along roads in Grand Junction's residential areas creates a visibility hazard for drivers, as well as a health hazards for residents, pedestrians, bicyclists and more

Open burning of fields along roads in Grand Junction’s residential areas creates a visibility hazard for drivers, as well as a health hazards for residents, pedestrians, bicyclists and more

Grand Junction get marketed as a great place to retire, but relocation packets handed out by the Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce don’t tell potential relocatees about the many months each year where for the very small cost of a burn permit, anyone in Mesa County can burn waste piles and inflict suffering on other residents.

Judging from the amount of smoke overtaking the valley, plenty of people are burning this year.

Medical Burn Ban: An Answer?

Smoke from open fires isn’t just smelly, unsightly and uncomfortable. It poses a distinct health hazard to people with reactive lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart disease. Since Grand Junction has the biggest and most advanced medical facilities between Denver and Salt Lake, many people with heart and lung disease settle or retire here, only to discover they suffer for a total of months in the spring and fall seasons when open burning is permitted.

What can be done?

It’s Open Polluting Season Again in Mesa County

Smoke from open burning sends area residents with asthma and COPD running to doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms with breathing problems.

Smoke from spring open burning fires in Mesa County sends area residents with asthma, COPD and heart ailments running to doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms with breathing problems

In a cultural throwback to a mostly bygone era, anyone in Mesa County can still buy a permit to burn agricultural waste on their property. It’s called “Open Burning Season,” and the ubiquitous plumes of smoke seen — and smelled — throughout the county at this time of year increase the level of particulates in the air and send people with asthma, COPD and heart disease who live near these running to area doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms due to exacerbation of their illnesses.

Open burning is any open, outdoor flame where pollutants from the fire are emitted directly into the surrounding air. This includes the burning of leaves, wood and trash. Open burning doesn’t actually get rid of any waste or garbage. It just sends it into another chemical form that affects the people who breathe the air around the burn. Open burning is a legal way to dispose of one’s waste into the common airshed. It is akin to dumping waste on common public lands. It is very common, but very unhealthy method of disposing of garbage in western Colorado.

In some parts of the country, open burning is prohibited near roads, to preserve visibility for drivers

In some parts of the country, open burning is prohibited near roads, to preserve visibility for drivers

Burning waste outdoors — any kind of waste, whether it is agricultural or garbage — is unhealthy, unsafe and unneighborly. It’s also costly. The Grand Junction Fire Department spent over $11,000 responding to out of control fires during the 2013 open burn season. Some of those fires resulted in property damage, to, and people who suffer with breathing illnesses and have to see their doctors or go to emergency rooms due to smoke from open burning incur significant medical bills for treatment and medication.

G.J. Energy Expo Keynote Speaker is a Tea Party “Clown Act”

 

John L. Casey, who will be a featured speaker at this year's G.J. Energy Expo, gives a talk titled "Man Made Global Warming: The Biggest Scientific Fraud in History" to a tea party group in Florida

John L. Casey, a featured speaker at this year’s G.J. Energy Expo, gives a talk titled “Man Made Global Warming: The Biggest Scientific Fraud in History” to a tea party group in Florida

Club 20 is outing itself as a tea party group, and in so doing joins the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce in shedding any pretense of being politically even-handed. Unfortunately, it looks like the same can now also be said for Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Mesa University and the other hosts and sponsors of the Club 20 Energy Expo and Forum.

Club 20’s annual Energy Expo and Forum is scheduled to be held at Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center February 27, and the keynote speaker at this year’s event is raising lots of eyebrows.

He is global warming conspiracy theorist John L. Casey.

The Energy Expo is dominated by extractive energy pursuits, like drilling and fracking, but that is nothing new. It is hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce (already a well-established arm of the local tea party), Club 20, Colorado Mesa University, Colorado Mountain College and the John McConnell Math and Science Center.

Given the respect for education and level of intelligence the public expects of at least some of the above sponsors (CMC, CMU and the Math and Science Center), members of the public are left scratching their heads about how such a nutty keynote speaker got selected this year.

G.J.’s North Desert Trashed by Off-Road Vehicles, Shooting, Dumping

Off-roaders revel in tearing up the North Desert area after rain and snow, creating rutted mud pits for fun.

Off-roaders revel in tearing up the North Desert area after rain and snow, creating rutted mud pits for fun.

If you want tourists, friends and family to see the best our area has to offer, whatever you do, don’t take them up 27 1/4 Road into the desert north of H Road. While the panoramas from the north desert area are spectacular, this formerly stark and beautiful range of mancos shale hills running along the base of Grand Junction’s iconic Bookcliffs is now defaced from virtually end to end with trash dumps, mud ruts, shotgun shells and makeshift religious memorials to people who have died out there in accidents.

What used to be a marvelous place for a long, peaceful walk with your dog, is now so disappointing it tries the soul.

An airplane flies over areas on BLM land where shooting is permitted, right underneath the takeoff/landing patterns for G.J. Regional Airport

An airplane flies over BLM land where shooting is permitted underneath the takeoff/landing patterns for G.J. Regional Airport

Since the shooting range opened several miles out on 27 1/4 Road, and since the North Desert started being included on OHV (off-highway vehicle) maps, the area has turned ugly. It’s also a more dangerous place for peaceful users, like walkers, bikers and horseback riders.

Silt Blogger Falls Seriously Ill, Finds Glenwood Hot Springs Pool Contaminated with Pseudomonas

Peggy Tibbetts, an author who blogs about life up-valley in Silt, Colorado

Writer Peggy Tibbetts blogs about life up-valley in Silt, Colorado

Last August, Peggy Tibbetts, a blogger in Silt, Colorado fell seriously ill with a bacterial infection after using the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. Tibbetts has been a member of the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool for 18 years and uses the pool 2-3 times per week. She had never had an adverse incident there, but noted recently that a close friend and her husband had also reported falling ill after using the pool.

After an extended period of illness, in October, Tibbetts was diagnosed with an infection of pseudomonas aeroginosa, a bacteria that thrives in wet places, including poorly maintained pools. Externally, it can cause a condition known as “hot tub rash,” The bacteria can survive the elevated temperatures of a hot tub or hot springs. Symptoms of internal infection include inflammation and sepsis. If pseudomonas auruginosa colonizes in major organs like the lungs, liver or kidneys, the resulting infection can be fatal.

On October 24, after receiving her diagnosis, Tibbetts contacted the Garfield County Health Department through their website, told them about her illness and the possible link to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and asked them to investigate. On October 28, Tibbetts received an email from Garfield County environmental health specialist Morgan Hill, stating: “[W]e received your website inquiry and are following up on your concern related to pseudomonas at the Glenwood hot springs pool. We will contact you soon with more information.”

On November 4 and 5, the pool had an unannounced closure.

By November 12, the county did not contact Tibbetts, so she contacted them and asked for the lab results regarding bacteria in the hot springs pool. She soon received an email response from GarCo Environmental Health Manager Joshua Williams with the lab results from a hydrologic engineering firm called Zancanella & Associates, which showed the Glenwood Springs Hot Therapy Pool had indeed tested positive for pseudomonas aeruginosa on August 6, 2014, and August 13, 2014. Included with the email was a memorandum from Tom and Tony Zancanella to the county dated October 29, 2014, showing the county had been sitting on those rest results for two weeks, and hadn’t notified either Tibbetts or the public. Correspondence from Zancanella showed the pool hadn’t been tested for pseudomonas before that since 2011.

Time to Wind Down Open Burning in Mesa County

Spring open burning at G and 26 Roads create a traffic hazard as well as a respiratory hazard for many residents.

Spring open burning at G and 26 Roads created a significant traffic hazard as well as a respiratory hazard for many residents.

It’s another beautiful fall day in Mesa County, but it’s also the time when rabbitbrush, ragweed, juniper and other potent local allergens fill the air with pollen, making fall miserable for thousands of people who suffer from allergies. Add to this mix the clouds of black smoke from open burning that envelope entire neighborhoods, and beautiful fall days turn into days of utter despair for many western Colorado residents.

With a wide variety of retirement housing and the biggest medical center between Denver and Salt Lake, Grand Junction is a mecca for retirees. But many retirees who settle here have some degree of heart or lung disease, making them more susceptible to breathing problems and medical emergencies caused by exposure to smoke from open burning. Even healthy people who have never had a heart or lung diagnosis during their lifetime can count on losing up to 25 percent of their lung function as they age, making them more susceptible to health problems from air pollution.

A surprising number of people in Mesa County have respiratory or cardiac diseases, or use supplemental oxygen at home for heart or lung disease. In 2009, 7.5 percent of Mesa County children ages 1-14 reported having asthma, and 9.4 percent of adults in Mesa County reported having asthma during 2008-2010. In 2011, fully 58 people per 100,000 in Mesa County died from chronic lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and 159 people per 100,000 died from cardiovascular disease. Both of these disease states are exacerbated by exposure to air filled with smoke.

Open Burning Causes More Problems and Expense than it Solves

Contrary to popular local belief, open burning doesn’t get rid of yard or farm waste. It just changes the waste into another form — smoke — and pumps it into the air for everyone else to deal with. With burn permits ranging from just $5 to $15 per season locally (depending on the jurisdiction) the pricing of burn permits doesn’t come close covering the cost of putting out even one runaway fire caused by careless burning. From the frequent stench of the night time air, it’s also obvious that lots of people aren’t even bothering to buy permits, and instead burn illegally after dark. A obvious move cities can take to cover the cost of putting out out-of-control fires from open burning and reduce the amount of burning taking place would be to simply raise the ridiculously low price of the burn permits — something that hasn’t been done in many years.