Tag: Pollution

It took a pandemic to stop open burning in Mesa County, as public officials finally recognize it as a public health threat

A “controlled burn,” started by a person with a permit, got out of control on March 5, causing $5,000 worth of damage and endangering nearby residents

The Mesa County Health Department suspended residential open burning in the county indefinitely on March 18 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

No doubt tens of thousands of valley residents are greatly relieved.

The Health Department explained the ban by saying:

COVID-19 is a lower respiratory illness impacting residents with underlying medical conditions, more severely than other groups. This decision was made to ensure the best possible air quality for residents in high-risk categories, and to ensure our medical community has enough resources to care for the patients impacted by COVID-19.

The last-century scourge of open burning is halted at last, at least for awhile

Mesa County’s spring burn season — a throwback to a time when this area was predominantly agricultural — runs from March 1 through May 31. Every year like clockwork, as soon as the weather warms up and people start getting outdoors, they find their springtime ruined by plumes of smoke that give them sore throats, burning eyes, runny noses, headaches, asthma attacks, and exacerbate their lung conditions. Beautiful spring mornings are soon fouled by smoke drifting across the valley, forcing people to close doors and windows and grab their inhalers.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce takes off it’s fig leaf

Grand Valley Drainage District pipe choked with weeds. (Photo credit: GVDD)

If there is a shred of doubt left that the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce exists only to promote it’s own political ideology, it dispelled that notion today with an ad in the Daily Sentinel endorsing the Grand Valley Drainage District (GVDD) Board candidate notable for being the remarkably far less qualified person for the seat.

The Chamber endorsed the less-qualified candidate for one reason only: she opposes the fee imposed by the GVDD in 2016 to raise funds for crucial improvements needed to the Grand Valley’s stormwater drainage system. Residents pay an extra $3/month. The fees assessed to businesses are higher because their larger “big box” buildings and paved parking lots create far more polluted stormwater runoff than homes, burdening the valley’s drainage system more than residences do. The drainage system, designed in 1915 primarily to collect agricultural seep from fields, is already in bad shape and needs improvement and expansion to cope with the valley’s change from primarily a rural/agricultural area into an urban area. If runoff exceeds the amount of drainage capacity we have, the result will be flooding, property damage and damage to other important infrastructure, like roads.

Rep. Scott Tipton: A One-Man Wrecking Ball for Coloradans

House Rep. Scott Tipton votes against financial transparency in government, against protecting citizens’ health and against American workers

Think House Representative Scott Tipton is on your side? Think again.

In the last couple of weeks, Rep. Tipton has voted against cleaner air, against creating more American jobs, and in favor of keeping financial information secret that would allow Congress to tell if changes President Trump proposes in the U.S. tax code would benefit his family’s income.

Spring Open Burn Season Fouls the Air, Casts a Pall over the Grand Valley

 

The Grand Valley’s springtime air is fouled with smoke from open burning

It’s springtime and open burning season is upon us once again, giving Grand Valley residents sore throats, burning eyes, runny noses, headaches and asthma attacks. Beautiful spring days that dawn clear and bright are soon fouled by dense plumes of smoke that drift across the valley forcing people to close their doors and windows and grab their inhalers. KKCO 11 News on March 16 said, “Add in an early allergy season and you have a recipe for a breathing disaster.”

And a disaster it is, for many people, and not just for their health, but for their property, too.

City Council to Consider Ban on Open Burning at Tonight’s Meeting

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

Open burning in Grand Junction’s residential areas creates respiratory problems for residents, pedestrians, bicyclists as well as visibility hazards for motorists.

Does the smoke from open burning make you choke?

The Grand Junction City Council will consider bringing the City a bit further into the 21st century this evening when they consider an ordinance to ban open burning at their regular meeting.
Below is a summary of what the ordinance will do, taken from page 85 of tonight’s agenda. There are plenty of exceptions to the burn ban, but at least is does make it illegal to burn household and yard waste. That’s better than the “no action” alternative City residents been suffering with.
Looking at what else is on tonight’s agenda, council probably won’t get to this item much before about 7:45 p.m., and probably won’t get to the part where they allow public comment on the ordinance until maybe 8:20 or 8:30 p.m. If you’ve suffered from clouds of stinky, suffocating smoke overtaking your neighborhood during the five months of the year when open burning is still allowed, you might want to weigh in in favor of this measure:

Burn Haze Has TV Weather People Recommending Grand Valley Citizens Close Windows and Doors

A smoky, smelly haze fills the Grand Valley's air as open burning season gets underway

A smoky, smelly haze fills the Grand Valley’s air as open burning (open polluting) season starts

Thinking of moving to Grand Junction?

You might want to think again. It’s spring open burning season — something people moving here rarely hear anything about from the Chamber of Commerce relocation packets, or from their realtors. Thanks to the cultural throwback of open burning, an acrid pall hung across the Grand Valley today as open burning season began. The air smelled as bad as it looked, too, reeking of burnt wood and rubber, and driving people indoors to escape the respiratory effects of the smoke.

Grand Valley Residents Jump the Gun on Open Polluting Season 2016

A Grand Junction resident at

A Grand Junction resident at 720 26 Road openly burns a pile of yard debris on February 28, several days before the official start of Mesa County’s Spring Open Polluting season, which runs from March 1 to May 31.

Spring Open Polluting season is almost here in Mesa County, but many landowners who are eager to burn leaves and trash can’t wait. They’re jumping the gun and polluting their neighbors’ air earlier than the law allows.

Open Polluting Season in the county officially starts on March 1 and runs until the end of May. During this time, area residents can legally burn yard debris and force their neighbors inhale the smoke without concern for the health or welfare of anyone around them. The County also permits open polluting in September and October. During these months citizens are allowed to pour trash into the Grand Valley’s air and suffocate nearby residents with clouds of stinky smoke during the five most beautiful months of spring and fall, ironically at the same time outdoor temperatures become most conducive to enjoying outdoor activities.

What the Grand Junction Economic Partnership Won’t Tell You About the Grand Valley

Open burning in Mesa County creates traffic hazards as well as cardiac and respiratory hazards for many residents

Open burning in Mesa County creates traffic hazards and poses a cardiac and respiratory threat to many residents for months out of the year

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) recently revealed an attractive new website to try to lure more educated people to relocate to Mesa County, but it avoids telling the whole story about what people face when they move here.

Hazardous Waste Capital of Colorado

One important thing people need to know when considering a move to the Grand Valley is that Mesa County is the hazardous waste dump capital of the state. Mesa County is home to the largest radioactive hazardous waste repository in the state, the Cheney Repository, a 94 acre industrial waste site completed in 1994. The Cheney site sits on the flanks of the scenic Grand Mesa, near another hazardous waste site the Mesa County Commissioners approved in 2012, Alanco Energy’s Deer Creek frackwater disposal site. That facility currently consists of 8 acres of open evaporative ponds. Trucks of full of contaminated frackwater drive from rig sites for hundreds of miles around to dump their loads there, and the noxious odors emanating from the Deer Creek facility have been making Mesa County residents for miles around sick with headaches, vomiting, sore throats, bloody noses and respiratory illnesses. Despite years of pleading for help, the county commissioners have done nothing to help the situation. Alanco owns another 160 acres at the same site, and hopes to expand its stinky frackwater and other hazardous waste dump operations. Given the hearty embrace the Mesa County Commissioners have given past hazardous waste dumps, it’s likely to happen, too.

Help Whitewater Residents End Their Hazardous Waste Hell

Whitewater residents' petition seeking help to get rid of the sickening stench of Alanco's frackwater pits.

Whitewater residents’ petition seeking help to get rid of the sickening stench of Alanco’s frackwater pits.

Whitewater residents are begging other Mesa County residents to help them, and boy, do they need our help.

Imagine you’ve bought some peaceful acreage in the outskirts of Mesa County. You finally realize your dream of owning your own land. You build a house, move in and start enjoying the beauty, quiet, views and proximity to wildlife that the area offers.

Then one day, a stench akin to metallic excrement wafts over your house. It’s doesn’t just stay for a minute. It’s not there for just an hour. It’s permanent. The stench is so strong it forces your family indoors on nice summer evenings. You have to close all your doors and windows in midsummer to try to escape it. Then your family starts getting sore throats and headaches. Your kids start having nosebleeds and vomiting. You contact local and state authorities for help, to no avail. Whatever you do — no matter how many letters you write, phone calls you make or public hearings you go to — nothing changes.

You’re stuck with it.

Welcome to the world of Whitewater residents living within smelling distance of Alanco Energy’s Deer Creek frackwater evaporation ponds.

In 2012, the County Commissioners approved construction of Alanco’s hazardous waste disposal facility in the Whitewater area. It now accepts contaminated water from fracked wells 24/7 for hundreds of miles around. The facility evaporates the contaminated water into the air to get rid of it, but it’s also Whitewater residents’ air. People who live downwind are forced to breathe everything Alanco’s evaporation pits are pumping into the air, and it’s making them sick.

No Help

Whitewater residents have been struggling to get a stop put to the harmful stench since 2013. They’ve begged Alanco Energy Services, their elected officials and health and environmental agencies from Denver to Grand Junction for help for years, all to no avail. No person and no agency has helped them. They’ve been helpless to fight the problem and continue to breathe the contaminated air around their homes and get sick.

Now they are warning other Mesa County residents that they could be next if the Commissioners keep approving this type of industrial hazardous waste development in Mesa County. They’re also asking their fellow Mesa County residents for help by signing petitions demanding commissioners either end their hell once and for all, or shut down Alanco’s hazardous stink pits.

The petition says:

Background: The Deer Creek Evaporative Waste Facility located at 5180 Highway 50 in Whitewater, began accepting “produced water” from oil and gas operations in August, 2012, despite objections from nearby residents. In September, 2013, residents living in the surrounding area began submitting complaints regarding offensive odors emanating from the facility. Complaints were addressed to the Mesa County Planning Committee, Health Department, County Commissioners, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Alanco Energy Services, owners and operators of the facility. Odors described as “metallic” and “sickening”have often forced residents to inhibit outdoor activities and retreat indoors and close windows. Residents have experienced adverse health conditions such as headaches, dizziness, bloody noses and vomiting, which they believe are associated with the odors. Repeated complaints over a two year period have resulted in only short-term solutions with continued promise of future remedies.

Action petitioned: We, the undersigned, believe area residents have the right to full and healthy enjoyment of their property and have endured Alanco’s incompetent practices for too long. We contend that Alanco, in acting irresponsibly, sets and unhealthy precedent for prospective industrial development in Mesa County and across the entire Western Slope. Viable alternatives for treating produced water exist. Therefore, we urge our elected representatives to require Alanco to utilize proven, safe and effective treatment methodologies, or revoke the company’s Permit

You and Your Family Could Be Next

The Deer Creek frackwater disposal site (Photo credit: Mel Safken, Whitewater)

The Deer Creek frackwater disposal site (Photo credit: Mel Safken, Whitewater)

The Deer Creek frackwater disposal facility and Whitewater residents’ plight is a lesson, and a red flag to all of us. All Mesa County residents (other than the commissioners themselves, of course) currently run the risk of having a hazardous waste facility approved close enough to your homes to impact your health, quality of life and property value. If the county commissioners green light more facilities like Alanco’s hazardous stink pits and then refuse to remedy the problems these facilities cause the way they’ve failed to do in Whitewater, the rest of us run the risk of the same kind of treatment. The way the current Mesa County Commissioners revere oil and gas development, it’s a likely scenario.

It’s time for all Mesa County residents to help our Whitewater neighbors regain their health, environment and property values, and help protect ourselves from getting overrun by dangerous industrial development. You can do it by signing and circulating the petition, and showing the commissioners we all care about this disastrous situation.

To download, print and sign Whitewater residents’ petition to the Mesa County Commissioners, click here.

 

.

The Grand Mesa Jeep Club Cleans Up North Desert!

Grand Mesa Jeep Club cleans up North Desert

The Grand Mesa Jeep Club cleans up Grand Junction’s North Desert

Members of the Grand Mesa Jeep Club (GMJC), a collection of local four-wheel-drive and off-road enthusiasts, turned out to clean up the trash-ridden North Desert area on Sunday, June 7. The group met at 9:00 a.m. at a large dumpster out in the desert just off 27 1/4 Road and spent the morning picking up trash, electronic waste, old refrigerators, bottles, cans, tires computers, TVs and other garbage littering the off-road area. The cleanup event was not posted on their website‘s calendar or mentioned in the “Events” listing on their website, but was posted on their Facebook page a few hours before the cleanup was to take place.

The GMJC encourages its members and non-members to recreate responsibly and use public lands ethically. It encourages off-roaders to stay on existing trails, and be courteous to non-motorized users of the desert. The GMJC even has a program called “Stay the Trail” that coordinates volunteers to help with projects like cleanups and rehabbing public lands. The “Stay the Trail” project also educates off-roaders about etiquette, for example discouraging unnecessarily loud vehicles and telling users how they can make their loud vehicles quieter without losing any speed or power.

A big “thanks” to the GMJC for cleaning up the North Desert. We’ve already noticed a lot less trash in the last few weeks, too, and you’re really making a big difference.

 

Open Polluting Continues Apace in Mesa County

JoBlo

Thinking of retiring to Grand Junction or Mesa County? Think we have clean air and a fabulous springtime here? Think again. Relocation packets supplied by the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau don’t mention our area’s dirty little secret: Open Burning, the five months of the year when for the miniscule $5-$15 cost of a burn permit, any Joe Blow can openly burn dry hay fields, unlimited piles of dead grass, yard refuse, dead tree branches and other debris without any legal repercussion or consideration for neighbors. For months out of what would normally be the best times of the year, smoke fills the valley’s air with particulate matter and a putrid stench that makes many area residents sick and drives them indoors just at the time the warmer spring weather arrives. Spring Burning Season runs from March 1 – May 31, and Fall Burning Season runs from Sept. 1 – Oct. 31.

 

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.’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.

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.