Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Remember that $20,000 Duck Death Study?

You will recall that back in 2007 many wild ducks were dying in and around Metro Wastewater evaporation ponds and Ferril Lake in City Park. Knowing that Metro Wastewater permit No. 2360-3-1A allows at least 28,000 gallons per day of pollutants and radionuclides to be pumped from the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site into the supply side of our recycling system (our sewers) and thence into Grasmere Lake and Ferril Lake caused some to reason that these deaths might be attributable to some of the toxins we were putting into the water. Direct observation of the ducks in Ferril Lake revealed that they were sinking. One was even witnessed as it sank below the surface and died. Others could be seen to be riding low in the water. It was hypothesized that the industrial strippers allowed by the permit could be the cause. Ducks are kept buoyant by the oils on their feathers. Strip the oil off, the duck sinks. Or so went the theory. Then The U.S. Geological Survey gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Colorado Division of Wildlife $20,000 to begin a controlled study of how the water in wastewater ponds affects living ducks, according to Barb Perkins, Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman. So what were the results? I won’t bore you with the unanswered emails, un-returned phone calls, etc., but eventually I learned that:

Regarding your request, one of my scientists did conduct a study related to the duck deaths at the Denver Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant. We provided an administrative report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. U.S. Geological Survey administrative reports are considered to be unpublished and many not be cited or quoted except in follow-up administrative reports to the same agency or unless the agency releases the report to the public. I am not aware if U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released that report or not. I would suggest contacting Dr. Jim Dubovsky, James_Dubovsky@fws.gov, for further information. Patty Stevens Patty Stevens Chief, Trust Species and Habitats Branch Fort Collins Science Center 2150 Centre Ave, Bldg C Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118
I spoke with Dr. Jim Dubovsky, who has the study but can not yet release the results. The study has not yet been released because: 1. There are many “partners” who must first sign off on the study. 2. They have “lost” their PR person and are not able to get information out readily. However, he was able to tell me that: 1. There were not able to find a “smoking gun”. 2. They were able to determine that the ducks were “waterlogged”. 3. I asked specifically about the stripper – they tested for that and were not able to demonstrate a difference from the control group. 4. He said he couldn’t go into further detail until the study was released. Here's a repost of Adrienne Anderson explaining what happened at Washington Park's Grasmere when it was transformed into an evaporation pond. Also see Anderson's further explanation here, and more video here.


  1. Anonymous7:11 PM

    Sounds like our government agencies are headed by a bunch of quacks.