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Local news roundup with The Colorado Sun - 6/21/2022

Yuma lettuce fields
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Every Tuesday and Thursday, KUNC’s Samantha Coetzee speaks with our colleagues over at the Colorado Sun about the local stories they're following.

Today she spoke with editor Larry Ryckman.

Interview Highlights:

These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Samantha Coetzee: There’s a huge land rush for renewable energy options in the Eastern Plains. Can you tell us more about that?

Larry Ryckman: Our whole staff is still talking about this story from reporter Mark Jaffe. Anyone who's driven out of the Eastern Plains lately can tell you the landscape has changed dramatically, and even more change is on the way. Mark reports that clean energy is being added to the crops that farmers produce. More than a dozen wind and solar developers have turned up in Yuma and Kiowa counties alone. They're locking up acreage for prospective projects and leases with farmers and ranchers.

It's all part of a push by Xcel Energy and its $1.7 billion power pathway transmission project. That's going to create 560 miles of high-tension transmission lines across eastern Colorado that will connect with new windmills and solar panels. Then Xcel is going to take that energy and move it to Front Range cities and suburbs. Some are welcoming the extra cash from leasing their land, but others are complaining about the changed landscape and what they say is their lack of control over the development. Xcel is planning to shut down the state's last coal fired units that produce electricity sometime in the next decade. It says solar and wind power needed to connect or rather to convert Colorado to clean energy.

There’s controversy about whether PFAS, or “forever chemicals” in biosolids used on farms are dangerous. But that also leads to the broader conversation of PFAS in general. Talk to us about that?

Reporter Michael Booth has been digging into test results on a particular patch of Colorado farmland. And the test results show that Metro Denver's wastewater treatment system is spreading these sewage biosolids laced with toxic forever chemicals. These chemicals have been found at its farm in eastern Arapahoe County and on private farms that buy the material as fertilizer. The biosolids are being spread by metro water in more than 100 other municipal waste agencies in the region.

Mike reports that the presence of these dangerous chemicals on farmland adds to a growing list of potential health threats. Researchers and watchdog groups say it also underscores the need for widespread testing. What we don't know right now is whether these chemicals found in the farmland are creating the kind of human health threats that have been routinely documented by local and national researchers. These forever chemicals are commonly used to make things like nonstick pans and waterproof hiking clothes. They've also been used in firefighting foam, and many studies have found detectable levels of these forever chemicals in nearly all humans. Researchers even found them in every single fish they captured here in Colorado in one test.

What about the mail situation in Buena Vista?

Reporter Shannon Najmabadi has a quirky story out of Buena Vista. Everyone likes to complain about their mail service. But the 3,000 residents of the Arkansas River mountain town have a particular bone to pick with the U.S. Postal Service. They don't get mail delivered to their homes, don't have cluster boxes, and they don't get the no-fee post office boxes that the post advertises. For decades, they've been paying for post office boxes while people living just outside of town limits get mail delivered to their homes for free. Now they're being told that their annual rates will be nearly doubled to $134 for the smallest box.

Shannon reports that these days people are more likely to talk about the post office than even politics. They've started a Facebook group to complain about the situation. People are upset about long lines. Prescription orders that get lost. Bills that arrive late. Or mail that gets returned to the sender. Shannon tracked down a spokesman for the Postal Service. He says it's contending with a lot of the same issues we've all heard about, including rising prices, labor shortage and higher health care costs. Now, the spokesman says they're reviewing the resident's complaints. We will definitely keep watching this one.

You can find more local reporting at ColoradoSun.com

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