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Colorado Edition: Air, Above And Below

U.S. Department of Energy
Smog settles over the city of Denver.

Today on Colorado Edition: a pair of conversations about air quality in the state. Plus, a look at an active shooter training drill at a charter school in North Denver, and a conversation about urban broadband access concerns. We also learn about a sulfurous cave in Steamboat Springs.

News Of The Day:

  • Bernie Sanders - Democratic presidential hopeful and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is visiting Denver’s Civic Center Park today. It’s his first stop in Colorado for this campaign. Democratic candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have also stumped here. And Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is still in the race despite low poll numbers and failing to make the cut for this month’s televised debate. 

  • Wind Energy - Xcel Energy is moving ahead with plans for a wind energy project on the eastern Colorado plains. The utility company plans to complete the 500-megawatt Cheyenne Ridge Wind Project in December 2020. The project is part of a larger push by Colorado officials to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 90% of 2005 levels by the year 2050. 

  • Longmont Flouride - The city of Longmont is dealing with a shortage of fluoride for its municipal drinking water. For two months, the city hasn’t had enough fluoride at its water treatment plants to feed into water supplies. Longmont has added the mineral to its water supply since 1958, but due to the last sodium fluoride mine in the country shutting down this year, supplies have been restricted along the Front Range. Other communities in Colorado, such as Montrose and Palisade, have stopped fluoridating water after determining that toothpaste and other dental products provided enough health benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say fluoride shortages are not very common and tend to last only a few weeks. 

  • Winter Driving - It may only be the second week of September, but transportation authorities are encouraging drivers to prepare now for winter conditions by making sure they’re equipped for new vehicle traction laws. The law requires vehicles to have a minimum tire tread of 3/16ths of an inch for 127 miles of I-70. CDOT spokesman Andy Hogel says the most important thing is making sure vehicles have the technology to drive safely in the winter. Hogel says drivers can face fines up to $500 for driving without proper tire tread or chains when traction laws are in effect. The new law requires proper traction from Sep. 1 to May 31.

Air Quality

Credit Dr. Danica Lombardozzi
Specimens in the National Center for Atmospheric Research ozone garden show visible effects of ground-level ozone levels.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing in Denver on Friday about air quality in the state. The EPA is considering whether to downgrade the air quality rating of nine Northern Colorado counties, including Denver, Boulder, Larimer and Weld among others. If the EPA proceeds, the status of these counties would move from “moderate” to “serious.”

We’ve been seeing reporting that the state requested the downgrade, so we called Garry Kaufman, director of the Colorado air pollution Control Division, to learn more.

And although scientists often talk about the negative effects that poor air quality can have on our health, it can still be difficult for people to see and understand. That’s where the work of climate scientist Dr. Danica Lombardozzi comes in. Lombardozzi manages an ozone garden at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. She joined us to tell us more the garden and how it might help illustrate the affect if air quality on humans.

Active Shooter Training

Credit Leigh Paterson / KUNC

With the school year now fully underway in Colorado, the question of how to keep students safe is constant and ever-evolving, especially when it comes to mass shootings. KUNC's Leigh Paterson went to an active shooter training at a charter school in North Denver, which focused on three actions: evacuate, barricade and fight.

Urban Broadband Concerns

Credit Jim Hill / KUNC

For the majority of Denver's metro area, including urban and suburban communities, broadband infrastructure is in place. But often the cost can be a prohibitive factor for those looking access the internet from their home. To learn more about urban broadband access, we talked to Colorado Sun reporter Tamara Chuang.

Steamboat Springs Cave

Credit Courtesy of City of Steamboat Springs Parks & Recreation

Last week, Steamboat Spring’s city council agreed to pursue a landmark application for a sulfur cave in the town. If the application is approved, Sulphur Cave would become a national natural landmark, joining the ranks of places like Garden of the Gods or Hanging Lake.  The cave is unique for many reasons. Most notably being that it is deadly to enter it.  

To learn more, we were joined by reporter Eleanor Hasenbeck of the Steamboat Pilot and Today.

Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music this week by Blue Dot Sessions:

  • “Homegrown” by The Pine Barrens
  • "Vibrant Canopy” by Origami
  • “The Molerat”  by Little Rock
  • “Brass Buttons” by Nursery

Colorado Edition is hosted by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1) and Henry Zimmerman (@HWZimmerman), and produced by Lily Tyson. The web was edited by digital editor Jackie Hai. News director Catherine Welch and managing editor Brian Larson contributed to this episode.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a daily news magazine taking an in-depth look at the issues and culture of Northern Colorado. It's available on our website, as well as on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can hear the show on KUNC's air Monday through Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Stories written by KUNC newsroom staff.