- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2009

Porcupines attack Colorado town

DENVER | A sudden influx of porcupines to Mountain Village, Colo., has caused more than $100,000 in damage to area landscaping, area residents say.

Homeowner Vicki Irwin said that while porcupines have been routine visitors to the home-rule municipality, recent arrivals have taken to gnawing bark off scores of area spruce trees, the Denver Post said Friday.

“I’ve seen porcupines around her for years, but they’ve never been so aggressive,” she said. “It’s all just a mystery.”

Mountain Village community relations director Nichole Zangara said officials don’t know how to respond to the change in the animals’ behavior because they don’t know the reasons for it. Among the theories are increased porcupine appetites due to last year’s hard winter or the lack of predatory bobcats in the area.

The Post said the increased planting of spruce trees by area residents could play a role as porcupines have an affinity for spruce trees.

Arsenic found near ash spill

KINGSTON, Tenn. | Federal data show arsenic levels more than 100 times the safe amount in a river near a massive coal-ash spill in East Tennessee.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said sediment and water samples from near the spill were above federal maximums for contaminants. Data released Friday showed total arsenic levels in one sample were 149 times the maximum level.

An EPA spokeswoman said municipal drinking water is safe because metals are filtered during treatment. The sample was taken far from where drinking water enters a treatment plant.

A retention pond burst at the Kingston Steam Plant last month, spreading more than a billion gallons of sludge. The plant is run by the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest government-owned utility.

Illinois lawmakers move up session

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. | The Illinois House could vote as early as next week on whether to impeach Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

The House bumped up its schedule and will meet several days next week. Members had been set to reconvene Jan. 12.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan said the chamber may vote on a recommendation from the special committee studying whether Mr. Blagojevich should be impeached.

It would take a simple majority vote for the House to impeach - accusing him of misconduct. The state Senate then would hold a trial to determine if the governor is guilty. A conviction would require a two-thirds majority.

Mr. Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on charges of scheming to swap President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat for profit.

More small quakes rattle Yellowstone

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. | An unusual number of earthquakes continued Friday to hit Yellowstone National Park, including three that on Friday measured stronger than magnitude 3.0.

The University of Utah’s seismic stations say the strongest of Friday’s temblors was 3.5. Several hundred quakes, centered under the northern end of Yellowstone Lake, have hit since Dec. 26, though no damage has been reported.

Earthquake swarms happen fairly often in Yellowstone, but scientists say it’s unusual for so many earthquakes to happen over several days.

Yellowstone lies almost entirely in northwestern Wyoming, in the caldera of a volcano that last erupted 70,000 years ago. Scientists have not concluded what is causing the earthquakes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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