(NaturalNews) The “accidental” release by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of more than three million gallons of toxic sludge into a Colorado river system that feeds into the larger Colorado River has resulted in a massive surge of heavy metal contamination, including lead levels that are now 3,580 times higher than federal limits for human drinking water.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that the toxic plume, which is believed to have already reached Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border, left in its wake extremely high concentrations of lead, arsenic, cadmium and various other neurodamaging chemicals. EPA tests for 24 different metals under the 14th Street bridge in Silverton, Colorado, near the site of the Gold King Mine where the accident occurred, revealed the following:
• Levels of lead 200 times higher than the acute exposure maximum for aquatic life, and 3,580 times higher than the acute exposure level for human drinking water.
• Levels of arsenic 24 times higher than the exposure limit for fish, and 823 times higher than the level safe for human ingestion.
• Levels of cadmium 6 times higher than the aquatic limit, and 33 times higher than the safe limit for humans.
Toxic heavy metals flowing through Lake Powell, Grand Canyon and towards Mexico
During its 300-mile southwest journey from Gold King Mine near Colorado Springs towards California and Mexico, the toxic plume has reportedly contaminated a vast network of riverbeds, authorities say. Plans are being devised to address this pollution at certain sites along the way, but little can be done to actually stop it.
In Utah, cleanup crews are testing residual water releases to see if they’re now safe enough to drink. They don’t believe the level of heavy metal contamination is a threat, and they say they’re not expecting a mass die-off of aquatic life. But the brown-tinted flow is suggestive of problems that won’t likely go away anytime soon.
“At this point, how long are we going to continue to truck in water? Who’s going to pick up the tab? Are we going to hold these people accountable? I want answers from the EPA, but they’re nowhere to be found,” stated David Filfred, a council delegate from the Navajo Nation, to AP reporters.
“This is a lifeline. This is our culture. This is who we are. They say that water is life, and water is the bloodstream to our lives,” he continued, as originally quoted by the AP. The Associated Press later deleted Filfred’s comments from their report, presumably because they reflected poorly on Obama’s EPA.
Roughly 500,000 other abandoned mines throughout US waiting to release toxic torrent
The Gold King Mine situation isn’t isolated, either. The EPA says there exist some 500,000 abandoned mines like Gold King all across the country, and only a very small percentage of them have been indexed and a plan of action for their remediation established.
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Abandoned Mine Lands program has inventoried only 48,000, or about 10 percent, of the nation’s total sum of abandoned mines. Of these, only about 20 percent, or roughly 10,000, are in the process of being cleaned up or have been declared remediated — the other 38,000, along with the rest of the 500,000 mines not yet inventoried, are just ticking time bombs waiting to unleash their own disasters.
“A lot of these are Mom and Pops, they’ve inherited the property or they bought it years ago before the environmental laws were passed, and they just don’t have the resources,” stated Doug Jamison, with the hazardous materials division of Colorado’s state health department, to the AP about the various abandoned mine sites that are now owned by average citizens who don’t know what lurks beneath the surface, let alone know how to address the problem.
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Written by Ethan A. Huff
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