#AnimasRiver: “The history of environmental abuse has caused this distrust of other people’s information” — Rebecca Clausen

BonitaPeak_Fig2_UAnimas

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

In the year since, Chief and her team have worked with Navajo communities, with a particular focus on the Shiprock, Upper Fruitland and Aneth chapters, to understand how the metals in the river may affect their health and how it damaged their perceptions of the river.

“We focused in on the short-term exposure because that was a question the people were really concerned about: ‘What is the risk of using the river?’” Chief said.

After numerous meetings with people, held in Navajo and English, the researchers found people could be exposed to heavy metal contaminates in 40 ways. Some exposure paths were specific to their lifestyle, such as using plants near the river for medicinal purposes. The potential exposure extends beyond the recreational exposure the Environmental Protection Agency had considered, Chief said.

To assess risk, the EPA assumed an adult or child was exposed to river sediment and drinking river water and sediment over 64 days per year over many years – 10 years for a child and 20 years for an adult…

The University of Arizona researchers say not enough information has been gathered to say what the health impacts will be, and they don’t expect to deliver those result for nine months to a year.

They started collecting soil and river samples in November with the help of volunteers before receiving a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant in March. They still need to collect urine and blood samples to see if people have a harmful level of lead or arsenic in their bodies.

“That will give us an idea if it makes sense to monitor long term,” said Paloma Beamer, an associate professor at the University of Arizona who is working on the study.

The data will allow researchers to answer the communities’ questions directly.

These are elements that have been extensively studied and so there is baseline data they can use for comparison, she said.

The researchers will take swabs from inside homes and gather information about residents’ diet to see if the lead and arsenic may come from other sources. For example, the coal some residents’ burn for heat can give off arsenic.

They also expect to take samples from sheep, corn, soil and river and tap water to assess the risk.

“We’re looking for lead and arsenic in everything, to trace the different ways it’s moving through the environment,” Beamer said.

They will use the data and information collected from the people to model what the exposure could be, so they can factor in activities that people are not doing anymore because they changed their habits, Paloma said…

“The history of environmental abuse has caused this distrust of other people’s information,” said Rebecca Clausen, an environmental sociologist at Fort Lewis College, who helped with the focus groups.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the federal government drastically reduced the animal herds of the reservation. From the 1940s through the 1980s, the federal government mined millions of tons of uranium, leaving behind radiation in homes and drinking sources.

So the Gold King Mine spill is just one piece of widespread environmental degradation, she said…

When this portion of the study is finished, Chief plans a three-year study, which is funded by a $600,000 grant.

“It will be really a discussion with the community where they want to go next.” Chief said.

Reducing abandoned mine water pollution in Colorado

Your Water Colorado Blog

By Skip Feeney, Water Quality Scientist, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division

Recently, I stayed at the Polar Star Inn, a hut in the 10th Mountain Division Hut system. Within an hour of arriving several children reported back that they had found a large hole in the ground that went really deep! It turned out to be a mine. Actually this hut got its name from an abandoned silver mine named the Polar Star Mine. It is not hard to stumble upon abandoned mines in Colorado. In fact there are an estimated 23,000 abandoned or inactive mines in Colorado alone.

Colorado and mining have a long history together. According to the History Colorado website, “The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush brought unprecedented numbers of people into the region…culminating in the admittance of Colorado to the Union in 1876.” Most Colorado hard rock mining activity…

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Is that patch of brown getting you down?

Mile High Water Talk

If your yard is feeling a bit heat-stressed, follow three simple steps to return your lawn to its happy place.

By Jessica Mahaffey

It’s natural to have a few brown spots in your yard during the peak summer months.

Use a nozzle if you see a brown spot that needs a little extra TLC. Use a nozzle if you see a brown spot that needs a little extra TLC.

Really. It’s OK.

Those summertime blemishes are symptoms of heat stress, and a signal for you to adjust your watering habits.

If you’re feeling wiped out by our recent heat wave, chances are your irrigation system is facing the same exhaustion.

At Denver Water, we don’t even need to turn on the weather report to know what’s going on outside. When it rains, we watch water use plummet. When we hit a string of 90-plus degree days, (26 of the last 30 days), we see irrigation systems working harder.

In fact, over the past 30 days…

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Latest News – August 6

Leadville Today

Mining Events Celebrate Leadville’s Underground 

This Saturday & Sunday, August 6 & 7 you can find some of the most exciting mining contests seen anywhere. These events have their roots in the pioneer days of underground mining and are based on old-fashioned mining techniques such as mucking and hand steeling. The events are free to the public, courtesy of our local mining companies and vendors.

In the hand-steeling event, one man uses a four-pound hammer to drive a three-quarter inch diameter steel into rock. Leadville Boom Days Mining events are held Saturday & Sunday in the Elks parking lot. Photo: Kurt Knudsen/Leadville Today In the hand-steeling event, one man uses a four-pound hammer to drive a three-quarter inch diameter steel into rock. Leadville Boom Days Mining events are held Saturday & Sunday in the Elks parking lot. Photo: Kurt Knudsen/Leadville Today

Mining events at Boom Days celebrate the legacy of mining in Leadville. But the events do more, helping people appreciate the physical work needed to get minerals out of the ground. In addition to teaching non-miners about mining, the events bring competitors together to share the common…

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