Department of Defense expands list of military sites to investigate for #PFAS contamination

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via [Click the map to go to the website.]

Here’s the release from the National Ground Water Association:

A U.S. Department of Defense progress report released on March 13 states the number of sites it is investigating for potential release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the environment has grown from 401 to 651 as of September 2019.

The report summarizes the PFAS task force’s accomplishments since its establishment in July 2019 and its planned activities moving forward.

According to the report, no U.S. military personal on or off bases is drinking water above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion where the DoD is the known source of drinking water. Where levels exceed the EPA’s health advisory level, the DoD has provided bottled water and filters, and taken other actions as appropriate.

Additional updates include the following items.

  • No PFAS-free foam has met the strict safety standards the DoD requires to rapidly extinguish fuel fires. The DoD only uses aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) to respond to emergency events and no longer uses it for land-based testing and training. To limit environmental effects, the department treats each use of AFFF as a spill response. The DoD is investing $49 million through fiscal year 2025 in research, development, testing, and evaluation to find an effective alternative.
  • Each military service is collecting drinking water sampling results where DoD is the purveyor and maintaining the data in a centralized database.
  • Scientists are still studying the health effects of PFAS exposure. The DoD has provided $30 million and will provide an additional $10 million this year, to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct exposure assessments in the communities around eight current and former military installations, as well as a multisite health study.
  • The task force will explore potential options for addressing PFAS overseas.
  • Aspinall Unit operations update: 550 CFS in the Black Canyon, diversions through the Gunnison Tunnel = 300 CFS

    Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

    From email from Reclamation Erik Knight:

    Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be increased to 1050 cfs on Wednesday, March 25th. Releases are being adjusted to accommodate the change in diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel, which will occur on Thursday, March 26th. Snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is currently at 106% of normal. The March 15th runoff forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir predicts 78% of average for April-July inflows. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

    Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for January through March.

    Currently, Gunnison Tunnel diversions are at 300 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 400 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be at 500 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 550 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

    First map shows global hotspots of glyphosate contamination — The University of Sydney

    Here’s the release from the University of Sydney (Marcus Strom):

    Experts call for phasing out of reliance on controversial herbicide

    Glyphosate, or Roundup, is under scrutiny because of possible impacts on human health and ecosystems. Here Federico Maggi and Alex McBratney present the world’s first map detailing contamination hotspots of the controversial herbicide.

    Global hazard map of glyphosate contamination in soils. Credit: The University of Sydney

    Agricultural scientists and engineers have produced the world’s first map detailing global ‘hot spots’ of soil contaminated with glyphosate, a herbicide widely known as Roundup.

    The map is published as the world’s eyes fall on glyphosate and concerns about its potential impact on environmental and human health. Last year in the US the owner of Roundup, Monstanto (now owned by Bayer), was ordered to pay $US2 billion to a couple who said they contracted cancer from the weedkiller, the third case the company had lost.

    This year, Australia is emerging as the next legal battleground over whether the herbicide causes cancer with a class action suit being prepared for the Federal Court.

    “The scientific jury is still out on whether the chemical glyphosate is a health risk,” said Professor Alex McBratney, director of the Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney. “But we should apply the precautionary principle when it comes to the health risks.

    “And even if no evidence emerges about these risks, it is time for the agriculture industry to diversify our herbicides away from relying on a single chemical.”

    The map and associated study have been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

    Lead author of the paper is Associate Professor Federico Maggi from the Sydney Institute of Agriculture and Faculty of Engineering. He said: “Glyphosate is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant. About 36 million square kilometres are treated with 600 to 750 thousand tonnes every year – and residues are found even in remote areas.”

    Hot spots

    The paper identifies hotspots of glyphosate residue in Western Europe, Brazil and Argentina, as well as parts of China and Indonesia. Contamination refers to concentration levels above the background level.

    “Our analysis shows that Australia is not a hotspot of glyphosate contamination, but some regions are subject to some contamination hazard in NSW and QLD and, to a lesser extent, in all other mainland states,” Associate Professor Maggi said.

    He said that given the widespread use of the herbicide, soil contamination is unpreventable. This is because it is hard to be degraded by soil microorganisms when it reaches pristine environments, or it releases a highly persistent contaminant called aminomethyl-phosphonic acid (AMPA) when it is degraded.

    The researchers emphasise that contamination levels do not necessarily equate to any environmental or health risks as these are still unknown and require further study.

    “Our recent environmental hazard analysis considers four modes of environmental contamination by glyphosate and AMPA – biodegradation recalcitrance, residues accumulation in soil, leaching and persistence,” Associate Professor Maggi said.

    “We found that 1 percent of global croplands – about 385,000 square kilometres – has a mid- to high-contamination hazard.”

    He said that contamination is pervasive globally, but is highest in South America, Europe and East and South Asia. It is mostly correlated to the cultivation of soybean and corn, and is mainly caused by AMPA recalcitrance and accumulation rather than glyphosate itself.

    “While there are controversial perspectives on the safety of glyphosate use on human health, little is known about AMPA’s toxicity and potential impacts on biodiversity, soil function and environmental health. Much further study is required,” Associate Professor Maggi said.

    Poor long-term policy

    Professor McBratney said aside from the risks to human health, it is poor long-term agriculture policy to rely on glyphosate as a herbicide.

    “Weeds are genetically adapting and building resistance to glyphosate,” he said. “And there is growing evidence that a new generation of precision herbicide application could further improve yields.”

    Professor McBratney said Australia was well placed to economically benefit from the development of new herbicides.

    “In these times of increasing food demand, relying on a single molecule to sustain the world’s baseload crop production puts us in a very precarious position,” he said. “We urgently need to find alternatives to glyphosate to control weeds in agriculture.”

    2020 #COleg: Groups Applaud Passage of HB20-1095 [Local Governments Water Elements In Master Plans] — Western Resource Advocates

    Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Jamie Trafficanda):

    Western Resource Advocates, American Planning Association Colorado Chapter, and Conservation Colorado today welcomed the passage of a bill to help Colorado communities include water efficiency in their long-range comprehensive planning and identify conservation strategies for new developments and growth.

    HB20-1095 [Local Governments Water Elements In Master Plans] authorizes and provides support for Colorado communities to voluntarily include a water element in their master plan, enabling cities and towns to pursue water efficiency and conservation strategies to meet their needs. Linking land use planning with water planning will better facilitate and enable communities to meet their goals of developing projects sustainably, resulting in connected state and local efforts for water planning and conservation, and ultimately continued implementation of the Colorado Water Plan. The legislation now heads to Governor Jared Polis to be signed into law.

    “In recognition of the importance of water to agriculture, recreation, the economy, and our overall quality of life, APA Colorado has long championed stewardship of water, a scarce resource in the arid West. Stewardship includes utilizing the tool that comprehensive master plans provide to link community land use planning with water planning,” said Susan Wood, AICP, APA Colorado legislative affairs representative. “Passage of this bill is the culmination of a multi-year effort by the APA Colorado Chapter and its members and we are pleased that it provides planning assistance to local governments through the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and connects to policies provided in the Colorado Water Plan. Our mission is Making Great Communities Happen and planning for our water future is essential to fulfilling this goal.”

    “As Colorado becomes hotter and drier due to climate change, this bill will support Colorado’s growing communities that are interested in using water more efficiently,” said John Berggren, Western Resource Advocates water policy analyst. “By including water in master plans, our communities can grow without stressing our water supplies, increasing their resiliency and reducing their vulnerability to drought and shortages. We applaud Colorado lawmakers for valuing water efficiency as our communities grow, and we look forward to continuing to work with communities across our state to support locally driven water efficiency efforts.”

    “Due to population growth and climate change, Colorado faces an impending water supply gap where our communities will need more water than they currently have,” said Josh Kuhn, water advocate at Conservation Colorado. “The passage of this bill provides greater direction and resources for communities across our state ensuring planning is smart from the start.”

    APA Colorado, WRA, and their partners have been working for several years to help Colorado communities integrate their water and land use planning processes to improve water conservation and build more water smart communities. They have offered workshops, conducted trainings, and created resources for planners, including a first-of-its-kind guidebook that details how communities can integrate water efficiency into their land use planning and development processes.

    While Colorado’s population is expected to grow from its current 5.8 million to over 8 million by 2050, climate change is causing our state’s water resources to become increasingly scarce, putting greater stress on our rivers, cities, farms, ranches, and recreation opportunities. Rising temperatures in Colorado and prolonged drought are expected to further reduce annual flows in our state’s rivers, making additional local and state water conservation efforts essential.

    Dam It: Why Beavers Matter

    While away your quarantine by learning about nature’s most ingenious engineers with Ben Goldfarb, author of “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.”

    A beaver dam on the Gunnison River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Coronavirus fears over farmers markets could hit new growers hard – just when Americans need them most — The Conversation #COVID19 #coronavirus

    Shoppers in Brooklyn continue to buy produce at a farmers market.
    Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    Tamara J. Benjamin, Purdue University

    The familiar sight of weekend shoppers brushing shoulders at farmers markets across the U.S. is under threat from the coronavirus and fears of its spread.

    In Seattle, farmers markets have been suspended altogether. In New York state – the epicenter of the U.S.‘s fight against the virus – they remain open, but residents are being warned against gathering in groups and told to practice social distancing.

    Such uncertainty is likely to hurt so-called “beginning farmers” – typically smaller-scale, start-up operations. As an expert in diversified farming systems, I can see vulnerable farmers closing down as a result of this crisis, and this could have a knock-on effect on the long-term food supply chain.

    Vibrant community

    Nearly 30% of U.S. farms are run by farmers who have been in the business for fewer than 10 years. In comparison to the general farming population, beginning farmers are more likely to be women, people of color and military veterans.

    They also have an average age of 46 – more than 10 years lower than the general farmer population’s average age of 57.5.

    Beginning farmers form a vibrant and diverse part of the U.S. farming community. However, they are also among the most economically vulnerable of farmers. Since they are just starting out, they are often still formulating business plans, balancing farm finances, creating new marketing opportunities and establishing their farms’ viability.

    They are also less likely to farm commodity products – crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat. Instead, they tend to focus on diversified fruits and vegetable crops, such as heirloom tomatoes, green beans and blueberries, depending upon the climate and soil conditions.

    Farm to table

    Beginner farmers also tend to find it harder to access capital investments or federal loan opportunities that would provide support during inclement weather or a pandemic lockdown.

    Clearly, this makes the more than 900,000 beginning farmers in the U.S. at risk from potential closures of farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants due to coronavirus restrictions.

    Beginning farmers typically farm on small acres of land, with a diverse array of crops, and sell to nontraditional supply chains, instead of large grocery stores.

    Many small-scale beginning farmers have found success in the past decade due to the public’s increased interest in consuming local food. That has made farmers markets and community-supported agriculture important supply outlets. The value of sales of local food and products direct to consumers has more than doubled between 2012 and 2017.

    These niche markets have increased engagement between farmers and consumers. The supply chain is based on local farmers modifying what they farm based on local consumer needs. This increased interaction has benefited both parties, but it has also left the system vulnerable to the realities of dealing with the current pandemic.

    Sellers at farmers markets can reduce risk by pre-packing for customers.
    Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    The coronavirus pandemic puts these smaller businesses at great risk amid uncertainty about whether farmers markets will remain open.

    The added challenge for farmers also pertains to their business model. Farms incur nearly all of their costs at the beginning of the growing season when farmers are purchasing seeds, growing seedlings and preparing the land. Without a market in place for these farmers, they will be more at risk of losing their business.

    It is also much harder for small-scale farmers to get contracts to sell into large grocery stores, so they will be disproportionately affected by any lengthy shutdown of restaurants or farmers markets.

    Growing hope

    A hopeful sign is that some places, such as California, have deemed farmers markets essential places where people can go to purchase food.

    Farmers markets can be safe places for people to go to pick up local products at a minimum risk if protocols are put in place to increase social distance and reduced handling of products, such as ordering online and then prepackaging the products into one box or bag per customer.

    Most small-scale beginning farmers will have few options for marketing without the direct sales of their products to consumers. Without them, farming businesses will decrease, impacting the capability of growers in the U.S. of providing enough food, fiber, and flowers in the future.

    There are some glimmers of hope for beginning farmers. By their very nature, they may have had to be creative in identifying new opportunities and innovative in their marketing approach – qualities that might make them innately prepared to adapt to the new conditions, such as moving their business model to online sales. What they need now is for society to ensure that some type of supply chain is in place for them to be able to capture the current demand.

    [You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.]The Conversation

    Tamara J. Benjamin, Assistant Program Leader, Diversified Farming and Food Systems, Purdue University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Fremont County fisher’s lawsuit moved to state court — The Pueblo Chieftain

    Photo credit: The Perfect Fly Store

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

    A dispute over whether a fisherman has the right to put his line into the Arkansas River near Cotopaxi has been moved from federal court to state court in Canon City.

    Fly fisherman Robert Hill contends the bed of the river is — or should be — public land, entitling him to fish there.

    Owners of residential property adjacent to his favorite fishing spot contend their deed gives them ownership of the riverbed at that location. They say Hill is trespassing when he fishes there.

    The owners, Mark Everett Warsewa and Linda Joseph, “appear hell-bent on stopping him,” U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya, wrote in a 12-page ruling.

    In the ruling issued last week, she said the dispute belongs in Fremont County District Court, not in federal court. In 2018, Hill filed his lawsuit in the federal court in Denver.

    Hill, 77, of Colorado Springs, stated in his lawsuit that Warsewa and Joseph used force starting in 2012 to chase him and his fishing buddies away. The site is near where Texas Creek flows into the river…

    Hill wants a judge to issue a judgment declaring that the riverbed is owned by the state, and to order Joseph and Warsewa not to bar him from using it.

    “The state of Colorado, however, does not want ownership” of sections of privately owned riverbeds, Tafoya wrote.

    The state contends private property rights of the riverbed were established around 1876, when Colorado became a state, the judge states.

    “Public access to Colorado’s rivers has been the subject matter of litigation for many years,” she wrote. “State courts are well-equipped to handle this type of controversy.”

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project operations update

    Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

    From email from Reclamation (Brittany Jones):

    The release from Ruedi Reservoir will increase the afternoon of March 26 by 50 cfs. The flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir will change from 85 cfs to 135 cfs where it will remain for the near future.

    For any concerns regarding Ruedi Reservoir operations please contact either Brittany or Elizabeth Jones at (406) 247-7611 or (406) 247-7618.

    On Thursday, March 26 at 1600, increase the reservoir release by approximately 50 cfs (carried out by High Country Hydro, Inc. personnel). After this change, the flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir is expected to increase from 85 cfs to approximately 135 cfs, with a gage height of 1.64 feet.

    The Blackest Week: When the Spanish Influenza brought death to Silverton — @jonnypeace

    Flu photo via

    From (Jonathan Thompson):

    James Edward Cole was thirty-six years old when he died. You might say he was in the prime of his life. He was born in Durango, but grew up in Silverton. After high school he started working under the tutelage of his father, William, at the family retail clothing store. He played on the Slattery’s Slobs baseball team. He married Adelia Bausman, and in 1916 they had a son, James.

    They built a house just down Reese Street from the new, stately courthouse. As the nights grew cold and the days crisp in the Silverton autumn of 1918, Adelia’s belly started to show the signs of a second child. James, however, would never meet him. By late October 1918, James was dead, one of dozens who perished during the “Blackest Week Ever Known” in Silverton and the San Juan Mountains.

    Soon after Europe became embroiled in a gruesome war in 1914, the impacts rippled into the Colorado high country. Demand for metals increased, as guns and mortars and tanks and planes rolled off the assembly lines. Metal prices shot up, giving the miners incentive to dig deeper in search of low-grade ore, and new technologies emerged for processing that ore. The county’s mines together produced metal valued at more than $2.5 million ($47.2 million in 2017 dollars) in 1917, close to a record.

    Graphic via

    In 1917 the United States entered the war, again sending ripples into mining country. By the time the war was almost over, in the autumn of 1918, at least 150 of Silverton’s young men, or around eight percent of the total population, were in the European trenches. Nearly half were immigrants or the children thereof, some fighting against brothers or cousins. The mass absence affected the community in obvious ways, and it also created a labor crunch at the mines. The American Mining Congress begged young men to resist the temptation to enlist and instead be “truly patriotic” and remain at their industrial posts, where they were sorely needed.

    Even as the bodies of soldiers piled up on the battlefields of the first modern war, the planet was struck with something even more deadly, the so-called Spanish Influenza—perhaps the first modern pandemic. It might have originated, or at least gathered strength, in Midwestern pig farms before making a run through Fort Riley, a military camp in Kansas that housed nearly thirty thousand men, in March 1918. From there, this dastardly but rarely fatal first wave of the virus spread rapidly overseas along with soldiers and supplies, making life in the trenches even more miserable, and even altering the way the war was fought.

    During the first week of October, the death counts climbed as a second, more deadly wave, crashed over the United States. As hundreds died each day in the nation’s cities, the U.S. Public Health Service set out to hire doctors and nurses to deal with the epidemic. It was a difficult task during war time, and may have been too little, too late, anyway. Geographically, the flu moved with terrifying speed and mobility. It hastily made its way across the country, across the oceans, and even to remote villages in Alaska and tiny Pacific islands.

    Unlike other strains of flu, which typically break down the immune system leaving the bodies of the very young, the old, and the weak vulnerable to secondary infections like pneumonia, the Spanish Flu could fell a person all on its own. Because the virus turned the immune system against the body, it was harder on the young and healthy, people like James Cole, than it was on the old and frail.

    One minute the victim would be sitting down for breakfast, feeling fine. Then, standing up from the breakfast table, he might feel a bit lightheaded, a little twinge of pain in the back, followed soon afterward by a fever and a general sense of fatigue. Maybe he would go to work down at the clothing store, anyway. After all, he had mouths to feed. But by lunch he has become so dizzy that he feels as if he can barely make the three-block walk home. By evening he is bedridden, his lungs filling with fluid, his breathing raspy, his mind haunted by delirium and terrible images. The next day he is retching up a pink bloody froth, but he cannot expel it quickly enough. He is dead by the following morning.

    “While there have been one or two cases of this disease reported in our midst, there has not so far been any serious results,” noted the October 18, 1918, edition of the Miner. It’s not clear how accurate this statement is. The pages of the newspapers in the spring and summer of 1918 were filled with obituaries for people who had died of “pneumonia,” which seems to have been a catch-all diagnosis at the time, and sometimes used to describe such ailments as silicosis, or miner’s lung, and, perhaps, the Spanish Influenza.

    By then the virus was wreaking havoc all over, but the Silverton newspapers — the Miner and the Silverton Standard, which would merge a few years later — seemed fairly blasé about it all. They barely even mentioned the flu in the first two weeks’ editions. Finally, during the third week, the sickness got some print: Postal workers in Durango were fumigating all of the Silverton-bound mail, because it had been exposed to the virus somewhere between there and Denver. Large public gatherings were banned across the state. Parents were urged to keep their kids home from school if they showed any symptoms. And two soldiers who were training at the University of Colorado in Boulder, which had 120 cases at that point, had perished. The soldiers were part of a group of 250 from Montana that had come to Colorado in September for training.

    But the most disturbing news item had nothing to do with the epidemic — at least not on the surface. “Silverton Celebrates,” the headline read, and the accompanying article detailed a town-wide party that had taken place the night before — replete with a bonfire on the main drag, shared bottles of bootleg liquor, dancing, hugging, crying — in defiance of the statewide ban on public gatherings. Rumor had reached Silverton of the German’s unconditional surrender. They didn’t find out that it was false until it was too late. The next day the Standard sheepishly admitted to falling for the fake news, but praised the celebration, nonetheless, noting, “We had a celebration coming and all San Juan County is better off for her turn out.”


    Within days, many of the people who celebrated that night would be dead.

    For the next two weeks or so, Silverton became a living nightmare. At least one member of nearly every household in town was struck. Miners collapsed on the job, mothers at the dinner table. The hospital filled to capacity and then some, so Town Hall became a de facto clinic and then morgue, with the dead stacked next to the dying. The coffins ran out and the undertaker died. The burly Swedish miner who tirelessly dug the graves ended up digging his own. On October 25, the Silverton Standard heralded the “Worst Week Ever Known in History.” They had to issue a correction of sorts a week later, with a headline that read: “Past Week has been Blackest Ever Known …” So many died so quickly that a few went to their graves without being identified except as “Mexican from Sunnyside” or “Austrian from Iowa mine.”

    Herman Dalla, an already fatherless six-year-old, lost his mom and two brothers. In another family a toddler, a teenager, and their forty-year-old mother died. One little girl was orphaned. Temperatures sunk below zero, making the earth at the cemetery nearly impenetrable. There was no way to dig one grave for every corpse, so long, shallow trenches were gouged into the earth, the bodies tossed in by the dozens. Some of the dead were later recovered by the families, but an untold number remain in the mass grave, unidentified.

    When reading through the newspapers of the time, one is especially struck by how determined the editors — and the community as a whole — was to move on, to get things back to normal, even to forget the tragedy that had befallen them. In the Nov. 11 edition of the Standard, which brimmed with obituaries, a story noted that mines had suspended operations, not in order to slow the spread, but because the miners had died off or run off to escape the flu. And then: “While Silverton has been hit very hard in death rate, at the same time our little city has finally checked the disease, and … we are as well off in San Juan County as in any part of the state.”

    Before November had ended, as the community celebrated the actual end of the war, the miners were returning to the boarding houses in the high country and to work, the town council allowed taverns and pool halls to open back up, and the classes resumed at the school. Meanwhile, people were still dying, even after the city had “checked” the disease.

    As one might expect, the Spanish Flu returned to Silverton for another round, beginning in December. This time local health officials imposed a 48-hour quarantine on anyone coming into town from the outside, and the Sunnyside Mine, which was staffing up again, put a 24-hour quarantine on incoming miners. Whether it was effective or not is not clear. What is clear is that the Spanish Flu continued to sicken Silvertonians. It also killed them, though at a rate of a few people per week — enough to fill up the obituary pages, but not to warrant headlines — rather than a dozen per day, as was the case in late October and early November.

    At least 20 million died globally from the Spanish Flu, and 500,000 or more perished in the United States. Colorado recorded 46,000 cases during the autumn 1918 wave, and some 3,000 deaths, making for a fatality rate of about 6%. It was far higher in Silverton. The Spanish Flu claimed at least 150 San Juan County residents, probably more. It was the hardest hit county in the state, and had one of the highest death rates in the Lower 48. Telluride and Salida and Montrose also experienced a rash of death.

    Meanwhile, one Colorado mountain county escaped the worst of the pandemic virtually unscathed. Gunnison physician A.P. Hanson imposed a strict quarantine on the county in late October, which included barricades and armed guards on all incoming highways, and he stubbornly kept it in place for months. Residents could leave, but they couldn’t return without submitting to a quarantine. In February 1919 county officials finally bowed to public pressure and lifted the ban. Within weeks the virus had finally come to Gunnison County; dozens of people were infected and in April a handful of people succumbed to the disease.


    After the sickness finally subsided, Silvertonians seemed intent on turning to denial as their collective coping mechanism. After the “worst” and “blackest” weeks had passed, the newspapers focused on the end of the war, on the resumption of mining, on the remarkable fact that the Caledonia Mine had managed to keep producing ore during the worst of it, thanks to a self-imposed quarantine. Then they stopped mentioning the Spanish Flu altogether. The community never came together afterward to hold a memorial service for the dead. Survivors were reticent to talk about it, even decades later, as if forgetting would make it all go away.

    In Silverton, though, it is not so easy to forget, because the Hillside Cemetery, located just above town, provides a grim reminder of the disease and the death it brought to this valley.

    Go there, to the cemetery. Walk among the graves and look at the dates. Before long you will see a death-date of October 1918. Then you will see another, and another, and another. On the far side of the cemetery, obscured by dried stalks of grass, you will see the flimsy plaques marking the graves of Joe and Christine Anderson. He died first and she went four days later. Underneath a big tree you will see the Wright stone — mother, daughter, and son killed within a few days of each other. And near the entrance of the cemetery’s lower road, if you look closely enough, you will see a long, straight indentation in the earth. It was here, during a cold and snowy October a century ago, that so many of Silverton’s sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers were buried in the frozen dirt.

    Jonathan P. Thompson is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster (Torrey House, 2018), from which this essay is excerpted and adapted, and the forthcoming novel, Behind the Slickrock Curtain (Lost Souls Press, 2020).

    Images and articles on this site are available for reprint, with permission only, and Thompson is available to do freelance work. Contact him at for details.