August 19, 2015


Powerline has a summary of the current state of the Gold King Mine fiasco.

To summarize the summary, there was a mine which had been abandoned since 1923. Water had been seeping into it ever since but wasn't seeping out again. The EPA got the idea that they needed to find out what was going on in there, and brought in heavy construction equipment to start moving earth out of the way -- which, it turns out, was keeping all that water inside the mine.

After they removed a lot, the rest gave way and three million gallons of contaminated water drained out into the Animas River, and from there downstream and is now in Lake Powell.


The pictures are rather memorable, with the Animas river turned bright orange. Obviously the water is carrying a lot of something and it seems that the something includes lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic, none of which are particularly safe to ingest.

That's where Powerline stops. Where I start is this: Lake Powell is behind the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. It's above the places where water is taken out of the river to be used as drinking water for Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego, not to mention being used for crop irrigation in the Imperial Valley. And then there's Mexico.

A spill like this effectively contaminates that water forever. (Like a thousand years or more.) What are they going to do about that? Let all of San Diego and Tijuana die of heavy metal poisoning?

It will take a while (probably years) before this becomes a drinking water issue, because most of that crap is going to settle to the bottom of Lake Powell, and the amount that flows out will have to spend a few years contaminating Lake Mead. But it's definitely coming.

This is a fuckup of epic proportions, and we'll be living with the results of it for decades (if not centuries).

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 07:38 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
Post contains 330 words, total size 2 kb.

1 Can't help but to think of the EPA versus the Ghostbusters' high voltage laser containment system.

Thing is, though, the Ghostbusters hadn't really thought things through. Suppose there had been a malfunction, or a power outage? They weren't disposing of the entities they caught, just penning them up. Sooner or later, something like this was bound to happen, until Egon came up with something more permanent.

In both cases, the EPA was correct in determining that the Bad Stuff was not being properly stored. I hate to give them credit, but there it is.

The EPA's blunders, in reality and fiction, were the result of high handed actions taken in ignorance. I wonder if the mine officials tried to argue for a more cautious investigation than the EPA implemented. I wonder if the EPA, like Peck, ignored them because they had been putting off the EPA.

Whatever. With this single action, the EPA has pretty much poisoned itself.

Posted by: 50srefugee at August 20, 2015 01:32 AM (OoOF7)

2 I don't think there were any mine officials. That mine was last worked in 1923. I think the company that dug it no longer exists.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 20, 2015 06:26 AM (+rSRq)

3 I think the real result is that we'll get new standards for the minimum safe levels of heavy metals and arsenic which are conveniently above any you'd get from drinking the water downstream from that lake.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at August 20, 2015 09:47 AM (qxzj1)


You obviously don't understand how bureaucracies work. They'll impose new standards lower than the current ones and force all the downstream cities to install de-ionization plants in their drinking water before this shit reaches them.

Bureaucracies are always about expanding their own power. Always.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 20, 2015 10:35 AM (+rSRq)

5 Apparently there was a guy who owned the property the mine was on, and he was trying to keep the EPA out because he was aware of another case where they'd screwed up in the same way.
But he had to fold fast, when they said, "Let us in, or pay $35k a day in fines.", because he was just this old guy, not a giant corporation with a big bank account.
I expect the EPA will try to pin this on him.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore at August 21, 2015 02:44 AM (L5yWw)

6 The tin foil hat community thinks the EPA office in that district did this on purpose to have the area assigned as a super-fund site. There was time in the past when I could never have believed such nonsense.

Posted by: Bob (aka Robert) at August 21, 2015 10:42 AM (/38s5)


Every time I see another example of Your Government At Work (TM), I am reminded of a USENT comment by the late Tom Clancy.  Clancy had expressed the fantasy of taking the ruling Politburo of the Soviet Union on a detailed tour of Disneyworld, showing exactly how everything ran. At the end of the tour, Clancy would say to the Politburo, "And this is what we do for fun" - a horrifying idea for the Soviet since they could not believe the US would handle their entertainment better and more efficiently than their defense or government.

At least the military has the prospect of losing a war to occasionally get it to sweep incompetents and charlatans from the ranks. The government, especially the federal government, has no such Sword of Damocles to motivate them to better behavior.  It is probably a good thing that the Constitution outlaws bills of attainder (Not that that stopped Congress.), because being unjust and sending the entire chain of command of the EPA, IRS, and VA to prison on general principles might prove a moment of realization for the rest of them.

Posted by: cxt217 at August 21, 2015 11:09 AM (gbKL5)

8 Supposedly Nikita Kruschev was very disappointed that Secret Service cannot accommodate his visit to Disneyland.    

Posted by: BigFire at August 22, 2015 07:05 AM (pNmmq)

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