From: Bill Sebastian <email@example.com> (by way of
<<Radiation on New Lands>>
Radioactive contamination in the Rio Puerco basin results from both
natural sources. The man-made sources result from mining activities upstream,
both from long-term low-level releases and from a major release resulting from
the collapse of a containment dam in 1979. The problems with respect to
contamination are documented in many places:
>>State of New Mexico Environmental Improvement Division
(NMEID) draft report
(Millard, et.al, 1982): "Persons using this water for drinking, irrigation, or
livestock watering on a continual basis will incur an additional risk of
>>The Arizona Dept of Health Services (from statement
issued on July 27,1983)
found levels of U-nat and Cs-137 far above allowable limits at samples
the river bed near Chambers AZ (within the New Lands).
Tests performed subsequently have yielded mixed results, with
elevated levels, while others showing normal levels. These inconsistent
are typical for this type of situation: when finite-sized particles are
over a large area, measurements will always vary in small sampling sets. The
failure to find elevated levels in some small-scale sampling does not prove
no problem exists, and certainly should not be construed as a refutation of
other studies. I also think that it is safe to say that the amount of testing
that has been done is far less than would have occurred if a more
politically-connected group of people were subjected to the same risk.
In addition to exposure from the riverbed (primarily via watering
when the riverbed has water in it), a concern is the possible migration of the
contaminants into ground water sources, which was examined by UNLV
The study found no measurable migration had occurred from the river bed
ground water sources: that levels in wells near the river bed were no
wells away from this area. However, the same study found that the water
(mostly as a result of natural sources) was poor. 29 of 42 wells tested
least one inorganic contaminant exceeding its EPA maximum contaminant level
(MCL), and the average gross alpha radiation level on all wells was 36
MCL is 30). To the extent that the federal government is forcibly relocating
people to this area, it is failing to provide safe drinking water
the source of the contaminants.
The federal government is undeniably subjecting people to a
risk factor: the
questions are only the amount of exposure and the acceptable level of
contaminants. Because the relocated population often relies on subsistence
herding, wherein multiple pathways for exposure exist, the acceptable levels
should clearly be lower than for other populations. Since the levels are
higher than the rest of the country deems acceptable, supporters of these
are more than justified in raising this issue as a legitimate concern.
The unfortunate thing about "studies" is, like statistics, you can
weasel-word the data into supporting almost any finding that you want to.
This is why, in the medical world, "double-blind" studies are conducted.
When the government has a vested interest in showing little or no dangerous
contamination, you can be sure that no little or no contamination will be
found when the study is conducted! Most of the U.S. Geological Survey
reports concerning the Puerco River basin minimize the risk factor. Here
is an example taken from "Preliminary Assessment of Water Quality in the
Alluvial Aquifer of the Puerco River Basin, Northeast Arizona" by the U.S.
Geological Survey, Water Resources Investigation Report 87-4126.
"A total of 14 wells and 1 spring were sampled during
the most recent round
of analyses (December 1986). The quality of water in three of the wells
exceeded the Primary Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for gross alpha
Particle activity of 15 picocuries (pCi)/liter (excluding uranium and
radon) while the quality of water in two wells were at the MCL."
OK, right off the bat, you can see that uranium and radon were
from the test! If they were included, the contaminant level would obviously
be even higher. Even with them excluded, the radionuculide contamination
was high. Now further, we read:
"However, if historical data were averaged with the new
data, and the split
sample results were also averaged, only one well would exceed the MCL for
gross alpha particle activity."
OF course! If you take "historical" (read that CLEAN-UNCONTAMINATED
and average it with the contaminated data, you will get cleaner data! If
you don't read between the lines of these reports, and just read the
conclusions, then you can get a very rosy picture of the situation.
What is needed is an up-to-date, INDEPENDANT, NON-GOVERNMENT
survey by a
respected professional industrial radiation survey organization, and a
careful review of the most recent RAW data (not the politically-biased
conclusions) taken by the USGS.