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An old mess in Lake Powell

Mess In Lake Powell

Lake Powell is an enormous artificial body of water in North America, USA. Each year it receives around 3 million of visitors who usually tend to enjoy Jet Skis, motorboats and extend their stay in luxurious houseboats. It probably  sounds great from the position of a guest but what’s about the locals? To the people who are living nearby, it is more than a touristic attraction.

An unbelievable amount of residue

The underneath of Lake Powell contains of 26 000 tons of radioactive waste sediment. The worst thing is that the lake provides 40 million people with drinkable water.

Moreover, a great amount of mining residue is located by Colorado River since 1940s. “The White Canyon mill, built by the Vanadium Corporation of America in 1949, for example, crushed and treated 20 tons of ore per day with sulfuric acid, tributyl phosphate and other compounds, according to a Freedom of Information Act request.” There are other theories that around 18 000 kg of residue is gathering around the river on a daily basis.

Opinions vary

According to Phil Goble, uranium mill and radioactive materials section manager for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, this situation is not toxic to people who come there for the recreational visit. The absence of harm is explained by relying on the sediment that started formatting since 1950s. It works as a shield between the water and the pollution underneath which contains heavy metals and radium.

Two public water systems serve the local population with drinking water. These companies are making tests on regular basis in order to ensure necessary norms and standards for radionuclides.

Not everyone is keen to agree that the harm doesn’t exist. Some opinion leaders are concerned about negative outcomes as anemia, fractured teeth, cataracts and cancer that might be caused “if radioactive elements like uranium or radium get into the lining of a human’s lungs”.

radioactive elements in Lake Powell

Possible scenario

At the moment, the situation is under control. However, the danger is acknowledged: A very low water level in Lake Powell can expose the residue. And if it is the case, then any kind of human activity or wind can cause a harm to peoples health. The draining of the lake or a dredging operation that stirs up sediment are extremely critical and must be avoided.

“Draining the lake may sound ludicrous, but the reservoir hasn’t been full since the late 1990s, and ongoing overuse and the drought from 2000 to 2005 dropped the water level nearly 100 feet — about a fifth of its total depth.” Climate changes and drought cycles threaten the areas well-being.

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