EPA – Water Shortages – Fracking – Privatization – Who Wins?

Like a flower that has no scent, there are simply some things in this world that science cannot duplicate no matter how hard they try. Water is another. But while flowers give us beauty, water gives us life, without it we die. As shortages become a larger issue, maps abound with predictions of shortages worldwide, and surpluses too. Unfortunately, the maps don’t always concur.

And while the US would appear to be a hair-trigger on the maps, some showing the US as doing just fine, others are not so amicable showing severe shortages in the US within the next 10 years. Other areas that will be hit the hardest include the entire middle east, most of Europe and northern Africa. Two countries would appear to be consistently well off; Russia and Canada.

FYI – the Brazilian guy who has made an engine that will run on water – ummm, maybe not a good idea…

The World Resource Institute is one of the organizations making predictions. An interesting anomaly is the fact that with the exception of the most northern regions of Africa, and the most southern, Africa will be quite well off, abundant with water. I imagine this corresponds with the recent land grabs that have taken Africa by storm because one of the main functions of this Institute is to determine where sustainable food sources will occur. Given Russia is off limits to ‘land grabbing’, Africa was an easy target.

In the US, drought comes and goes, moves and shifts radically. In 2012, the entire midwest was experiencing a catastrophic drought. In 2015, the catastrophe migrated to California, Oregon and Washington. But there are factors that have nothing to do with climate change or with per capita usage, shale harvesting. Fracking consumes water, and lots of it. One well can require upwards of 5 million gallons of water over its lifetime. While there is no absolute data on the number of fracking wells in the US, according to FracTracker, the number is well over 1.1 million.

Quick math – that would mean water use using an average number of 3.1 million gallons per well at 1.1 million wells would equate to 3,410,000,000,000 gallons of water used per year – for fracking. That’s 1/4th the total usage in all of California from all sources per year. Assuming the average household in the US consumes 127,400 gallons per year, fracking would be the equivalent consumption of 26,766,091 households.

Fracking is not just about water – it is about oil – and oil creates an economy based on increased exports and smaller imports – unless oil prices are low, – and then the economy begins a jittery nose dive which cuts jobs – including fracking jobs – which lowers exports.

So who owns the US water? Privatization has been a slow churn, but a churn nonetheless over the last few decades providing about 15%-18% of the US population’s water. The largest private companies include; American Water, United Water, Aqua America, California Water Services, and America States Water.

American Water: AWK – originally a subsidiary of a German company, it was divested in 2008 and is wholly US owned.

United Water: UWR – a subsidiary of Suez Environment, a French company whose majority ownership is held

by GDF Suez, who is considered one of two of the largest privatized water companies in the world.

Aqua America: WTR – a Pennsylvania company providing water to major fracking enterprises

California Water Services: CWT – is a holding company with subsidiaries in Hawaii, New Mexico and Washington.

American States Water: AWR – also based in California.

While the World Bank and the IMF are aggressively promoting privatization of water, historically it has proven to be an affront to the public with massive rate hikes, corruption and gross water contamination charges.

In an over-reach of the water rights in the US we have our favorite friend – the EPA. The EPA recently extended their Clean Water guns basically aiming them at every tributary, stream, brook, runoff, ditch, standing water, rain water, lake, river and pond across the entire US whether on public or private land.  And the repercussions are being felt.  A Wyoming man who was granted all the proper permits to build a self contained pond on his own property for his livestock is being sued by the EPA for failure to meet their clean water rules.  He is being charged a penalty of $75,000 per day.

According to the Financial Statements for the EPA, it’s ‘non-federal’ revenue for clean water amounted to nearly 5 times its federal revenue receipts.  This would be in addition to the $9billion they receive from the Feds.

A massive power grab – wouldn’t it be fun to charge the EPA the same daily rate they charge for noncompliance in Clean Water? The Colorado River sludge was caused by their own negligence, at $75,000 per day for penalties alone, they would already be liable to Colorado for 24 days – $1,800,000 and counting!! Yehah!

Of course, they won’t be liable. But it was a fun 3 seconds…and it doesn’t seem fair they shouldn’t ante up.

Colorado Animas River Sludge – An EPA Budget in Perpetuity

I can not believe what I am hearing on the media about the Colorado Orange sludge. The EPA would have us believe that everything is fine, the water has returned to contaminated levels pre-sludge and that if we want it cleaned up, because there is no more superfund money, Colorado taxpayers will have to ante up and foot the bill!

To add to the fray, Governor Hickenlooper drank a hefty glass of iodine treated water from the river and touted that everything was ‘normal’… to your health! Sante!  “C’mon little kiddies, drink up!”

Really! Even the EPA thought that was incredibly irresponsible. Who are these people?

This mine was closed over 100 years ago and now we as Colorado taxpayers are going to ante up to clean up the mess the mine made while the owners of the mine have no responsibility and the EPA claims they have no money? What happened to the mine? The company, Premier Cobalt Central Mines Company out of Canada went into receivorship in 1911, so I guess that about let’s them off the hook. But the EPA is responsible for unplugging the proverbial dyke, so shouldn’t they be responsible to clean it up?

Legally, if it hadn’t been the EPA running over the plug, if it had been a private company, who would be responsible then?

In the meantime, the EPA announces it may take ‘years’ to evaluate the harm to human, animal, aquatic, bird and environmental damage.  Lots of reports…

Apparently, the EPA says it’s Superfund is broke, they have no more money and therefore actual cleanup isn’t possible. Besides, after conducting a typical five to ten year study, and another ten years of creating government reports on the findings, chances are the public will have long forgotten and the cleanup will simply fade into the sunset.  Ta-Ta~

But wait, it gets better! Who plugged the mine in the first place? The EPA. They plugged the mine in 2014 with the hopes of building a ‘large concrete bulkhead’ in 2015. In other words, the plug was a temporary fix. Engineers knew that the plug would eventually explode with the pressure of water that was building inside. Hence they needed approval for ‘special funding’ to build a bulkhead at a cost of upwards of $1.7 million.

Construction for the bulkhead was supposed to commence July 2015 with a completion date of September 2015. Before the spill the EPA stated, “there are NO fish in the Animas River below Cement Creek for approximately two miles and observed precipitous declines in fish populations as far as 20 miles downstream.” (Drink up Hickenlooper).  The river was already toxic, it just didn’t turn orange. Construction on the bulkhead was underway when the sub-contractor decided to test water levels and blockage at the Gold King Mine. Oops – and it’s history from there.

The mine has been undergoing ‘a form of cleanup‘ for years, but it’s not really working, it’s actually an ongoing cleanup operation of perpetuity. So far it has cost $100 million and the river still couldn’t sustain fish upstream. You see, the solution isn’t really a solution at all, it is another type of plug, a water treatment facility that continues to churn and work to clean the constant flow of pollution and heavy metals. And that’s the rub for the residents. An expensive band-aide.

Meanwhile, the EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, has stopped all work on all mines across the country, has refused to visit the site claiming the 55 mile drive is ‘too far’, and has stated that the sludge of the Animas is back to the same polluted levels it was before the spill. But even that doesn’t portray the entire picture.

According to a document released by the EPA September 2014, they claim the Animas River pollution increased dramatically after the EPA installed three bulkheads in the Sunnyside Mine System. The build up of flows at the Red and Bonita Mine, the Mogul Mine and the Gold King Mine increased dramatically after the bulkheads were installed at Sunnyside. This would indicate that the bulkhead solution simply ‘moves’ the buildup somewhere else which they acknowledged in their report of the potential failure of the Red and Bonita bulkhead!

Prior to the sludge, the EPA stated that conditions exist for, “actual or potential exposure to nearby human populations, animals or the food chain from hazardous substances or pollutants or contaminants.” from the mine and that a cost of remediation was expected to be $1,710,000 such cost to be born by the Regional Removal Allowance. Signed David Ostrander, Director.

A regional allowance allows for a statutory limit of $2 million for a cleanup unless a Regional Administrator approves emergency actions up to $6 million… Gina McCarthy is the Regional Administrator. How much Gina?

So what we have is a solution that isn’t a solution at all but a diversion. We have a river that will never be clean of toxins and heavy metals. And we have the EPA, a government organization who earns its annual budget diverting pollutants to new sites, to plug, to divert to new sites – to plug… thereby assuring they will always be awarded the budgets – in perpetuity.

How’s that workin’ for ya?”

EPA Contaminated Colorado River to Toxic Orange

Exactly how does it happen that during an investigation into pollutants at an abandoned mine in Colorado, the EPA inadvertently ‘pulled a plug’ that was deterring waste from entering the Animas River, thus allowing one million gallons of toxic metals including, zinc, copper and iron flood into the river unabated?

The orange sludge is now travelling down river without any restraint whatsoever. Boaters are obviously told to avoid the river as the toxicity is deadly, farmers are told to halt any watering, and residents are told their water supply is contaminated.

Gee – sorry…

Within a day the sludge had travelled from the Mine in Silverton to Durango. And while they are still ‘evaluating’ the fish death and the related inevitable deaths that will occur to wildlife that rely on the water, I don’t think a lot of people will be so anxious to eat a fish laden with 1 million gallons of toxic mine waste. The water is glowing!

Pish-posh, says the EPA, the water was already dirty anyway…

The Animas River is 126 miles long, flows into the San Juan River in New Mexico which feeds the Colorado River in Utah. Eco reports have long concluded that the tailings are deadly to all fish, migratory birds, animals, vegetation and invertebrates. The risk for humans is most grave for children.

Mines of this sort are mostly found in the middle of what is – or once was – beautiful forest land with bubbling brooks and pristine rivers. Deer, antelope, bunnies, that sort of thing.  Regulations are routinely not adhered to, waste is fed into the rivers and streams, the toxicity levels kill off the fish and wildlife, and the mine tops out it’s useful life and shuts down leaving gaping holes, razed land and – pollution.

In a study done by the EPA, the Iron Mountain mine in Redding, California was given the dubious honor of being the largest source of surface water pollution in the entire United States. It is now a ‘superfund’ site, meaning it was granted special cleanup status and remediation. Twenty years of cleanup and it’s 95% done.

In reading the proposed 2016 budget for the EPA, it sounds like a presidential campaign: $8.6 billion “to be used in addressing climate change and improving air quality, protecting our water, safeguarding the health and safety of the public from toxic chemicals, supporting the environmental health of communities, and working toward a sustainable environmental future for all Americans.”

As of 2014 there were 1322 superfund sites with an additional 53 proposed. Until the mid 1990’s a tax imposed on chemical and petroleum industries was supposed to cover the cost of remediation. As of 2003, the fund had depleted it’s entire reserve of $6 billion and today, the party that caused the pollution is responsible to pay for the cleanup. If the party is gone, lost, adios, then the money is appropriated by Congress from the General Fund.

Here is an example of how it might work: In 1989, the EPA conducted an investigation and found Lockheed Martin in Colorado to have groundwater contaminants including TCE and NDMA. TCE affects the developmental and neurological systems. It is considered a carcinogenic causing substance related to kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and various tumors in animals. NDMA is considered ‘highly’ toxic to the liver even in small doses. Death occurs within a matter of two weeks – or less. Symptoms include liver failure within 24 hours, rapidly declining platelet count, fever, vomiting, intradermal hemorrhage, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, coma, pulmonary fibrosis and then death.

In 1999, ten years after the EPA identified Lockheed, they produced their own internal report which showed 53 separate contaminated sites on their property. Another investigation of the external assessment of the toxicity was done in 2000. That report found no ‘public threat’.

Additional studies were conducted in 2002, 2004 and 2005. In 2012, the Air Force presented the EPA with a ‘cleanup plan’. The EPA conducts five year reviews after the cleanup to determine if in fact there is any residual contamination. For this particular site, no five year reviews are ‘required’. There is no stated reason why. The site is still in cleanup mode 26 years after the initial EPA designation.

So given the EPA is responsible for this cleanup in Colorado…how long will it take?