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California town will be inundated with wave of toxic arsenic water when 99-year-old dam fails

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(NaturalNews) As if California isn't already going through enough with its droughts and wildfires, state officials there are now warning that a nearly 100-year-old dam in the northern part of the state could collapse if a significant rainstorm occurs. More than this being a matter of structural devastation, the bigger issue is that should the dam collapse, huge amounts of arsenic may start flowing.(1)

The arsenic stems from gold mining times; the Eastwood Multiple Arch Dam in Jackson, California, which was built in 1916, holds back arsenic-contaminated leftovers. Should there be severe rainfall in the area, the concrete dam's already compromised, aged structure could reach its breaking point, threatening residents with toxic arsenic water.(1)

The dam was actually deemed unsound by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in June 2015. Now, the state is rushing to address the situation. Officials at the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) have put a $1 million emergency repair plan in place, which they anticipate will be completed by the end of November 2015. The plan has its eye on potential rainfall, and aims to divert any waters incurred from such weather so that the dam is less likely to collapse.(1,2)

Emergency plan in place to address "dangerous levels of arsenic, lead and mercury"

According to a DTSC news release – "DTSC to build a storm water diversion system at a 99-year-old dam site to protect Jackson" – should the dam collapse, environmental, health and economic consequences will be plenty.

The release conveys the following eye-opening information:

"The Eastwood Multiple Arch Dam holds back more than 165,000 cubic yards of contaminated mine tailings and soil left behind from years of mining operations. The tailings contain dangerous levels of arsenic, lead and mercury. Since the mine closed in 1942, the privately owned dam has been neglected. ... A study completed this year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and US EPA found that the dam is structurally unstable and that a dam failure could cause more than $100 million in economic damages. ... DTSC is designing and building a system to divert storm water around the 99-year-old dam this winter to reduce the risk of a dam failure that could come from excessive pressure building up in the rain-soaked soil and mine tailings behind the dam."(2)

"'There is a very serious danger to the City of Jackson if this dam collapses,' said Charlie Ridenour, Supervising Hazardous Substance Engineer for DTSC. 'We are working swiftly to help reduce the chances of a possible catastrophe.'"(2)

It is explained that officials are currently working with other organizations to create a long-term, retrofit solution, but because of the upcoming rainy season, timing made its construction impossible. Instead, they're developing this emergency plan to address any significant rainfall that may come and will work towards finalizing the retrofit in the future.

Arsenic: no amount is good, not even standard set by EPA

Arsenic, of course, is a toxic substance. While some may argue that it's fine in small quantities because it occurs naturally, the reality is that it can wreak havoc on one's health.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency, "EPA has set the arsenic standard for drinking water at .010 parts per million (10 parts per billion) to protect consumers served by public water systems from the effects of long-term, chronic exposure to arsenic." However, research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that such "low" levels are not safe; even EPA-approved levels for drinking water causes liver problems, and may lead to cardiovascular disease and hypertension.(3,4)

Indeed, even the EPA website states that health problems related to arsenic "can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness." The site goes on to say that the substance has also been associated with cancer of the bladder, skin, kidney, lungs, liver, prostate, and nasal passages. Yet, the agency suggests that small amounts are acceptable. We know better. It's toxic – pure and simple.

It's even been found to suppress the immune system, rendering it less able to ward off infections. Studies have shown that a weakened immune system, increased inflammation and lung problems result from ingesting arsenic-contaminated water. And concerns are not just about it showing up in the water supply, but also about it making its way into our foods; although there are regulations for our water, there currently aren't any regulations for maximum arsenic content in food.(5)

Given the dangers of arsenic, hopefully this water diversion plan goes into effect in a timely manner and, should there be a large amount of rainfall, it's our hope that the dam stays intact. Californians don't need any more problems. They've been through enough already.

Sources for this article include:

(1) SanFrancisco.CBSLocal.com

(2) DTSC.ca.gov[PDF]

(3) Water.EPA.gov

(4) NaturalNews.com

(5) NaturalNews.com

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