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An inconvenient truth - 60 tons of uranium comes down Grand Canyon every year naturally

Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2015-08-30 09:12
In the wake of the EPA mine water spill in Colorado a variety of groups are calling for rewriting the nation's mining laws and regulations.    Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association is quoted in today's Tucson newspaper as saying,   “Five million people visit the Grand Canyon every year. What if the water had arsenic or uranium in it?  Every visitor would have to bring in his own water."

Sorry, Kevin, but the Colorado River has been eroding uranium, arsenic, and many other natural elements from its watershed and transporting those elements through the Grand Canyon since it began to form millions of years ago.

The US Geological Survey has been monitoring the waters on the river for decades.  A study we did here at the Arizona Geological Survey (Spencer, J.E. and Wenrich, K., 2011, Breccia-pipe Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon Region and Implications for Uranium Levels in Colorado River Water. Arizona Geological Survey Open File Report, OFR-11-04, 1 appendix, 11 p) found the Colorado River carries an average of 60 tons (yes, tons - 120,000 pounds) of uranium every year through the Grand Canyon.   The range is 40-80 tons per year, depending on runoff, rainfall rates, etc.   

The University of Arizona Superfund Research Program has released a preliminary report on "Understanding the Gold King Mine Spill" that includes calculated estimates of each of  24 minerals/elements that were in the 3 million gallons of mine waters from that mine. The also list the amounts of uranium, arsenic,cadmium, and lead (above).    All are naturally-occurring in the Colorado River, but well below drinking water standards. 

The Colorado River drains a vast area and even normal levels of uranium and other minerals are enough to add up to large amounts when concentrated by the rivers.     On top of that, northern Arizona has among the highest concentrations of uranium in the world, which also erode into the rivers and groundwaters.

So, before panicking visitors to Grand Canyon and other recreation sites along the Colorado River system, we need to look at the base levels already in the water and sediments.  The Colorado River carries uranium and arsenic naturally at low levels through Grand Canyon.  Any increases from the Gold King Mine spill are well below drinking water standards.

We have 50+ years of data to examine to help visitors and residents understand the significance and impacts of what is actually a relatively small addition of minerals to the river and canyon.

Categories: AZGS Web Posts

An elegant solution to acid mine remediation

Arizona Geology Blog - Fri, 2015-08-28 15:33

You are probably familiar with the recent Gold King Mine waste water spill in Colorado and the resulting chorus of calls for cleaning up abandoned mines across the West.
As part of this month’s Arizona Mining Review, our online video magazine, we interviewed Gail Heath, Research Scientist at the University of Arizona, with an expertise in remediating acid mine drainage.  He presented a really elegant, efficacious, and cost-efficient solution to managing the region's growing acid mine drainage problem. 
The broadcast was posted to our YouTube channel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qu_zzesfxW0   The interview with Gail runs from 7:44 minutes to 19:30 minutes.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Geologic sequestration of CO2 may be coming for Four Corners power plant

Arizona Geology Blog - Thu, 2015-08-27 20:38
Our sources say that Arizona Public Service (APS), owner of 3 of the generating units at the Four Corners coal-fired power plant in northwest New Mexico [right, credit SRP], will invest $800 million to $1 billion to capture the carbon dioxide from the plants smokestacks for two of the units, and bury it permanently in deep geologic units (sequestration).

APS reportedly briefly community leaders in advance of making a public announcement.

The geologic sequestration option would allow the plant to continue to burn coal to generate electricity.    Coal for the plant comes from the Navajo coal field near Farmington, which was purchased by the Navajo Nation last year.   The power plant also sits on Navajo lands, and together they are major revenue sources for the Tribe. 

If confirmed, this will be one only a handful of full scale operations of geologic sequestration anywhere in the world.  It could have implications for other coal-fired plants in the region. [Right, model for geologic sequestration. Credit, Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership]


Last month the US Dept. of Interior issued a record of decision that extends the lease on the plant by 25 years and allows for the expansion of the Navajo coal mine.  The operators also agreed to fund $160 million on equipment to reduce emissions.   Officials say continued operation of the plant and coal field will provide $40 million to $60 million per year in direct economic benefits to the Navajo Nation.

Three other, less efficient units of the Four Corners plant are planned for closure.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Freeport to cut US mine staff 10%, production by 25% in response to price drop

Arizona Geology Blog - Thu, 2015-08-27 19:00
Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, the Phoenix-based company with worldwide operations including 7 copper mines in Arizona, announced plans to cut the number of U.S. mine workers by 10% along with a 25% reduction in copper production, and a big reduction in capital expenditures.  This is in response to copper prices dropping to the lowest levels in more than 5 years.   [My reading is that the economic downturn in China is a major factor in the falling price of copper and other commodities. China probably consumed 45% of the world supply of copper.]

Meanwhile, Carl Icahn announced he acquired an 8.5% stake in Freeport, prompting a surge in the stock price which had dropped from $38 last year under $10 recently.   Icahn said he plant to review "executive compensation practices and capital structure as well as curtailment of the issuer's high-cost production operations."

Freeport's news release summarized the key points:
5% reduction ($700 million) in estimated 2016 Mining capital expenditures
  • Projected consolidated 2016 capital expenditures for Mining and Oil & Gas estimated at $4.0 billion
    • 29% reduction from July 2015 estimates.
  • Reduction in copper sales of 150 million pounds per year in 2016e and 2017e
  • 20% reduction in estimated 2016 unit site production and delivery costs compared with 2015e
  • Actions enhance outlook for Free Cash Flow generation at low prices
  • - See more at: http://investors.fcx.com/investor-center/news-releases/news-release-details/2015/Freeport-McMoRan-Announces-Further-Spending-Cuts-in-Response-to-Market-Conditions/default.aspx#sthash.j5lzS31C.dpuf
    • 25% reduction ($700 million) in estimated 2016 Mining capital expenditures
    • Projected consolidated 2016 capital expenditures for Mining and Oil & Gas estimated at $4.0 billion
    • 29% reduction from July 2015 estimates.
    • Reduction in copper sales of 150 million pounds per year in 2016e and 2017e
    • 20% reduction in estimated 2016 unit site production and delivery costs compared with 2015e
    • Actions enhance outlook for Free Cash Flow generation at low prices
    For its North American mines, Freeport reported:

    FCX operates seven open-pit copper mines in North America - Morenci, Bagdad, Safford, Sierrita and Miami in Arizona, and Chino and Tyrone in New Mexico. The North America copper mining operations have substantial production capacity, flexible operating structures and long-lived reserves and resources with significant additional development potential.

    FCX’s revised plans in North America incorporate reductions in mining rates to reduce operating and capital costs, including the suspension of mining operations at its Miami mine (which produced 57 million pounds in 2014), a 50% reduction in mining rates at the Tyrone mine (which produced 94 million pounds in 2014) and adjustments to mining rates at other U.S. mines. The revised plans at each of the operations incorporate the impacts of lower energy, acid and other consumables, reduced labor costs and a significant reduction in capital spending plans. These plans will continue to be reviewed and additional adjustments may be made as market conditions warrant.

    These changes are expected to result in an approximate 10 percent reduction in employees and contractors at U.S. mining operations
    North America Copper Mines. FCX operates seven open-pit copper mines in North America - Morenci, Bagdad, Safford, Sierrita and Miami in Arizona, and Chino and Tyrone in New Mexico. The North America copper mining operations have substantial production capacity, flexible operating structures and long-lived reserves and resources with significant additional development potential.
    FCX’s revised plans in North America incorporate reductions in mining rates to reduce operating and capital costs, including the suspension of mining operations at its Miami mine (which produced 57 million pounds in 2014), a 50% reduction in mining rates at the Tyrone mine (which produced 94 million pounds in 2014) and adjustments to mining rates at other U.S. mines. The revised plans at each of the operations incorporate the impacts of lower energy, acid and other consumables, reduced labor costs and a significant reduction in capital spending plans. These plans will continue to be reviewed and additional adjustments may be made as market conditions warrant.
    These changes are expected to result in an approximate 10 percent reduction in employees and contractors at U.S. mining operations
    - See more at: http://investors.fcx.com/investor-center/news-releases/news-release-details/2015/Freeport-McMoRan-Announces-Further-Spending-Cuts-in-Response-to-Market-Conditions/default.aspx#sthash.j5lzS31C.dpuf
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    EPA: Gold King Mine blowout "inevitable"

    Arizona Geology Blog - Wed, 2015-08-26 19:15

    EPA posted a new report  SUMMARY REPORT: EPA Internal Review of the August 5, 2015 Gold King Mine Blowout (PDF) at  http://www2.epa.gov/goldkingmine/internal-investigation-documents

    The EPA internal investigator team reports that "the Team believes that Emergency Action Plan (EAP) included with the site plan did not anticipate or plan for the volume or pressure encountered and contained only limited emergency procedures in case of a mine blowout."    Yet, even with that, "the Team concludes that the Adit blowout was likely inevitable."   [Right, Gold King Mine Level 7 and Red & Bonita adits.  EPA  on GoogleEarth image, June 2015]
    Much credence is given to the claim that EPA received no significant criticism of its plans.

    Meanwhile, here are some of the news stories circulating about the spill, its impacts, and consequences:

    **Gold King Mine Spill Has Not Adversely Affected Our Waters
    http://www.azjournal.com/2015/08/25/gold-king-mine-spill-has-not-adversely-affected-our-waters/

    ***Page Economy Feels Impact of Gold King Mine Spill
    http://knau.org/post/page-economy-feels-impact-gold-king-mine-spill#stream/0­­­

    Local governments, nonprofits urge mining regulation reforms
    http://azdailysun.com/news/local/local-governments-nonprofits-urge-mining-regulation-reforms/article_f7e4187c-3c3c-5fe1-8e80-509b5aa2fbd3.html

    Environmental groups, county petition federal agencies to change mining regulations
    http://nhonews.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=795&ArticleID=17068

    Federal rules wouldn’t have saved the Animas River from Gold King anyway
    http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-10850-dirty-water.html#sthash.mN1LEjx7.dpuf­

    Probe into Colorado mining disaster that turned a river YELLOW is being blocked by EPA - which caused the toxic spill http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3211229/EPA-hid-documents-Congress-Colorado-toxic-spill-turned-drinking-water-YELLOW-failed-warn-residents-killer-sludge-heading-way.html#ixzz3jwgcdXCq

    Groups to feds: Tighten mining rules in light of river spill
    http://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2015/08/25/groups-to-feds-tighten-mining-rules-in-light-of-river-spill/

    Disastrous Animas River Mine Spill Prompts Call for Regulatory Reform
    http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2015/animas-river-spill-08-25-2015.html

    Groups to feds: Tighten mining rules in light of Animas River spill
    http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2015/08/26/groups-to-feds-tighten-mining-rules-in-light-of-animas-river-spill/

    Navajo set example, protect land for future generations
    http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/letters/2015/08/25/navajo-set-example-protect-land-future-generations/32360289/
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Celebration of lives and professional accomplishments of Bill and Jackie Dickinson

    Arizona Geology Blog - Tue, 2015-08-25 13:40
    The University of Arizona Department of Geosciences invites you to a celebration of the lives and professional accomplishments of Bill and Jackie Dickinson, to be held Friday, October 23 from 
    3 – 6:30 pm in the Kuiper Space Sciences building on the University of Arizona campus.
    Please feel free to share this announcement. 
    The Geosciences Department continues to welcome your thoughts, photos, and memories for the Bill Dickinson remembrance page on the Geosciences web site: http://www.geo.arizona.edu/Dickinson. Please email your tributes to alicias@email.arizona.edu.



    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Arizona Statewide Landslide Inventory Database (AZSLID)

    Arizona Geology Blog - Mon, 2015-08-24 20:36
    The following article was published by the Arizona Dept. of Emergency and Military Affairs, under the title "Landslide Database to Inform Mitigation Decision-Making, Improve Whole Community Awareness" by Ethan M. Riley:
    When a landslide south of Page, Ariz., collapsed a portion of U.S. Route 89 (link is external) on Feb 20, 2013, it created a real mess for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). The damage forced ADOT to close a 23-mile stretch of highway that took—in the end—nearly 2 years and $25 million to repair, reroute and reopen, which it did on March 27, 2015.   [Right, US 89 in northern Arizona closed after a 150-foot section of pavement buckled the morning of Feb. 20, 2013 in an area about 25 miles south of Page. The roadway reopened in March 2015.   Credit, DEMA]
    Landslides on (and beyond) the scale of the one that broke US 89 are not unheard of in Arizona or any western state for that matter. Major landslides in Oso, Wash. (link is external), and along West Salt Creek in Colorado in 2014 further raised the public profile of landslides, helping the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) win a Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant to create an Arizona Statewide Landslide Inventory Database (AzSLID).
    PDM planning and project grants are awarded annually on a nationally competitive basis. The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) manages the grants, functioning as the intermediary between FEMA and the subapplicant; in this case, AZGS. AZGS is required to account for 25 percent of the total project cost.
    The finished AzSLID will include locations and scientific descriptions of every known landslide in Arizona’s geologic history. Dr. Ann Youberg, an AZGS research geologist and the principal investigator for the project, said the AzSLID represents the first landslide survey and risk assessment ever conducted in Arizona.
    The hope is that the data will inform governments’ decision-making now and in the future as part of state, local and tribal hazard mitigation plans. AZGS plans to present their findings to county and tribal emergency managers when the AzSLID is complete.
    “It is our hope that it (the AzSLID) will provide more factual and data-driven information that will reveal areas of concern, resulting in awareness and the opportunity to mitigate potential future impacts,” explained Sue Wood, DEMA Mitigation Planning Coordinator. “It can also be used as a tool to inform and educate the counties and tribes on potential risks in their jurisdictions.”
    Meanwhile, just one county and three tribes felt landslides were significant enough of a threat to include in their current hazard mitigation plans. It’s not surprising when you consider there’s only ever been one federally-declared landslide incident in Arizona.
    Youberg can only estimate what future landslides could cost in damages to public infrastructure and private property. “The economic and social impact of landslides throughout the U.S. is poorly understood,” she says, “but each year there are an estimated 25 to 50 fatalities with billions of dollars in costs, rivaling annual flood losses.”
    Ultimately, DEMA will incorporate data from AzSLID into the 2018 update of the State of Arizona Hazard Mitigation Plan (link is external), which includes landslides among 15 statewide hazards most likely to affect (i.e., endanger lives, damage or destroy property, and disrupt local economies) a community. The term “landslide” is used in the plan to describe any event characterized by the “downslope movement of earth materials due to gravity,” such as rock falls, mudslides and debris flows.
    The other 14 statewide hazards are dam failure, disease, drought, earthquake, extreme heat, earth fissures, flood, hazardous materials incidents, levee failure, severe winds, subsidence, terrorism, wildfires and winter storms.
    Since work on database began, AZGS has entered 75 percent (or 4,420) of the documented landslides, covering about 528 square miles, into AzSLID. AZGS is, at the same time, using Google Earth to search the state for signs of undocumented landslides. The work is sometime tedious, but has also produced widespread evidence of landslides.
    “We were surprised by how many landslides there are in Arizona,” said Youberg. “Landslides are more common than generally thought but often occur in remote areas.” But, she added, severe wildfires, development of the wildland-urban interface and above-normal precipitation could bring about more debris flows (link is external) in the future. When the leftovers of Hurricane Norbert swept through Phoenix last fall, AZGS documented debris flows in South Mountain Park in Phoenix.
    AZGS will also add the landslide geolocation data to its Natural Hazards Viewer (link is external), a public information tool used to share data on the locations of earth fissures, active faults and earthquake epicenters, and highest flood and wildfire risk. AZGS developed the Hazards Viewer in cooperation with DEMA and FEMA for emergency managers, hazard mitigation planners, developers, real estate agents and property buyers.
    “Once someone has built in a landslide-prone area there is not much that can be done, without a lot of money, to mitigate the hazard,” explained Youberg. “It is important to work with your realtor, and possibly a geological engineer, to identify and understand the potential geologic hazards of a property before you buy.”AZGS will update the Hazards Viewer with new landslide data as new landslides happen or are discovered as part of AZGS’ normal geologic mapping program.
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Holbrook basin potash valued as one of top 10 projects in North America

    Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2015-08-23 19:58
    A new report on proposed potash projects in North America says 9 of the top ten in value are in Saskatchewan, Canada. The other one is Passport Potash's $1.9 billion project in Arizona's Holbrook basin.

    A report by Industrial Info Resources tracked 27 active potash projects in North America, with 17 of those being in Saskatchewan, including 9 of the 10 largest. Passport's planned mine would come in at 9th place.

    Passport is seeking additional investors for it's proposed underground mine. The Canadian mines range from being under feasibility studies to seeking investors to being under construction.   Canada dominates world potash production but the deposits are substantially deeper than the Holbrook basin resource.   


    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Cleaning up after US89A flood and mudflow

    Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2015-08-23 09:59

    ExcavatorThe Arizona Dept. of Transportation is working to restore US89A after heavy rainfall on August 9 covered miles of the highway between Marble Canyon and Jacob's Lake with mud and boulders.


    The update from ADOT explains that the House Rock Flood was caused by approximately one-and-a-half inches of rain in less than 20 minutes, according to the National Weather Service. As a result, crews were busy last week clearing mud and debris that collected on the roadway and in box culverts underneath the roadway to prevent possible damage during future storms [bottom, credit ADOT].

    The crews, aided by heavy equipment including an excavator and road graders, removed some boulders that were as large as 15 feet in diameter that traveled approximately two miles from the Vermillion Cliffs [top, credit, ADOT]

    Currently, less than one-half mile of US 89A is restricted to one-way traffic at milepost 551, approximately 12 miles west of Marble Canyon. Due to the remote location and low traffic volumes, there have little to no delays in this area.

    “We have now moved into Phase Two of the recovery efforts following the House Rock Flood,” said ADOT Flagstaff District Engineer Audra Merrick. “Crews worked tirelessly last week to open inlets to protect the roadway from future rainfall and our engineers have completed their assessment for possible damages. Fortunately, there were no major damages to the infrastructure, but we have identified significant repairs that need to be completed before we fully reopen the highway.”

    Prior to re-establishing two lanes of traffic at this location, ADOT will repair three box culvert structures and drainage channels that allow flood waters to safely pass underneath the roadway and perform additional roadway/pavement work.

    ADOT is currently pursuing a contractor to work on the repairs. As of August 17, there is no estimate for when the repairs will be completed.

    [modified from the ADOT announcement]
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Causes of Gold King mine spill emerging

    Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2015-08-23 09:41
    The causes of the Gold King mine waste water spill in Colorado are emerging from a variety of sources.    Rather than simply a leak from the Gold King mine, it appears that the mine is part of a network of mines, adits, tunnels, and natural fractures and faults creating a complex system underlying much of the mountain.   Work on other mines, combined with natural infiltration of rainwater and snowmelt, all appear to have contributed to the filling up of the Gold King mine tunnel with mineral-rich waters.   EPA contractors punched through an adit of Gold King mine, unleashing the built-up waters.

    Tucson-based consulting geologist David Briggs published an article in the Arizona Daily Independent  describing the  history of mines on the mountain including the closure of the Sunnyside mine in 1991.  David reports that 12 bulkheads or engineered dams were built in underground tunnels, to control drainage of acid mine waters.  David's interpretation is that groundwater flow through natural fractures and faults would discharge through these tunnels. But with them dammed and drainage halted, drainage in other mines, including the Red & Bonita and the Gold King 7th Level Adit, increased.  [Right, geologic cross section of Gold King and Sunnyside mines, by David Briggs, modified from USGS Professional Paper 535]
    David concludes "this is comparable to a bathroom sink that has a drain and overflow outlet. When the drain (i.e., American Tunnel) is open the water flows out the bottom of the sink.  However, if you close the drain (i.e. wtih a bulkhead) the water will rise in the sink until it gets to the overflow outlet (i.e. Red and Bonita mine and Gold King 7th Level Adit)."
    EPA was working on the nearby Red and Bonita mine since 2010. The summer 2015 work plan was to install a reinforced bulkhead and to remove debris from the Gold King Mine 7th Level Adit and observe "possible changes in the discharge resulting from the installation of the Red and Bonita mine bulkhead."  David speculates on the nature what was plugging the Gold King entrance and comments on EPA and its contractor's culpability in not assessing the situation adequately, but his explanation of the events and processes that ponded the millions of gallons of waste water in the Gold King adit are compelling.
    EPA has fact sheets and photos posted about their work at the Red and Bonita mine which began in late July 2015, a couple of weeks prior to the Gold King spill on August 5.   [Red and Bonita mine removal action photo log, July 24, 2015; Red and Bonita Mine Remova]
    [Bottom right, map of mine workings including Red & Bonita and Gold Mine King, with named faults.  Credit, EPA with additions by David Briggs]
    The January 2015 Removal Action Community Involvement Plan describes the proposed action on the Red and Bonita mine:  "By installing a bulkhead, the mine water will fill the mine workings and eventually a relatively stable hydrostatic level will be reached above the level of the mine. ... It is anticipated that the contamination in the water from the mine will precipitate, while moving through the fractured bedrock along the pre-mining groundwater courses."
    The May 22, 2015  EPA "Upper Animas Mining District Fact Sheet" starts off saying "The EPA Superfund Program is conducting a time-critical removal action at the Red and Bonita Mine site during the summer 2015. The action involves installing an engineered, reinforced bulkhead (i.e. massive plug) to control the discharge of contaminated water coming out of the mine adit (i.e. tunnel) and flowing into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.
    Along with this work, EPA also plans to remove the blockage and reconstruct the portal at the Gold King Mine in order to best observe possible changes in discharge caused by the installation of Red and Bonita Mine bulkhead. The Gold King Mine is the closest mine to the Red and Bonita Mine and is located higher on the mountain. Entry into the Gold King Mine workings will depend on the conditions encountered following portal construction."
    However, a June 25, 2014 Task Order Statement of Work to EPA contractor Environmental Restoration, LLC, warns that "The Gold King Mine has not had maintenance of the mine working since 1991, and the workings
    have been inaccessible since 1995 when the mine portal collapsed. This condition has likely caused impounding of water behind the collapse. ln addition, other collapses within the workings may have occurred creating additional water impounding conditions. Conditions may exist that could result in a blow-out of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals." [emphasis added]

    What's not clear is whether EPA's contractor actually starting (or even finished) the new bulkhead in the Red & Bonita mine.  Their planning document said the work would be completed in September 2015.  The photos of the work show only the external ponds and berms.   

    Was the waste water released from the Gold King filling up over the past 20 years or was it newly introduced?

    If the bulkhead in the Red & Bonita were put in place in late July, it would take just about a week for the 300 gallons per minute flow out of that mine to back up and total the 3 million gallons spilled out of the Gold King.   This is a question that needs to be clarified with EPA.

    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    UA report: Colorado River water quality not measurably impacted by Gold King spill

    Arizona Geology Blog - Fri, 2015-08-21 09:43


    The Superfund Research Program at the University of Arizona has released an extensive report on the Gold King Mine spill.  It includes calculations of how much of each metal, etc were included in the 3 million gallon spill and evaluates the potential impacts on communities ranging from close to the spill, downriver all the way to Yuma.  [right, map of EPA water sample locations - http://www2.epa.gov/goldkingmine/data-gold-king-mine-response]
    They conclude that "Once water and sediments from the Animas River enter the San Juan River, they are diluted and mixed in with many times the volumes water and tons of sediments that this river carries daily down to the Colorado. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the overall water quality of the San Juan or the Colorado rivers have been or will be measurably affected by this release."
    The report states "Four pounds of cadmium were released in this toxic spill. Cadmium is a heavy metal that is of concern in some soils in the Yuma area because it can accumulate in some vegetables and grains. Using Colorado River daily flow volumes of water and sediments, we estimated that cadmium levels in water will be non-detectable and several orders of magnitude below the drinking water standard of 5 ug/L."

    Therefore, our conclusion, atleast for now,is that the impact on irrigation water quality in Yuma of this particular event (not including any past history of metals releases from that area) is
    not and will not be measurable.

    Link: http://superfund.pharmacy.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/u43/gold_king_mine_spill_bulletin_draft_081915.pdf
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    ADEQ Update on Colorado Gold King Mine Spill

    Arizona Geology Blog - Fri, 2015-08-21 07:36


    The  Arizona Department of Environmental Quality put out their first formal announcement about the impacts of the Gold King spill of mine waste water in Colorado. [right, entrance to Gold King Mine, August 14, 2015. Credit, Erik Vance/EPA]

    ADEQ Update on Colorado Gold King Mine Spill
    PHOENIX (August 17, 2015) – Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) officials announced today it has examined data provided by states upstream of Lake Powell and closer to the Gold King Mine spill. ADEQ’s analysis of data released by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality of samples collected about 100 miles from Lake Powell (closest Utah sample) shows that water quality conditions in the San Juan River upstream of Lake Powell are generally consistent with pre-spill conditions. “Based on what we’re seeing with the water flowing into Lake Powell, we don’t expect there to be noticeable change in water quality in Arizona,” ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera said.  
    “To put this spill into perspective, the three million gallon estimated volume of the spill represents a miniscule fraction of a percent (0.000071 percent) of the total volume of water in Lake Powell (more than four trillion gallons as of July 29, 2015) Cabrera said, adding that ADEQ does not expect this spill to have short- or long-term negative impacts to Lake Powell and the downstream Colorado River.”
    ADEQ has been and will continue coordinating with public health and environmental agencies in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, as well as with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Navajo Nation officials to gather, analyze and share water quality data with each other and the public as it becomes available. Beginning August 14, these officials began lifting water use restrictions for the Animas and San Juan Rivers, because water quality conditions are returning to pre-spill conditions.
    Last week ADEQ completed sampling to characterize baseline water quality in Lake Powell and the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry and submitted these samples for analysis with the fastest possible turnaround time. ADEQ expects to receive lab results later today, Monday, August 17, which it will compare with Arizona surface water quality standards and historical data.
    News Media Contacts:
    Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Caroline Oppleman, 602-771-2215
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Historical Society seeks curator with geology expertise for Tempe museum

    Arizona Geology Blog - Thu, 2015-08-20 17:34

    The Arizona Historical Society is seeking to fill a Museum Curator 2 posting for the Natural History Collection in Tempe.  The posting is listed in the official website for the State of Arizona government jobs.  Anyone interested in viewing/applying can go to:  https://azstatejobs.azdoa.gov/ltmprod/xmlhttp/shorturl.do?key=ZA8

    This is the position formerly held by Dr. Madison Barkley, who oversaw the collections from the former Arizona Mining & Mineral Museum.   Some of the minerals are on display at the Tempe museum.  The former museum building in Phoenix was closed for renovations and is maintenance mode.   The Legislature passed a bill in the last session to transfer the building, museum authorization, and the curator position to AZGS to reopen it as the Arizona Mining, Mineral, and Natural History Education Museum, but it was vetoed by the governor.

    AHS reports that "In 2010 the collection of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, previously maintained by the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (ADMMR), was transferred to the Arizona Historical Society (Arizona Revised Statutes §41-827). The collection now makes up the majority of the Arizona Historical Society Natural History Collection.

    The Natural History Collection is a permanent collection with materials pertaining to the natural history of Arizona and the mining industry in Arizona. The Collection also includes mining and mineral related books, journals, magazines, and historical documents related to the history of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum."   [right, photo of pyrite specimen in AHS collection. Credit, AHS]

    Description of the job:


    The Arizona Historical Society seeks a Museum Curator 2 with geological expertise to manage its mineral collections and develop associated educational programming.  This position requires flexibility with work hours and days/nights, weekends, and holidays.  The position also requires day trips and some overnight stays within and outside of Maricopa County.  
    KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS  & ABILITIES
    The successful candidate for this position will possess a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology or a related field.  One year of experience equivalent to curator responsibilities is preferred.  In addition, you should demonstrate the following: 
    • Familiarity with the discipline of geology
    • Specialized knowledge of minerals/mineralogy
    • Ability to develop educational and public programming
    • Understanding of the principles of collections management
    • Ability to work in teams
    • Skill in written and oral communication

     Salary range is $33,435 - $59,812
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Hanson Scott Award for Outstanding Leadership

    Arizona Geology Blog - Sun, 2015-08-16 20:47
    I was surprised and honored to receive the Hanson Scott Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Western Regional Partnership at its annual Principals' Meeting in Reno last week.

    The award is named for former Brigadier General Hanson Scott who served as the first chair of WRP and was key to the organizations initial development and success.

    WRP is supported by the Dept. of Defense to promote collaborative framework for senior-policy level Federal, State and Tribal leadership to identify common goals and emerging issues in the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah (and just recently Colorado) and to develop solutions that support WRP Partners and protect natural resources, while promoting sustainability, homeland security and military readiness.    The governors' offices in the 5 states are represented along with senior staff from more than 20 federal agencies.  

    The award in my view is for all of AZGS to recognize the work we've done since the start of the group in developing and supporting GIS services, organizing and hosting meetings, contributing to committees and special work groups, and providing support for WRP activities.

    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Tying the cost of flood insurance to the level of risk

    Arizona Geology Blog - Tue, 2015-08-11 13:22

    Two new reports from the National Research Council look at the issue of tying the cost of flood insurance to the level of risk associated with the structures being insured.

    It turns out about 1/5 of the 5.5 million policies issued under the National Flood Insurance Program are below the base flood elevation and thus have higher risks.  "Tying Flood Insurance to Flood Risk for Low-Lying Structures in the Floodplains studies the pricing of negatively elevated structures in the NFIP. This report review current NFIP methods for calculating risk-based premiums for these structures, including risk analysis, flood maps, and engineering data. The report then evaluates alternative approaches for calculating risk-based premiums and discusses engineering hydrologic and property assessment data needs to implement full risk-based premiums. The findings and conclusions of this report will help to improve the accuracy and precision of loss estimates for negatively elevated structures, which in turn will increase the credibility, fairness, and transparency of premiums for policyholders."

    The second report addresses the consequences of Congressional action in 2012 that requires FEMA to move the NFIP t"oward an insurance program with NFIP risk-based premiums that better reflected expected losses from floods at insured properties."   "Constituents from multiple communities expressed concerns about the elimination of lower rate classes, arguing that it created a financial burden on policy holders."

    The report describes alternatives for determining when the premium increases resulting from the 2012 law would make flood insurance unaffordable.


    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Bio-mediated geotechnics center established at ASU

    Arizona Geology Blog - Tue, 2015-08-11 08:02
    Arizona State University says they were awarded its second Engineering Research Center from the National Science Foundation, making it one of only two universities in the nation to lead two of the prestigious centers.

    NSF announced that ASU will lead the $18.5 million Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG), which will pioneer advances to solve some of the world’s biggest environmental and infrastructure development problems. For example, the center will aim to make soil stronger so that building foundations can better withstand earthquakes.

    CBBG’s researchers will focus on “nature-compatible” approaches to boosting the resiliency of civil infrastructure, improving the effectiveness of environmental protection and ecological restoration methods, and developing ways to make infrastructure construction and natural resource development operations more sustainable.

    The center’s university partners are the Georgia Institute of Technology, New Mexico State University and the University of California, Davis. Engineers and scientists at those institutions will collaborate with ASU researchers to investigate the use of natural underground biological processes for engineering soil in ways that reduce construction costs while mitigating natural hazards and environmental degradation.

    CBBG’s director is ASU Regents’ Professor Edward Kavazanjian. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Ira A. Fulton Professor of Geotechnical Engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

    Much of CBBG’s work will concentrate on developing bio-based methods of strengthening soils as a way to produce more solid ground for building foundations and to prevent erosion that threatens human health, the environment and infrastructure systems.

    Researchers, for instance, will explore the use of microbial organisms to help stabilize soils. Certain kinds of microbes produce an enzyme that can cause calcium carbonate to precipitate in porous soils, thereby hardening the ground, making it more resistant to erosion, and providing a stronger foundation for construction.

    Calcium carbonate precipitation can also be used in lieu of Portland cement to stabilize pavement subgrades and to create “bio-bricks,” soil particles that are bound together into building blocks for infrastructure construction.

    Other efforts will involve attempting to figure out how to equal the performance of trees in their natural ability to stabilize soil against erosion and to provide support against wind and other loads through their root systems.

    “The best man-made soil-reinforcing elements and foundation systems we have developed are not as efficient as trees at stabilizing soil. We want to be able to design soil-reinforcement and foundation systems that work like tree root systems,” Kavazanjian said.

    Researchers will also seek to devise technologies that match some of the subterranean earth-moving and stabilization capabilities of burrowing insects and small mammals.

    “Ants are a hundred times more energy-efficient at tunneling than our current technology. They excavate very carefully and their tunnels almost never collapse,” Kavazanjian said. “If we could do what ants can do, we could make underground mining much safer.”

    Similarly, he said, if engineers could design a probe with sensor technology and guidance systems that effectively digs and tunnels through soil like a mole, it would significantly improve subsurface exploration and characterization.

    Such an accomplishment would lead to construction of stronger and safer roadways, bridges, dams, power plants, pipelines and buildings, and more efficient and effective oil-drilling and mining operations.

    “We want to reproduce the beneficial effects that biological and biogeochemical processes can achieve, accelerate them, and then employ them on larger scales,” he said.

    Progress in biogeotechnical technologies and engineering could also lead to significant improvements in methods of cleaning up environmental contaminants and restoring land denuded by erosion or industrial-scale resource extraction.

    Advances could also produce better ways to fortify structures and landscapes against the destructive forces of earthquakes, including methods for combating the soil liquefaction that results from strong earthquakes and can severely destabilize large swaths of land.

    Read more about the center on the CBBG website at http://www.biogeotechnics.org/home
    Watch video about the CBBG at https://player.vimeo.com/video/132246323
    Read more about the CBBG leadership team and faculty members will have research roles at http://www.biogeotechnics.org/people

    [this post js taken from materials provided by ASU]
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Gold King mine waste water heading to Lake Powell

    Arizona Geology Blog - Tue, 2015-08-11 07:19
    Officials in New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona are analyzing the potential impacts of 3 million gallons of waste water from the  abandoned Gold King mine in Colorado [right, credit US EPA], as it moves down the Los Animas River to the San Juan River and eventually to the Colorado River and Lake Powell.    EPA raised the estimate of water released from an earlier figure of 1 million gallons - http://www2.epa.gov/region8/gold-king-mine-release-emergency-response.  EPA was responsible for allowing the waste water to spill into the river on August 5.  Arizona draws water from Lake Powell for the Central Arizona Project which supplies water to the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas.


    The Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality issued the following statement:

    Any potential release that could threaten Arizona’s water supplies is cause for concern. At present, available information suggests that the Gold King Mine spill has not affected Arizona’s surface, ground or drinking water. EPA preliminary data collected within 24 hours of the spill showed that contaminant levels were 50 percent lower after moving about 10 miles downstream of the release site – Lake Powell is located another 250 miles further downstream.

    ADEQ is taking the following steps to address potential future impacts, should they occur, to Arizona waters:
    • We are sending a team of water quality monitoring professionals to conduct baseline sampling upstream and downstream of the Glenn Canyon Dam, which creates Lake Powell. 
    • We will collect additional samples, as appropriate.We are closely examining facts and actions being undertaken by involved local and state agencies (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning this release. 
    • We are participating on daily calls to coordinate and stay informed with these agencies.Based on our continuing monitoring and analysis of the situation, we will be in a position to further advise Arizonans and water systems.  
    We at AZGS are working with our sister agencies in water, environment, and health to assess the situation and make recommendations.
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Boulders and mud close US89A north of Grand Canyon

    Arizona Geology Blog - Mon, 2015-08-10 08:02


    The Arizona Dept. of Transportation warned drivers that US 89A is closed Monday morning north of the Grand Canyon as crews work to remove mud and boulders from the road following heavy rain on Sunday. [photo credit, AZ Dept of Public Safety]

    The closure is in place from five miles west of Marble Canyon (milepost 545) to Jacob Lake (milepost 579). There is no estimated time for when the road will reopen, but the closure is expected to remain in place until at least late Monday morning.    The Arizona [Phoenix] Republic posted this video from Avondal resident Tricia Leonhardt showing the flood waters actually crossing the highway and the aftermath.




    Jacob Lake is located at the junction of US 89A and US 67, the route to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

    ADOT crews from Page, Fredonia and Gray Mountain are working to reopen US 89A [bottom right, photo credit, ADOT]


    For updated information on the closure, please visit the ADOT Travel Information Site, AZ511.gov or follow us on Twitter, @ArizonaDOT.
    [excerpted from the ADOT announcement]
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Bouldgers and mud close US891A north of Grand Canyon

    Arizona Geology Blog - Mon, 2015-08-10 08:02


    The Arizona Dept. of Transportation warned drivers that US 89A is closed Monday morning north of the Grand Canyon as crews work to remove mud and boulders from the road following heavy rain on Sunday. [photo credit, AZ Dept of Public Safety]

    The closure is in place from five miles west of Marble Canyon (milepost 545) to Jacob Lake (milepost 579). There is no estimated time for when the road will reopen, but the closure is expected to remain in place until at least late Monday morning.    The Arizona [Phoenix] Republic posted this video from Avondal resident Tricia Leonhardt showing the flood waters actually crossing the highway and the aftermath.




    Jacob Lake is located at the junction of US 89A and US 67, the route to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

    ADOT crews from Page, Fredonia and Gray Mountain are working to reopen US 89A [bottom right, photo credit, ADOT]


    For updated information on the closure, please visit the ADOT Travel Information Site, AZ511.gov or follow us on Twitter, @ArizonaDOT.
    [excerpted from the ADOT announcement]
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts

    Flood warning for Havasu Canyon campgrounds

    Arizona Geology Blog - Fri, 2015-08-07 15:16
    The National Weather Service is warning that heavy rains are expected to cause flooding on Havasu Creek and flood campsites and foot bridges.

    This time of year there can be hundreds of campers in the campgrounds in the scenic canyon on the Havasu Reservation just south of the Grand Canyon.  In 2008 (corrected 8-10-15, from 2006), flash floods forced ~400 campers to flee to high ground in the middle of the night.

    Flooding in 2010 again washed out footbridges and destroyed campgrounds. [Right, 2010 flood damage. Photo by Brian Gootee, AZGS]

    The NWS forecast says:


    AT 141 PM MST...DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED HEAVY RAIN DUE TO THUNDERSTORMS HAD FALLEN IN THE CATARACT CREEK BASIN...SOUTHEAST OF SUPAI VILLAGE. THIS WILL CAUSE SMALL STREAM FLOODING.

    * SOME LOCATIONS THAT WILL EXPERIENCE FLOODING INCLUDE...SUPAI AND
    HAVASUPAI RESERVATION. A STREAM LEVEL NEAR 17 FEET IS EXPECTED THIS EVENING...BETWEEN 6 PM
    AND 9 PM...AT HAVASU CREEK NEAR SUPAI VILLAGE.

    AT A STREAM LEVEL OF 17 FEET...MINOR FLOODING WILL OCCUR. FOOT
    BRIDGES WILL BE WASHED OUT IN SUPAI CAMPGROUND. SOME CAMPSITES WILL
    BE FLOODED. CAMPERS MAY BE STRANDED IN PORTIONS OF THE CAMPGROUND.
    Categories: AZGS Web Posts
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