AZGS Web Posts

Online mapper shows flooding status across the country

Arizona Geology Blog - Thu, 2015-09-03 20:47
The USGS is testing a new online interactive mapping tool to display flood inundation status cross the US.  On first look it appears to be a great tool for visualizing what portions of the country are troubled by flooding. The green balls represent areas where NO flood is occurring. The black triangles indicate areas under flood watch.

Clicking on a site such as i did in northeast Arizona in the image below, brings up an info box that includes a link to the original data source.

http://wimcloud.usgs.gov/apps/FIM/FloodInundationMapper.html
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Lake Powell safe for recreation after Colorado mine spill

Arizona Geology Blog - Thu, 2015-09-03 20:31


ADEQ and cooperating agencies report Lake Powell is safe for all uses and encourage Lake Powell recreation.
PHOENIX (September 3, 2015) – As the Labor Day holiday weekend approaches, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) officials announced today that their analysis of water entering Lake Powell shows that the lake is safe for normal uses.
“ADEQ wants Arizona residents and visitors to know that Lake Powell is safe for Labor Day recreational activities including swimming and boating,” said ADEQ Water Quality Division Director Trevor Baggiore. “ADEQ and the multiple cooperating agencies are reviewing and analyzing new information as it becomes available as part of our everyday work to protect Arizona’s waters,” he added.
Scientists and specialists from several Arizona agencies have been and are continuing to monitor and assess data related to the mine spill. Arizona’s cooperating agencies agree that Lake Powell and the downstream Colorado River are safe for all uses including recreation and agriculture as well as a drinking water source for public water systems.
To establish baseline water quality, ADEQ conducted water quality sampling on August 12, 2015. Test results of these samples are consistent with historic water quality data from Lee’s Ferry (downstream of Glen Canyon Dam). These results, along with ADEQ’s data analysis of water entering Lake Powell (San Juan River test data collected by Utah) are available for review on the Arizona cooperating agencies’ Gold King Mine spill information website: https://ein.az.gov/gold-king-mine-spill-response,located on the Arizona Emergency Information Network (AZEIN) website.
As part of the ongoing water quality monitoring and assessment work, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is collecting and testing fish tissue and water quality samples from the Arizona portion of Lake Powell. As new test results become available, ADEQ will compare them with Arizona surface water quality standards and historical data to support water quality protection efforts and continue to share updated information on the AZEIN website.

[news release from ADEQ]
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Geology class is the best science elective

Arizona Geology Blog - Thu, 2015-09-03 19:35
“You should take geology because it will fundamentally transform the way you see the world.”

 That's the gist of an article on Slate magazine's site (great name to extol geology, right?) on why taking a geology class is the best elective science class.  Title, "Your World, Rocked," is one of a collection of articles on classes you should take.   It was written by Slate editor-in-chief Julia Turner.

Another great quote - "Geology is a gorgeous way to contemplate the abyss."


[Image credit, EuroGeoSurveys]



Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Mining and ag industries in Arizona file suit over EPA rule on 'waters of the United States'

Arizona Geology Blog - Wed, 2015-09-02 18:30


The Arizona Mining Association passed along this announcement. This is a complex debate with dramatically different interpretations and claims of what the rule means.   Farmers are convinced EPA will regulate water in man-made ditches in their fields, leading to a nationwide campaign to "Ditch the Rule."    [Below, National Association of Manufacturers]

PHOENIX, AZ – September 1, 2015. The Arizona Mining Association (AMA), Arizona Farm Bureau, Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Arizona Rock Products Association, New Mexico Mining Association, New Mexico Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona challenging the U.S. EPA’s new rule dramatically expanding the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
Kelly Shaw Norton, President of the Arizona Mining Association, explained, “EPA’s new rule rests on the implausible idea that vast expanses of bone-dry, southwestern desert can be subject to intrusive federal regulation as ‘waters of the United States.’  The focus of this lawsuit will be the new rule’s definition of ‘tributary,’ which expands ‘waters’ jurisdiction based on the presence of certain topographical features that are ubiquitous in the arid southwest, even in areas where it has been decades or centuries since any water has actually flowed on the ground.  What is worse, under the new rule, an agency official in Washington, DC, can deem an expanse of desert to be a ‘water of the United States’ even if relevant topographical features do not actually exist.”
Norton organized this broad coalition of affected southwest business groups to ensure that issues important to the arid west are front and center in efforts to rein in EPA’s dramatic overreach, and to protect southwestern businesses and landowners from unreasonable new regulatory burdens.
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Geology and Geomorphology of the San Pedro River, Southeastern Arizona- special report released

Arizona Geology Blog - Tue, 2015-09-01 18:32
AZGS geologist Dr. Phil Pearthree is testifying this week at


a new round of San Pedro River Subflow hearings to decide the extent of the subflow zone, in response to a long-standing judicial determination that river subflow and groundwater are different resources.
Phil is explaining our findings and conclusions regarding the geology and geomorphology of the San Pedro River, and the implications of our work for the potential extent of Holocene river deposits in the subsurface. The objectives of our work were to provide basic data and interpretations to ADWR to assist them in their efforts to delineate the lateral extent of the Holocene river alluvium, which is used as a proxy for the extent of the subflow zone.
AZGS released a report on geology and geomorphology of the San Pedro River earlier this summer.

The San Pedro River flows through the rugged landscape of San Pedro Valley from the U.S. – Mexico border to its confluence with the Gila River at Winkelman (Figure 1). The river has incised (downcut) moderately to deeply into the valley floors that were accumulating sediment until the past few million years or less. River incision has in turn driven incision of all of its tributaries and erosion of the surrounding landscape. The inception of river incision resulted in a dramatic narrowing of the extent of river deposits, and this trend has continued to the present. As the river has incised, it has carved an erosional trough in older basin-fill deposits and bedrock, and has left behind remnants of older river deposits (river terraces) that record previous levels of the river. During the Holocene (the past ~10,000 yrs) the river has operated within a relatively narrow corridor bounded by eroded basin deposits, older river terrace deposits, tributary deposits, and bedrock, so all Holocene river deposits are restricted to this corridor. The primary purpose of this paper is to summarize the geologic setting and the geomorphic development and evolution of San Pedro River during the middle and late Quaternary. The latter point is particularly important for understanding the physical setting of Holocene San Pedro River deposits. This work was undertaken to assist Arizona Department of Water Resources staff in their efforts to delineate areas associated with river subflow in the San Pedro River Watershed.

Ref: Pearthree, P.A. and Cook, J.P., 2015, “Geology and Geomorphology of the San Pedro River, Southeastern Arizona,” Arizona Geological Survey Special Paper #10, 23p, http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1633 
Categories: AZGS Web Posts

Harald Drewes, former USGS geologist

Arizona Geology Blog - Tue, 2015-09-01 18:09
We recently learned that Harald Drewes died on July 21 in Colorado.  Harald was a career USGS scientist, well known to Arizonans for his many years of  geological mapping in southern Arizona.   Friends report that no memorial service is planned.


[Photo credit, John M. Ghrist, courtesy of the Colorado Scientific Society.]


Categories: AZGS Web Posts

An inconvenient truth - 60 tons of uranium come 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 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
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