Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Waterboarding in Denver?

Quick, somebody should notify the Denver Water Board about this, since they have photos of the inside of this very same facility posted on their website, under their link to "Recycled Water." What's more, how could they be worried about some external threat, when by their own agreement, the sewage effluent water they are processing every day from the neighboring Metro Wastewater plant even contains
Superfund Site wastes from Lowry Landfill, including permitted discharged levels of plutonium and most every other potent radioactive and toxic poison you can think of!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ducks Limited

Talking about Denver's media and what they no longer seem to do, has anyone noticed that these days, whenever there is a major environmental incident, like dead ducks, dead fish, the only people contacted and quoted about it are the "officials"? No longer are any environmental groups contacted for a different perspective. What's also fishy is that groups like "Ducks Unlimited" here have had nothing to say about dead ducks at Metro Wastewater, dead ducks at City Park lakes. Not a peep. Not a quack. Should they change their name to "Ducks Limited"?

I guess they like their funding from Coors, whose toxic wastes from past decades, by the way, are in the highly toxic and radioactive mix from a Superfund site southeast of metro Denver, the infamous Lowry Landfill, where new subdivisions spring up nearby without disclosure to unsuspecting homebuyers of all that lurks beneath and beyond the site boundaries.

What's happening to the toxic, readioactive brew now? It's being flushed back into the public domain and into Metro Wastewater's sewage ponds in Denver and then on for "recycling" at a recently built Denver Water plant. There, the Superfund site-laced sewage effluent, and after only partial treatment that cannot remove or neutralize many of the toxic and nuclear contaminants, is piped via huge purple conduits laid under selected streets in central Denver at public expense, and on to fill the lakes at City Park and Washington Park and irrigate selected parkways, school grounds, golfcourses and other public lands.

Local reporters - some who even work for newspapers whose owners were in on the dirty deal - at the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News - don't bother to report that some of the same agencies who claim the dead ducks and dead fish are all part of nature's way say some different things in communications amongst themselves. In public reports reviewed under the Colorado Open Record Act recently, it was learned that since 2004, when our trusted officials changed the source of water in City Park and Washington Park lakes to partially treated sewage water, the lakes have not met water quality standards. Violations included exceedances in allowable nitrate levels, standards for metals dissolved in the water, and such.

Of course, the officials, when dead ducks float to shore, will tell you it's all perfectly safe.

And our media, some of whom are actually in on the deal, records show, will keep quiet about it. You can ask former Denver City attorney Dan Muse about it, who as Wellington Webb's appointee maneuvered these deals in secret - including those with the Dean Singleton-owned
Denver Post and Scripps-owned Rocky Mountain News - and even the Denver City Council isn't allowed to speak of it. Then after unexpectedly resigning as City Attorney and disappearing from the Denver scene for a time, Muse came back and was re-ensconced as a Webb-appointed Denver Water Board commissioner, who then approved the massive "recycled water" project without even so much as an environmental impact assessment, and against protests from environmental and labor groups who were not so a-Mused. His snide response? "So sue us!" When faced with notice of a plan to challenge his ethics before those who oversee such things for lawyers, he promptly resigned. Surely, just a coincidence.

Now what has Mayor Hickenlooper had to say about all of this? He's ducking the issue while Ms. Dumm, a city PR spokesperson, takes all the quack flack.

Something's fishy about all of that, don't you think? According to an old Chinese proverb, "The fish rots from the head."


P.S. Oh, and one more thing, when hiking around metro Denver's wetlands areas, be on the lookout for
plastic alligators.

P.P. S. And for anyone who might think birds are just expendable creatures with no personality, you might want to check this out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Something's Fishy in Denver

"Cold may be behind large die-off of fish in Sloan's Lake" headlined the Scripps-owned Rocky Mountain News on October 18th, 2007. A large fish die-off at Sloan's Lake in Denver "may be linked to cold weather killing algae, which leads to oxygen being absorbed from the water," authorities said Wednesday. The story then goes on to say that while "scores of dead fish were bobbing in the west Denver lake, catfish, crappie, coy, bluegill and perch were gasping on the lake's southwestern shore where an inlet from Edgewater releases fresh, oxygenated water."

Now, let's get this straight. Fish die where there's fresh oxygenated water and they're dead because there's been a mild chill in the Denver air in recent days? Ms. Dumm, a PR person from Denver's Environmental Health, was quick to suggest that this is a "natural phenomenon." However, reporters don't seem to be asking fifth-grade-level science questions like why, then, this doesn't happen every year at Sloan's Lake, killing off mass numbers of fish when chilly air kills off algae in the lake? People who frequent the lake say they've never seen anything like it before.

City health officials assert that this latest in a string of mass wildlife deaths in Denver is just nature at work. In the absence of any test results, city officials have asserted that "they don't believe the water was contaminated by a toxin."

One man fishing in the lake, David Rice, seemed to have a different view:

"To kill catfish, it's got to be pretty harsh, they survive a lot of things."
Shouldn't we all be assured that the Colorado Division of Wildlife was on the scene? They gathered some of the dead fish for testing at a lab in Brush, Colorado. Never mind that the agency's PR woman, Jennifer Churchill, has kept mum for over eight months about tests this same agency reportedly claimed they were conducting on the massive duck die-off that occurred at Metro Wastewater's sewage ponds last winter. According to one e-mail obtained by the Toxic Sleuth between Ms. Churchill and an inquiring citizen, no testing for contaminants was ever actually performed by the agency, despite newspaper reports that tests were being conducted and would be made public. It's all just been dubbed an unsolved mystery and dropped. Apparently, agency officials hoped it would all be forgotten about by citizens of Denver who care about ducks, our public parks, and public health.

Also curious is that none of the news agencies in Denver have reported anything about the fact that the sole source of the water to Sloan's Lake - the Rocky Mountain Ditch - is operated by a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Coors Company. The ditch originates on the Coors complex between two of its industrial buildings in Golden. In years not so long ago, even an inexperienced reporter would have inquired of Coors or state officials if they might have had a toxic release that meandered down their ditch to enter the lake at precisely the point were all the fish were dying. The question certainly should be asked, since Coors' illegal toxic release incidents have become commonplace over the last couple of decades, killing hundreds, even thousands of fish downstream from their industrial operations.

In one massive fish kill in 2000, the deaths were documented to have been caused by illegal discharges from Coors where the contaminated wastes displaced oxygen in the water, thereby killing the fish. In that incident, the Colorado Division of Wildlife filed suit in Jefferson County District Court against the Coors Brewing Co. to recover the value of more than 50,000 fish killed as a result of the discharge of highly polluted, oxygen-depleting contaminants into the water, killing fish from the plant's discharge outlet to more than seven miles downstream on Clear Creek. And Colorado's fish aren't the only ones who should be concerned about Coors discharges; those below their plant in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia also need to be on the lookout for what's upstream.

And if Coors did have such an illegal release related to the Sloan's Lake fish kill, would we ever learn of it? Not likely, thanks to a law Coors themselves engineered and maneuvered into State of Colorado law after three tries in the early 1990's. Termed the "polluter amnesty bill" by environmentally-concerned opponents, under the measure polluters can now keep the lid on any environmental crime as long as they self-report it to the state health department. If they do so, the state health department then must keep mum about it, and deny any any inquiring citizens access to any report, testing results or communications about it, even under open records laws.

So these days, whenever fish turn up dead, should we just assume it's just another "natural phenomenon," like all the dead ducks all over Denver in recent years?

Fisherman David Rice as he waded near the inlet on the west side of the lake along Sheridan Boulevard and threw dead fish upon the banks told the Rocky Mountain News,
"I'm a nature person, and I don't like seeing fish dying. This is sad. I've been here 22 years, and I've never seen anything like this. When fish come up to you asking for help, you know there's trouble."

Who will speak for the fish? And the ducks? And the rest of us? Something's fishy in Denver, and it's up to us as a community to get to the bottom of it, where all the muck is.

Photo credit: KUSA Channel 9 News