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How do we behave when Source presents itself?

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Life arises from the mother of waters, from Source. Life ignites when fire enters water. Children grow, give form to water, stand tall, walk, begin to run and speak. Being a child in this valley can be a blessing. Dwelling on Earth is a sacred gift involving relationships and responsibilities. 

Source water is the essence of life; however, because of her unconditional acceptance, she is easily contaminated and polluted. Ideally, water’s feminine nature benefits from a mature fire of masculine vigilance guarding the circle of life. When accidents happen involving water, a warning is immediately sent to downstream neighbors. Do we remember this wisdom?

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Although the magnitude and consequences of the two following events are very different, there is a pattern. Healthy relationships are sustained when people downstream benefit from being informed of an adverse upstream event, and a posture of mature respectful balance in relating to Source keeps the circle of life healthy, as well as reducing unnecessary risks. In the absence of a warning, trust erodes.

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, the smell of diesel fuel was intense on the bridge. At a distance away from the fumes, I talked with young Dave Meyer of Redoubt Restoration, a contractor from Utah hired to rechannel the Crystal River and improve the public trail on the west side of the stream. 

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Dave grew up in Alaska on the Kenai peninsula as a fisherman. We spoke following a diesel fuel spill into the river where Dave was working with machinery in the water. He did not hesitate, took responsibility for what happened and was apologetic for this event. Despite this spill he hopes to be “doing this work” the rest of his life and reported, “This is the first time — never happened to me before.” 

My father was a fisherman, I was comfortable speaking with Dave. We talked at length and eventually I asked him if he had a relationship with Source water. Dave said, “No,” but expressed a willingness to understand another level of his relationship with water and asked if that might be possible.

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On Aug. 5, 2015, a wastewater spill at the Gold King Mine began near Silverton, Colorado, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with workers for Environmental Restoration LLC, caused the release of toxic waste water into the Animas River watershed. They caused the accident by breaching a tailings dam while attempting to drain ponded water near the entrance of the mine. After the spill, the Silverton Board of Trustees and the San Juan County Commissioners approved a joint resolution seeking Superfund money.

Contractors accidentally destroyed the plug holding water trapped inside the mine, spilling a large quantity of mine waste water and tailings, including heavy metals into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River and part of the San Juan River and Colorado River watershed. The EPA was criticized for not warning Colorado and New Mexico about the operation until the day after the waste water spilled.

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The people of the Navajo Nation report no one notified them of the toxic pollution headed their way from Cement Creek, down the Animas River, the San Juan River and Colorado River.

A Town of Carbondale press release reported that on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023, at approximately 5pm, contractors working on the Crystal River Restoration and Weaver Ditch Efficiency project noticed a sheen around one of the water pumps which was being used to dewater a cofferdam. The contractors immediately isolated the pump with oil booms, oil protection kits and removed the pump that failed. Initial indications were that the sheen was created by diesel fuel that had spilled into the cofferdam. Efforts were made to remove the fuel from the spill area. At approximately 7:45pm, the contractors broke the cofferdam to relieve the water. The contractor then rebuilt the cofferdam and placed turbidity curtains to isolate the site and contacted ECOS Environmental & Disaster Restoration to assist with the cleanup. The contractor also contacted the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, federal and local authorities, Town staff and the project engineer as required by permit and contract documents.

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Respectful, truthful communication is a very old way of sustaining relationships. However, that evening no one notified parents and children playing in the Crystal River downstream from the spill as it glided through Carbondale into the Roaring Fork, a tributary of the Colorado River watershed.

Diesel is a flammable toxic liquid: category 4 acute oral toxicity, aspiration toxicity category 1, carcinogen category 2, skin irritation category 2, specific target organ toxicity exposure category 1. Chemicals are allocated to one of five toxic categories. Category 1 is most toxic with decreasing toxicity as the classification numbers progressively increase. This information can be translated into a simplified example: when a tree is cut down, one cup of diesel fuel poured onto the stump will kill the entire root system below.

Small people, children, pregnant women, as well as men and other creatures are vulnerable to even micro doses of some chemicals.

Confidence recedes when a community is no longer capable of fulfilling basic responsibilities: such as public health, protection, safety-law enforcement, nutrition, justice, education, or economic stability. A recent, Aug. 1, 2023, New York Times/Siena poll reported a significant number of registered voters now perceive America to be in danger of failing as a nation.

Remembering everything is interconnected, on Aug. 13, 2023, elders gathered by the river in Carbondale renewing and affirming our balance in relationship with Source and renewing our commitment to a stature benefitting the life of our watershed as Source presents itself. Dave Meyer was caring for sick children at home and unable to participate. May our larger community, in the future, remember respectful, healthy ways of behaving and communicating with the Crystal River.

Dr. William Evans is the author of “Circulating Source Water” available from local book and gift merchants.

Tags: #Crystal River Restoration #diesel #public health #Redoubt Restoration #Source
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