The Prospect Worries about Hikers
; Advises, “just stay in the city where it’s safe.”
The “Sierra Fund” recently issued a report that states many trails in the Sierra mountains are contaminated because they cross old mine sites. According to the report, hikers, mountain bikers, OHV riders and those on horseback are exposed to higher than safe levels of lead, arsenic and asbestos. The group encourages the Forest Circus to clean up those mines in the Sierra.
Lead, arsenic and especially asbestos are common in the mountains of California and Nevada.
Arsenic, a very common naturally occurring element which is not a metal, but which behaves in ways like a metal, is an odd and interesting substance. It is highly toxic, though it is used by nature in many ways, and by humans in many more. Human activity such as mining, farming, and burning fossil fuels releases arsenic and sometimes concentrates it. Breathing dust containing the most unstable and lethal forms is deadly. It is not water soluble in the elemental form but salts of arsenic slowly poison users of untreated wells throughout the west and particularly the southwest.
Lead is a common naturally occurring element which is toxic particularly to growing children. It exists in many forms and is also released through burning of fossil fuels.
Asbestos is a reference to a family of silicate rocks distinguished by long fibers. Serpentine is a beautiful and very common form of asbestos; it is readily available on the West Side of the county. Four-fifth of California counties have significant naturally occurring asbestos and it is a significant air pollutant in nearby Eldorado County.
All of these minerals pose a health hazard to people who hike, bike, ride OHVs or ride horses for pleasure, and so the Sierra Fund wants these mines cleaned up. The mines which are superfund sites all over the United States, great open pit copper mines, massive heap-leach gold mines, these can wait. This reporter knows of a retired gold mine which for many years had a settling pond which was brilliant blue. It was more blue than any lagoon, and it always beckoned; only the complete lack of life or vegetation warned most living critters off. There are people in rural Nevada who live in the dust of active pit mines. There are coal-mining families all over the U.S. who live with radioactivity and sulfur compounds which greatly reduce the length of their lives.
But, it is the scattered mines of the Sierra that have to be “cleaned up” for hikers, mountain bikers, OHV riders and equestrians.
This week Sierra County again endured the Forest Service’s use of documents to deprive people of their property and destroy local landmarks. When they are done, while we local people will have lost something, hikers, bikers, OHV riders and horseyback riders will be safer.
Your Fringe Editor is not content with that. There is no way to clean up the wilderness enough to protect hikers, bikers, and so on. The Yuba shimmers with mercury and the hills are filled with deadly holes. Our advice: stay home. Hike and ride in the city, where the air is free of poisons. Drink from the pure streams of Los Angeles.
On the other hand, should the “Urban Fund” discover there are toxins in the city, I recommend we have the Forest Service (who are already experts) reclaim those cities as they do our old cabins and mine shacks; bulldoze them, load them into dumpsters, take them to the landfill. Don’t stop until all the cities and the lead and arsenic and other pollution they produce is demolished and replanted with trees.
After all, we owe it to the hikers, bikers, OHV riders and equestrians.
This report is yet more evidence that we in the Sierra need to worry about any group with “Sierra” in the name.
Rules for Exploring Mines from the Prospect:
(This is a quote from an ex-miner in Nevada who looked through mines for people reported missing: “Dumbass plus beer plus flashlight equals $35 an hour for me.”)
Read the original report HERE