Letters — 14 September 2019
Research professor warns about disrupting sediments in the New River without study first

Dear Editor,

We are sharing information received from Dr. Guy Lanza, Research Professor, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology (ESF), State University of New York, Syracuse, NY whom we have consulted over the years concerning the Chalillo Dam and the Macal River.

Yesterday, we sent him a copy of the government press release, “Department of the Environment Provides Update on the New River Situation”. He contacted us today saying that the disruption of the sediments in the New River could release other toxic elements trapped in the sediments. He warned that, “They really should sample and analyze the sediments before they aerate to get some sense of the danger to the health of the people and the ecosystem.”

He has been involved in research, teaching, curriculum development, and consulting in the environmental sciences for more than 30 years, including ecotoxicology, environmental impact assessment, applied and environmental microbiology, aquatic ecology, and water quality and speaks with a lot of on-the-ground experience under his belt.

This is what he said:

Well, the aeration is a “last ditch effort” to quickly add oxygen to the contaminated water. Of course, the prior history of no enforcement of the effluents regulations — I assume DOE has effluent regulations for sugar plants — is the cause of the oxygen deficiency.

I’m sure that there is a lot of hydrogen sulfide built up in the sediment due to the eutrophication process that has been accelerated by their pollution. We have warned DOE about this in our earlier reports about the ecological risks of low dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water of the Chalillo dam and the Macal River — especially near the bottom muds where the hydrogen sulfide is stored/trapped.

The aerators they plan to use could stir up the sediments and release the toxic hydrogen sulfide gas — but not just to the air. The hydrogen sulfide will first be released to the water and then on to the air. It could introduce toxicity to both the aquatic food web and the people and animals close to the release point in the river. Also, the disruption of the sediments could release other toxic elements trapped in the sediments — arsenic, zinc, cadmium, lead, etc. and greenhouse gases like methane.

They really should sample and analyze the sediments before they aerate to get some sense of the danger to the health of the people and the ecosystem.

He added:
Oh, and I should have mentioned the pathogens and their indicator organisms (coliforms) that could also be released.

His contact information is as follows:
E-mail address: [email protected]
Mobile: 413- 687-7685

We hope that his words are heeded and testing is done before possibly making matters worse. We also want to remind people that everything that happens in our rivers and watersheds ultimately impacts the Reef, as that is where the rivers flow to.

George & Dr. Candy Gonzalez
BELPO
501-824-2476

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