Ban on Underwater Dredging in California

Topics: California Gold Rush, Dredging, United States Environmental Protection Agency Pages: 3 (855 words) Published: April 23, 2012
Ban on Underwater Dredging in California
Steven R. Neubauer

Ban on Underwater Dredging in California
This great state of California was founded as a result of the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in January 1848. The modern day prospector is under attack by various environmentalist groups that have declared war on suction dredges. A suction dredge is a mechanical underwater vacuum cleaner that sucks up gravel, sand from the bottom of river ways, and passes these items through a sluice box that uses specially designed riffles to create low pressure zones that trap heavy minerals based on their weight. Jonathan Evans, under the nonprofit organization the Center for Biological Diversity, has written an article using sensationalism while citing distorted facts. This article conveys the message that mining for gold in California’s waterways, using a dredge is environmentally harmful to drinking water, fish, amphibians, songbirds, and causes adverse changes in American Indian cultural and historical resources (Jonathan Evans, 2012).

The statement that dredging is harmful to drinking water backs up the authors claim that dredging stirs up mercury that has settled in California’s waterways as a consequence of historic mining. Mercury is a naturally occurring metal from Cinnabar. Mercury has a density of 13.5 where Gold has a density of 19, this density or weight is used to keep heavy metals in a sluice box. The US Geological Survey Study performed in 2010 could not find any trace emissions of mercury from a running dredge, using test equipment measuring in parts per trillion (Monde Labe, 2012). To further back up the fact that dredging removes mercury from waterways, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with California's Division of Toxic Substance Control worked together In August and September 2000 and conducted the first mercury hazardous materials turn-in where they collected 230 pounds of mercury (Environmental Protection Agency,...
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