Silent witnesses

How geochemistry tells about climate and environments

Gold(schmidt) Rush

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Low water levels in Folsom Lake

One of the nice things about Sacramento is that, unlike LA, it has real rivers, with water in them and levees along them. This week I enjoyed a few beautiful morning runs along the American River, where there is a bicycle path on the levee. I almost felt at home!

As there were no oral sessions on Wednesday afternoon, we took the opportunity to explore the area some more and went to Folsom Lake, a reservoir in the American River about 40 km northeast of Sacramento. The on-going drought was very visible in water levels about 15 m lower than normal. Still, it is a beautiful area, and swimming was great.

Today’s plenary speakers Andrea Foster and Christopher Kim spoke about “The Environmental Legacy of California’s Gold Rush: Arsenic and Mercury Contamination from Historic Mining”. They noted that Thursday might be too late in the week to warn us for the widespread contamination with Hg and As.

Indeed, reading up on Folsom Lake I found out it flooded a mining town, Mormon Island, which has recently been exposed for the first time in 55 years because of the drought. Assuming the mine and its tailings are also under that lake, I might indeed have had second thoughts about swimming! However, apparently it is safe to eat the fish caught there, so I’m not too worried.

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