Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water
With two states still fighting over Colorado River water, it’s unclear if the Salton Sea’s final outcome will be decided this spring.
A federal judge’s ruling last month on the Colorado River water dispute between Arizona and Nevada raised doubt over a pending plan to clean up the last polluted stretch of the Colorado River’s delta at the Salton Sea, a water body that has attracted public health concerns because of pollution dating back to the Gold Rush days.
The Nevada-Arizona dispute threatens to delay action over Salton Sea cleanup, according to attorneys working on a legal settlement between the two states.
Lawyers are at work negotiating a deal over the Salton Sea cleanup that involves Arizona, California, Nevada and the federal government. The process may take months, and the last deadline to sign off on a deal is Friday.
“We’re talking about the last of the Salton Sea area to clean up, and that’s significant,” said Todd Parzen of the Environmental Working Group, who is working on behalf of environmental groups in the Salton Sea area.
Since the 1970s, millions of tons of toxic and hazardous waste have been dumped into the Salton Sea to remove selenium and other pollutants that have a harmful effect on human health and the environment. The selenium, a dangerous carcinogen, also causes the reproductive system to develop birth defects.
The Salton Sea has been toxic for decades, but state officials first discovered it as a result of contamination from Gold Rush days. The selenium has continued to be a threat to humans and the environment, according to a study funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and released April 3, and a report by the nonprofit California Center for Environmental Research and Policy issued on the same day.
A court settlement between the two states would require Arizona and Nevada to pay about $1.2 billion toward the cleanup, according to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting; the agencies involved would work together on the cleanup of the Salton Sea along with the federal government and the state of California.
The issue of the Salton Sea cleanup has become a major concern for those who live and work in the area, including