The ecological and human health threats associated with the Gold King Mine spill were fairly minor throughout. Even during the spill, when the river was turned mustard, there weren’t many severe health risks. Based upon the concentration of the metals in the river gathered by the EPA, almost every metal was below the health standards for exposure, agriculture, etc.. However, the amounts of lead in the river during the plume exceeded the drinking water standard. This implies that the amount of lead in the river made the water unsafe to drink while the plume was still in the vicinity. However, after the plume passed, no metals exceeded the health standards for water. The data suggests that the river water was unsafe for drinking during the plume, but is now completely safe for activity.
In order to improve the water quality in the Animas River watershed, the pH of the water must be raised. This is due to the fact that low pH levels indicate a high amount of acidity in water. In liquids of high acidity, metals are much more soluble and prone to becoming toxic. If the pH of the water is raised, these metals are less likely to be dissolved and therefore less dangerous to humans and other life. Raising the pH of the water can be done by adding a base, which counteracts the acidity and raises alkalinity. Calcium hydroxide is the most common base used for water treatment, as it raises pH quickly and safely.
Scientists have an important obligation to communicate scientific data to the public in understandable manners. The scientific process of the Animas River watershed was done in a poor manner. Many people in the Durango area were confused and outraged at the mysterious mustard seeping into the river. If experts on the situation had quickly come out with the data and information in a concise and simple manner, the reaction would’ve been much less negative and confused. It is an aspect of a scientist’s job to communicate his findings to the less informed public and help them to understand how the world works around them.
The largest shift of my understanding of scientific processes and data is that scientists rarely ever “find” things. Graphs and experiment may suggest occurrences in the world, but nothing is ever concrete. The data collected by the EPA during the spill suggested that the plume reached a certain portion of the river at an exact time. However, an important understanding was that points were only taken before and after the plume had reached that point, and the plume may have reached the area any time between those two points. Throughout the labs we have done in chemistry and the numerous data sets analyzed, I have come to a greater understanding of how the scientific process may suggest ways the world works, but further research is required to know for certain.