Wednesday, January 29, 2003
By NANCY BRIGHT
Special to the News
Wy’east Middle School and Pine Grove Elementary School students drink Crystal Springs water. Over 5,000 people drink Crystal Springs water. Hood River County residents should know that it is highly likely that Crystal Springs water will be contaminated if Mt. Hood Meadows builds a destination resort and golf course at Cooper Spur. Even if there is no further development at Cooper Spur the present development poses a risk of contaminating this vital water source.
The soil and volcanic debris that underlie most of the land Mt. Hood Meadows now owns and the area it leases from the Forest Service is highly permeable. Highly permeable means any contaminants such as diesel, gasoline, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, paint thinners, antifreeze, etc., will be carried by percolating precipitation down through the soil and the volcanic debris. Percolating means the movement of water through small openings within a porous material.
Percolating water with contaminants will stop percolating when they meet the nearly impermeable surface of the Dalles Formation. Then contaminants will be channeled, just as the water is, by the ancient valleys eroded in the Dalles Formation to the outlets: Crystal Springs and related springs.
The Mt. Hood Meadows developers have claimed their activities will not affect Crystal Springs water. However, no plan for protecting Crystal Springs has been proposed.
Is this destination resort going to be an eco-resort, certified organic? Is the golf course going to be a certified organic golf course? Are the machines grooming the grounds, golf course, private residence yards, and the slopes going to operate on natural gas? Are the gas tanks and diesel tanks for heating and the rumored gas station going to be installed in impermeable containment bunkers and all the piping above ground where any leak would be immediately detected?
If the destination resort is not going to be a certified organic eco-resort, then what?
Is Mt. Hood Meadows going to pay for all the very expensive additional analysis the Crystal Springs Water District will have to do to ensure that any chemical contamination will be detected before the contaminated water is drunk by Crystal Springs customers?
What will the two schools and over 5,000 people do for water when Crystal Springs water does become contaminated? They will still need clean drinking water while they wait for a treatment system, which would remove chemical contamination, to be designed and built?
Is Mt. Hood Meadows going to pay for the treatment system? Even if a treatment system were installed it wouldn’t really be a long term solution.
Another scenario is that a replacement water supply would be developed following contamination of Crystal Springs. Is Mt. Hood Meadows going to put $3-5 million in escrow to finance the development of a replacement water supply? If that sum seems high, you should talk to the City of White Salmon Public Works director who recently shepherded in a new water supply.
If you think that contamination of water supplies doesn’t happen then I suggest you talk to the City of Portland water department. Many of the wells in their well field are unusable because the water has become contaminated. That is why they are dependent on the clean water of Mt. Hood.
If you think that contamination of water supplies only happens in cities then you should talk to the people who live in the little town of Spray, Oregon. After their city well was contaminated by gasoline, Spray residents got their water out of water tanks on wheels until a new water source could be developed. Could this tiny town afford developing the new well? No. The state, meaning you and I, picked up most of the tab.
It seems to me the preservation and protection of a clean drinking water source supplying two schools and over 5,000 Hood River County residents should take precedence over development. The balance sheet pens out in favor of protection.
Nancy Bright lives in Parkdale.