Acclaimed conservationist David Suzuki shares gruesome details of Virginia swimming incident

Acclaimed conservationist David Suzuki was among several people posting on social media about a devastating drowning earlier this month at the Little Elk River State Park near Charlottesville, Virginia. The drownings triggered allegations about…

Acclaimed conservationist David Suzuki shares gruesome details of Virginia swimming incident

Acclaimed conservationist David Suzuki was among several people posting on social media about a devastating drowning earlier this month at the Little Elk River State Park near Charlottesville, Virginia.

The drownings triggered allegations about mining underneath the river. The allegations, posted by Indigenous Rights Watch and on several other social media accounts, said their followers in the forests of north-central Virginia and southwest Virginia reported illegally cutting and hauling tons of the radioactive waste-laden copper into the Little Elk River.

Wise Owutu, a group of Lakota who have been raising concerns about contaminated water for decades, have joined in on the accusations that accuse state-run mines and waste disposal facilities of poisoning the water with the radioactive metal selenium.

The National Indigenous Fisheries Center, an organization dedicated to protecting fish populations, advocates for a ban on copper mining. Spokesman Trevor Rayo said Friday the environmental group is working with Wise Owutu on reviewing a new federal report that was published last year that concluded that wetland areas near toxic copper mines are full of birds and other wild animals, too.

Rayo said the federal report shows toxic metals do not harm birds, fish and other wildlife with unrestricted discharge. But according to Wise Owutu representatives, they saw a fish with badly swollen legs that would not have died from an aquatic fish infection if the contaminated water had not polluted the streams where the fish live.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management in Virginia, Dan Eaton, said the agency has never found toxic selenium levels high enough to affect aquatic life, and said the report is a government effort to protect public health and the environment.

“We’re going to take anything that comes forward and it’s their responsibility to identify where this water is and do the appropriate testing,” Eaton said.

It’s unknown how much selenium ends up in the Little Elk, but it has been shown to cause kidney disease and cancer in cancer patients. More than 11 million pounds of the metal have been illegally dumped into the water in North Dakota, Montana and Utah, according to the EPA.

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