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Salton Sea in imminent danger of drying up, becoming toxic waste dump

Salton Sea fish kill

Salton Sea fish kill

The Salton Sea is a large, saline lake in southern California in a baking desert. It is a primary path for migratory birds who eat the fish there. It regularly has fish die-offs and in the summer it reeks. Seriously. It is definitely a weird place.

It was formed in modern times when an aqueduct failed in 1905, flooding the area. Since the water can not drain, the salinity builds up over time. Worse, agricultural runoff and waste from polluted rivers in Mexico flowing into it causes massive fish kills. In summer when temperatures can easily hit 110 F, there can be a major stench.

It is seriously in peril. Water levels are dropping making the water ever more saline. Even tilapia fish will no longer be able to live in it. If water levels recede as predicted it will, in effect, become a toxic waste dump.

While the sea level is dropping, some 25 to 50 square miles of seabed will become immediately exposed. This area, currently underwater, is essentially toxic because of decades of agricultural, commercial and industrial wastewater finding its way into the sea through the Alamo, New and Whitewater rivers. As the exposed sea bottom dries out, winds will carry minute particles of these toxins to the surrounding populations of the Coachella and Imperial valleys as well as to the large population, well over 1 million people, just across the border in Mexico.

There are a number of ways the Salton Sea could be saved. Doing so will require political will and many millions of dollars. Whether this happens is unknown.

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