Josephine County Arsenic Eco-Scare
A number of persons, including Joseph Rice of Oath Keepers, have frightened many residents of Josephine County by alleging extreme levels of arsenic in the waterways threatening their drinking and irrigation water. The removal of the Fielder Dam on Evans Creek drained a long-standing pond behind it, leaving behind the sediment deposits. Rice's alarming call for a "toxic spill response team" was accompanied by pictures of dead fish and brown stains on the surface of a puddle, none of which were a result of toxins. (Oath Keepers Josephine County News Page archived 2015-11-24 *) These 'trash' fish, an invasive species who lived their entire lives among the supposedly toxic sediments, died from a simple lack of water when the dam was removed. The brown stain is the result of a common iron-eating bacterium.
The Alleged Threat
Arsenic and other toxins were alleged to be a danger to the water downstream. Joseph Rice and associates claimed that tests indicated toxic levels thousands of times higher than the EPA safety limit. A politically well-connected company secured a multi-year contract to perform testing. The first year of the contract would cost the taxpayers of Josephine County, Oregon over $135,000 for testing of locations only twice a year.
Citizens noticing the extreme claims became concerned about the validity of the test results. Their own testing of the water, including at the alleged source of contamination, has revealed a level of arsenic classed as "Non Detectable", or less than 1 part per billion. This is well below EPA safety limits. These follow-up tests were performed through the most accredited lab in Southern Oregon, Neilson Research Corporation.
This page is dedicated to providing you with information on the sampling, lab analyses, and the events surrounding the awarding of the testing contract. The Commissioners have since rescinded the contract, in light of the results of this citizen performed testing.
Video: Testing the Waters
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To verify that test samples were delivered without tampering, further tests were performed with oversight by local public figures. Many thanks to the following for devoting their time and effort to ensuring the safety of Josephine County residents.
Roy Lindsay - City Councilman
In response to the alarmist rhetoric, Councilman Roy Lindsay visited the Grants Pass water treatment facility to inquire about arsenic levels. He was informed that testing showed only trace amounts, well below safety limits. Roy Lindsay then accompanied our testing crew to escort a sample of raw river water from collection to delivery to the testing lab. Result: no arsenic.
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Mike Jones - Media Personality
Providing front-line media coverage of this and other hot issues with Dale Matthews at BadCounty.com, Mike Jones doesn't mind getting his hands dirty and his feet wet. Due to the sensitivity of this topic, Mike wanted to ensure he was reporting accurately by personally escorting a test sample from source to lab. He and Laurie chose the morning after a very heavy rainfall, when creeks and rivers were swollen and full of sediment. The cloudiness of the water washing down from the former Fielder Dam site indicated the presence of sediments in the water. Two samples were taken, one to be filtered and one to remain unfiltered to ensure both water and the insoluble sediments in the water would be measured. Result: no detectable arsenic in either water or sediments.
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This research has been performed by Josephine County residents concerned about the safety of their water supply as well as the spending of tax revenues on apparently unnecessary and exaggerated causes. This diversion of funds away from vital law enforcement needs would have put the county residents in direct jeopardy and could have well resulted in direct harm to residents who could not be protected in a timely manner.
* The footer of the Josephine County Oath Keepers website contains the phrase "Website Donated By Viken Nokhoudian". This was added by Joseph Rice and his webmaster, Bruce McFarland, long after Viken Nokhoudian left the group and after he insisted his company logo be removed. Adding Viken's name against his wishes is an apparent attempt to associate his name, instead of the site's current authors, with the propaganda presented on the website. Oath Keepers refuse to remove Viken's name despite his written demand they do so.