Dear Polluted-water Drinker,
I fear that the smelting plant may not have been as inconsequential as you'd hoped. The Great Salt Lake is notorious for being extremely polluted. In fact, mercury levels in its fish have been found to be so high that authorities have deemed the fish unfit for human consumption. Now, how did mercury levels get to be so high? According to the Nevada Conservation League Education Fund's website
Modern gold mining, or hardrock mining, entails crushing many tons of rock in order to obtain the ore containing the precious metal. It is not uncommon for a modern gold mine to extract 60 tons of rock to yield just one ounce of gold. However, the ore that contains gold flakes also contains mercury, so the crushed rock containing the gold must be processed to further extract the mineral. To separate the mercury from the gold, the ore is heated to extremely high temperatures in a process called smelting. Because mercury is more volatile than other materials (it evaporates quickly), it is burned off into the atmosphere, while gold or other metals remain. Airborne mercury is then carried to surrounding communities or is swept downwind to other communities â€“ some even far beyond Nevadá’s borders. Scientists have reported that airborne mercury is carried downwind to Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and perhaps other states. In one lake near Twin Falls, Idaho, for example, researchers found mercury levels at 150 times more than those found in lakes in the northeast United States, where environmentalists have concerns about mercury from power plants. In Utah, U.S. Geological Survey researchers found mercury concentrations in the Great Salt Lake to be among the highest recorded in surface water.
Now, this quote not only reminds us how bad the mercury is in the Great Salt Lake, but it also would indicate that drinking any water near a smelting plant may not be the wisest of ideas, particularly if the smelting plant processes gold. I looked up some information about the Bingham Canyon mine, and found that it produces copper, silver, molybdenum, and, you guessed it, gold.
Now that we've established the high mercury content of the Great Salt Lake, let's take a look at your symptoms. You said that you experienced some numbness and tingling around your lips and on the tip of your tongue. I looked at a webpage
from the FDA's website about the consumption of mercury-contaminated fish. According to them, "The types of symptoms reflect the degree of exposure. Paresthesia (numbness and tingling sensations around the lips, fingers and toes) usually is the first symptom." They go on to talk about all of the scary symptoms that can follow it. Now, if you've experienced any of these (particularly the death-related one), I'd imagine you would have mentioned it. I also imagine that you couldn't have been exposed to that much mercury with your little taste. Still, I would definitely recommend that you consult your doctor
. This information may very well prove to be irrelevant to what you experienced (I sure hope it does!), but I definitely think you need to make sure.
For the rest of you out there who are reading this post, allow me to emphasize the following: Do not taste the Great Salt Lake!
I hope everything turns out well.