Hudson, a 1,500-person pit-stop town about 30 miles east of Boulder, has a small community fishing pond. On a recent Saturday morning, about two dozen fishermen picked spots around the lake to drop their lines. The fish were biting. Ted Collins said everyone was catching trout. He said he’s been taking home one more than he should the last few weeks because the stock seemed so ample.
I asked if he was catching any largemouth bass. Why, he asked. I said because the state just relocated a bunch of them to this fishing pond from Valmont Reservoir, which is owned by Xcel Energy and has been used to settle harmful water contaminants from the company’s coal production for decades, and has a longer history of arsenic and lead contamination from the site’s former neighbor, Allied Chemical. Oh, and it was nearly a Superfund site.
You’re kidding, he said.
Neither the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) nor Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) tested the fish for contaminants before the latter group relocated 1,600 of them from Valmont Reservoir to Hudson and catch-and-release waters in Boulder County. Fish raised in similar circumstances — that is, in bodies of water on or near coal-fired plants — have been found to contain levels of selenium, mercury, lead and other contaminants toxic to animals up and down the aquatic food chain, and which would likely be harmful to humans who consume them. One, like Ted Collins, might think fish from these waters would be tested before relocation.
Yet, “Valmont Reservoir was not prioritized for sampling,” ends a statement sent to Boulder Weekly signed by multiple people in the state Water Quality Control Division.