In 1998, California held hundreds of events to mark the sesquicentennial of the Gold Rush. There were gold-panning competitions, re-enactments of the Pony Express Ride and tours of working gold mines. It was after this celebration that many of the harmful environmental effects of the gold rush, and mining were brought to light. The EPA learned that the Polar Star Mine had been abandoned with four pounds of gold and forty pounds of mercury. It was at that point the realization hit that mercury contamination was indeed from mining and not air pollution as was earlier thought.
Hydraulic mining was prohibited in 1884 when it was discovered that the mining resulted in worsened flood conditions and also destroyed farmland. It wasn’t known until much later that Hydraulic mining also left behind a huge amount of arsenic, mercury, cyanide and acid which contaminated the ground-waters, soil, rivers and lakes. There is much debate raging over how to handle the now generations old continuing contamination and environmental effects first started by the 1849 gold rush. The amount and severity of the poisons and harmful chemicals and minerals left by mining may never be erased. Some want a more pro-active than reactive approach by the government to clean up the contamination, although whether this can be done completely and successfully remains to be seen.
With the bicentennial of the Gold rush coming in 2049, State officials are scrambling to come up with solutions to the contamination problems and environmental effects left as a result of hydraulic mining. Instead of the state being romanticized as it once was for the gold rush, it is now being criticized. The gold rush will forever be a part of history, and the current government wants its legacy to be one of correcting the problems brought on by the historic period.