Quantcast

1 Million Gallons of Mine Waste Turns River in Colorado Orange

The Animas River in southwest Colorado turned bright orange on Wednesday after a mining and safety team working on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spilled a million gallons of mine waste from the abandoned Gold King Mine in San Juan County.

The sediment plume in Durango, Colorado. The river is an important secondary source of water for the city.
Photo credit: La Plata County Emergency Management

According to the AP, the team was working with heavy equipment to secure an entrance to mine when they accidentally triggered the large gush that reportedly caused the Cement Creek's water levels to rise two to three feet.

"The project was intended to pump and treat the water and reduce metals pollution flowing out of the mine," EPA spokesman Rich Mylott said in a statement.

San Juan County health officials said that the acidic mine water associated with the release contains high levels of sediment and metals. EPA teams are conducting sampling and visual observations and monitoring river conditions over the next several days.

David Ostrander, director of EPA's emergency response program in Denver, informed the AP there is no threat to drinking water from the spill, however downstream water agencies were warned to avoid Animas water until the plume passes. Ostrander noted that the acidic sludge could irritate the skin.

In a precautionary measure, nearby residents have been warned by local officials to avoid consuming the water as the deluge made its way to La Plata County, Colorado yesterday. In particular, the city of Durango—which uses the river as a secondary source of water during the summer—has been advised to stop pumping raw water from the river, the Durango Herald reported.

The deluge making its way down the Animas River.
Photo credit: La Plata County Emergency Management

Steve Salka, Durango's utilities director, told the publication that residents need to conserve as much water as possible over the next few days until the water is safe to use.

Read page 1

The Animas River has also been temporarily closed to all watercraft and other flotation devices from the north county line (San Juan County, Colorado) to the south county line (at the Colorado/New Mexico State line).

“This decision was made in the interest of public health after consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, San Juan Basin Health Department and representatives of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe,” advised Sheriff Sean Smith. “This Order shall remain in effect until it is determined that the river is safe. EPA test results of the Animas River are expected within 24-48 hours, and the Order will be re-evaluated at that time.”

As the spill heads down river to New Mexico, officials in the city of Farmington "have shut down water-supply intake pumps to avoid contamination and advised citizens to stay out of the river until the discoloration has passed," according to the AP.

San Juan County Emergency Manager Don Cooper said residents should not panic because the EPA had told the county the spill would not harm people, adding that the primary pollutants were iron and zinc, The Farmington Daily Times reported.

"It's not going to look pretty, but it's not a killer," Cooper told the paper.

The impact on wildlife is currently unknown, as there are no fish in the Cement Creek watershed because of longstanding problems with water quality, the EPA told The Durango Herald.

Still, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has placed fish inside cages in the Animas River to see if the pollution affects them. "We'll see if those fish survive," spokesman Joe Lewandowski told the publication. "We're also monitoring to make sure we don't get infiltration into the hatchery, because that could be a problem."

Check out drone footage of the contamination in the video below:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Starbucks, Destroyer of the Seas

Startling Footage of California Reservoirs Shows Devastating Impact of Epic Drought

Toxic Floods From Coal Mines and Power Plants Hit Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay World Heritage Site

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Indigenous people of various ethnic groups protest calling for demarcation of lands during the closing of the 'Red January - Indigenous Blood', in Paulista Avenue, in São Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 31, 2019. Cris Faga / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Raphael Tsavkko Garcia

Rarely has something so precious fallen into such unsafe hands. Since Jair Bolsonaro took the Brazilian presidency in 2019, the Amazon, which makes up 10 percent of our planet's biodiversity and absorbs an estimated 5 percent of global carbon emissions, has been hit with a record number of fires and unprecedented deforestation.

Read More
Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Washington on May 12, 2017. GLENN CHAPMAN / AFP via Getty Images

Microsoft announced ambitious new plans to become carbon negative by 2030 and then go one step further and remove by 2050 all the carbon it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975, according to a company press release.

Read More
Sponsored
Nestlé is accelerating its efforts to bring functional, safe and environmentally friendly packaging solutions to the market and to address the global challenge of plastic packaging waste. Nestlé / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Nestlé, the world's largest food company, said it will invest up to $2 billion to address the plastic waste crisis that it is largely responsible for.

Read More
Yellow soft shell D-vitamin capsule held to the sun. Helin Loik-Tomson / iStock / Getty Images

By Margherita T. Cantorna

Winter is upon us and so is the risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections. Vitamin D, which is made in our skin following sunlight exposure and also found in oily fish (mackerel, tuna and sardines), mushrooms and fortified dairy and nondairy substitutes, is essential for good health. Humans need vitamin D to keep healthy and to fight infections. The irony is that in winter, when people need vitamin D the most, most of us are not getting enough. So how much should we take? Should we take supplements? How do we get more? And, who needs it most?

Read More
The common murre population in Alaska has been decimated by an ocean heatwave. Linda Burek / iStock / Getty Images Plus

An expanse of uncommonly warm seawater in the Pacific Ocean created by a marine heatwave led to a mass die-off of one million seabirds, scientists have found.

Read More