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Colorado Governor Drinks Water From Animas River After Historic Mine Waste Spill

Insights + Opinion

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was at the Animas River in Durango, Colorado yesterday, dealing with the ongoing chaos of the acid-mine pollution caused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mistake at the Gold Strike Mine that turned the river a ghoulish orange-yellow color. Gov. Hickenlooper—always a media showboat—decided he was going to drink water out of the Animas River to prove a point that it was safe and as reported by the Durango Herald newspaper he did just that.

The Durango Herald also reported that Gov.Hickenlooper used an iodine tablet in the river water to kill bacteria. However, as a river advocate in Colorado, I would like to assert that Colorado's rivers and streams are a dangerous concoction of pollution including waste from livestock, wildlife, human sewage treatment plants as well as acid-mine drainage and other nasty toxins and so the Governor's behavior—while very media worthy—should not be repeated by the public. As the story reports, the EPA so far refuses to "open" the river to public recreation and rightly so. Acid mine drainage can be invisible as can many pollutants in our nation's lakes, rivers and streams.

Gov. Hickenlooper became famous in 2011 for telling a U.S. Senate Subcommittee that he drank Halliburton's "green" fracking fluid, a behavior that got him the nickname, "Frackenlooper."

Acid mine drainage is very serious, as are many of the serious health consequences of ingesting water out of rivers and streams in Colorado and across the nation. Gov. Hickenlooper is famous for making Colorado "open for business," but I highly encourage the public not to make your intestinal tract "open for business" by mimicking the Governor's behavior. Wait for the EPA and public health officials to open the river for recreation and then get out on the water again. But don't drink the water!

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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