Tags: colorado mine | EPA | waste | spill | animas river | orange

Colorado EPA Mine Waste Spill Turns Animas River Orange

Colorado EPA Mine Waste Spill Turns Animas River Orange
People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., in water colored from a mine waste spill. (Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP)

By    |   Monday, 10 August 2015 12:06 PM

A state of emergency has been declared in Southern Colorado after mine waste was accidentally released into the Animas River by a federal cleanup crew, turning the river orange.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been working on cleaning up waste at the Gold King Mine, near Durango, Colorado in La Plata County, when a plug was accidentally knocked out of place with heavy equipment the EPA was using last Wednesday, CNN is reporting.

As a result, officials believe that about 3 million gallons of waste spilled out into the Animas River, USA Today reports. It was originally believed that the spill included 1 million gallons of waste, which included heavy metals such as iron, zinc and copper. Local residents were told by the EPA to avoid the river.

According to USA Today, 500 gallons of waste continue to be discharged per minute, an EPA official said.

The EPA is also reporting that arsenic levels in the Animas River in the Durango area reached 300 times the normal level and that lead was at 3,500 times the normal level. However, those levels have dropped as the waste has moved out of the area.

EPA official Deborah McKean said that "it's not just a matter of toxicity of the chemicals, it's a matter of exposure."

La Plata County Manager Joe Kerby explained that the decision to declare a state of emergency in the area was done "due to the serious nature of the incident and to convey the grave concerns that local elected officials have to ensure that all appropriate levels of state and federal resources are brought to bear to assist our community not only in actively managing this tragic incident but also to recover from it."

The orange water then headed for the Colorado, New Mexico border where the Animas River meets the San Juan River. USA Today is reporting that restrictions are also in place in New Mexico, along the river.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez toured the damage and told a CNN affiliate that "the magnitude of it, you can't even describe it."

She also blasted the EPA for not notifying state officials sooner, saying she first heard about it from the Southern Ute Tribe. The EPA contacted New Mexico almost 24 hours after the spill occurred.

"It's completely irresponsible for the EPA not to have informed New Mexico immediately," she said.

Federal and state officials are testing private domestic wells as well as public drinking water systems.

Paul Huter of the Free Patriot Post called the accident "an example of government overreach into an area that it has no business doing business in," adding that "when the government steps in, this is what happens — matters are made much worse."

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A state of emergency has been declared in Southern Colorado after mine waste was accidentally released into the Animas River by a federal cleanup crew, turning the river orange.
colorado mine, EPA, waste, spill, animas river, orange
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2015-06-10
Monday, 10 August 2015 12:06 PM
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