On Wednesday of this week, like so many days of so many other weeks, environmental workers were using heavy equipment to clean up an area near a disused mine. This time, near Durango, Colorado, something went wrong—and approximately one million gallons of mustard-colored mine waste spilled into Cement Creek, which feeds into the Animas River and flows toward New Mexico. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the spill won’t impact drinking water in the area, local and federal officials are warning against water-related recreational activities until the plume of wastewater passes.
The EPA said the goal of the cleanup effort was to pump and treat the wastewater, which contains metals and other sediment, as part of a project to secure the entrance to the Gold King Mine. San Juan County health officials report the EPA crew was working in conjunction with the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety to investigate another contamination when they “unexpectedly triggered a large release of mine waste water into the upper portions of Cement Creek.” The spill turned the river a deep mustard orange shade.
Cement Creek is a tributary of the Animas River, which is a source of water for drinking and irrigation for the nearby city of Durango. When the spill was reported, the city stopped pumping drinking water from the river, turning instead to the unaffected Florida River as an alternate water supply. The Durango Herald further reports the city is taking a break from watering local parks and golf courses until the contamination passes, and residents are being urged to conserve water until health officials can determine there is no longer a threat.
The impact on wildlife is yet unknown, although the EPA has brushed off the possibility this massive spill could cause any widespread problems for animals in the area.
Via The Guardian