Sunday, August 9, 2015

Oops! EPA Kills River

EPA crew accidentally turns Animas River orange

More lovely shots, and some drone footage at the link:
A federal cleanup crew accidentally caused a big, and potentially hazardous, mess in Colorado, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. An estimated 1 million gallons of wastewater spilled out of an abandoned mine area in the southern part of the state on Wednesday, turning the Animas River orange and prompting the EPA to tell locals to avoid it.
. . .
According to the EPA, the spill occurred when one of its teams was using heavy equipment to enter the Gold King Mine, a suspended mine near Durango. Instead of entering the mine and beginning the process of pumping and treating the contaminated water inside as planned, the team accidentally caused it to flow into the nearby Animas River. Before the spill, water carrying "metals pollution" was flowing into a holding area outside the mine.

The EPA began testing the Animas River for hazardous materials on Thursday. EPA spokesperson Lisa McClain-Vanderpool said the agency hoped to have preliminary information available throughout Friday and Saturday. Until then, it is not known what the orange, acidic mess might mean for water users and the river's ecosystem.

Officials said they believe the spill carried heavy metals, mainly iron, zinc and copper, from the mine into a creek that feeds into the Animas River. From there, the orange water plugged steadily along through the small stretch of winding river in southern Colorado and across the state border to New Mexico where the Animas meets the San Juan River. The EPA said it will continue to sample water downstream from the mine until the contamination has passed and it determines there are "no additional concerns for aquatic life or water users." When asked if the spill could affect drinking water, the EPA spokesperson said she did not yet know.
I must have missed the part where the EPA apologized for their screw up, and fined themselves a few million bucks to come out of their administrative budget. 

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