(Contaminated wastewater is seen at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colo., in this picture released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The photo was taken Wednesday; the plume of contaminated water has continued to work its way downstream. Reuters /Landov)
In an event that has led to health warnings and turned a river orange, the Environmental Protection Agency says one of its safety teams accidentally released contaminated water from a mine into the Animas River in southwest Colorado.
The spill, which sent heavy metals, arsenic and other contaminants into a waterway that flows into the San Juan National Forest, occurred Wednesday. The EPA initially said 1 million gallons of wastewater had been released, but that figure has risen sharply.
From member station KUNC, Stephanie Paige Ogburn reports for our Newscast unit:
“The EPA now estimates 3 million gallons of wastewater spilled from the mine into the Animas River. They also confirmed lead concentrations had spiked over 3,500 times historic levels just above the town of Durango. “Debra McKean, a toxicologist with the agency, says levels peak and then decrease as the contamination flows downriver. ” ‘Yes, those numbers are high and they are scary because they seem so high,’ she said, ‘especially compared to the baseline numbers.’ “New test results show significant increases in arsenic levels, and some mercury has been detected. Durango and La Plata County have declared a state of emergency.”
Officials are warning residents, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts to avoid the water. The spill occurred at Cement Creek, releasing contaminants that will eventually make their way downstream to New Mexico and Arizona via the Colorado River.
Read more here.