Metal-Laced Water Spills from Mine

Monday, August 10, 2015 @ 10:08 AM gHale

Heavy-metal laced wastewater that spilled from Colorado’s Gold King Mine into the Animas River, which turned the water a mucky orange and then yellow, is three times larger than its initial estimate.

Three million gallons spilled into the river Wednesday and Thursday, instead of 1 million, said an official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The revision came after the EPA used a stream gauge from the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Four days after the EPA-caused spill, the agency has been unable to determine whether humans or aquatic life face health risks. However, EPA toxicologist Deborah McKean said the sludge moved so quickly after the spill it would not have “caused significant health effects” to animals that consumed the water.

The discolored water from the spill stretched more than 100 miles from where it originated near Silverton, CO, into the New Mexico municipalities of Farmington, Aztec and Kirtland.

The leading edge of the plume headed toward Utah and Montezuma Creek near the town of Bluff.

Back in Colorado where the spill started, the EPA planned to meet with residents of Durango, downstream from the mine. The EPA water tests near Durango are still being analyzed.

The EPA has not said how long cleanup efforts will take. An EPA-supervised crew tried to enter the mine to pump out and treat the water that caused the spill.