EPA Mine Investigation Causes Water Contamination in Colorado

By on August 10, 2015

An Environmental Protection Agency investigation involving excavation of loose material in the Gold King Mine unexpectedly resulted in the discharge of more than 3 million gallons of contaminated orange water into the Animas River in Colorado.

While local residents were advised to stay out of the river and conserve drinking water, the Denver Post reported that the effects of the discharge have already extended 60 miles and may ultimately flow into the Colorado River which is a drinking water source for 40 million people.

The contaminated water, which contains potentially dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium, and aluminum, is being diverted by the EPA into two retention ponds near the mine for treatment and the contamination in the San Juan River will also be diluted by water released from the Navajo Dam.

High concentrations of arsenic and lead can be very dangerous to humans, and preliminary EPA testing data indicated that arsenic levels in the Durango area of the Animas River were as high as 300 times the normal level, and lead was 3,500 times the normal level.

Deborah McKean, chief of the Region 8 Toxicology and Human Health and Risk Assessment, expressed that ” those numbers are high and they seem scary.”

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