On August 5th a crew working for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at an abandoned mine in Colorado caused 3 million gallons of toxic remnants to spill into the Animas River. Originally thought to be 1 million gallons of waste containing heavy metals was recently revised to 3 times the initial estimate. Residents living all along the Animas River rely heavily on the river as a water supply and are seriously worried.
EPA’s stated goal was to enter the Gold King Mine in Southern Colorado and extract contaminated water for treatment. However, due to the large equipment being used during the extraction, the mine’s integrity was compromised, and toxic water began spewing water into the Animas River.
The mine’s toxic water turned the Animas River from its natural crystal clear water to a yellow murky color. Metals found in the river after the spill includes lead, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, zinc, copper, iron and mercury.
Although the EPA and other Colorado government officials have claimed the water is back to safe levels, the population affected remains skeptical. Even the slightest amount of lead poisoning can affect brain development in children, leading to difficulties in learning that can last a lifetime.
Downstream, the Animas River feeds into the San Juan River in New Mexico, which has also saw their water turn yellow with toxic waste.
Attorney Generals in the states affected have yet to rule out legal action against the EPA. The potential for individuals impacted by the spill to bring legal action is always a possibility, and the Navajo Tribe in New Mexico who uses the river water for farming has stated they will bring legal action.