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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently made an effort to rectify a situation in Colorado, but actually made it a whole lot worse.

In an attempt to clean up the Gold King Mine, which had apparently been slowly leaking contaminated water into the Animas River, they knocked out a plug holding it back, turning the whole river a mustard yellow.

The EPA originally claimed that they had released 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters) of toxic water, though this has since been revised to 3 million (11.4 million liters).

The contaminated water is thought to be full of heavy metals, including iron, zinc, copper, lead, arsenic and mercury.

It’s expected to flow through Colorado into New Mexico and Utah, and eventually reach Lake Powell, one of the largest reservoirs in the U.S.

The EPA has claimed that currently it poses no threat to wildlife, though they’ve also recommended against swimming in it or drinking from it.

EPA-Accidentally-Contaminates-River-With-Millions-Of-Gallons-Of-Toxic-Waste
The entrance to King Gold Mine, showing the toxic orange water. Credit: EPA/Wikimedia

The mine in question has been shut since the 1920s, but exists in a region of Colorado littered with thousands of old mines.

As a result, the surrounding rivers have long been known to be toxic and undrinkable as rainwater passes through the mines, collecting heavy metals and leaking them into the streams.

The fish in the upper reaches of Animas have disappeared, and the insects and bird communities aren’t faring much better either. But this breach was on another scale.

The governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, has declared a state of emergency, which will allow him to spend up to half a million dollars of disaster relief money on the incident to try and clear it up, though many think it is too late for that.

See also: Horror four-mile oil slick on California coast

Towns and cities downstream have already been warned to shut off their water intake in order to protect the drinking water, but this does nothing for those who have their own wells in the region.

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The criticism has been laid heavy on the EPA. Normally on the other side of these environmental disasters, they’ve been attacked not just for the spill in the first place, but also for their response.

It’s claimed that the EPA didn’t warn locals of the spill for up to 24 hours after it occurred. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has already announced that he intends to take legal action against the EPA to recover clean-up costs.

And this doesn’t even touch on the loss of income to businesses during the busy summer months when the rivers would normally be full of people enjoying the river.

We were not very stoked to see this image along with the news of a mine spill that dumped upwards of a million gallons of toxic mine sludge into the Animas River today. The spill began yesterday, Wednesday August 5th around 10:30am. The site is located near an abandoned mine near Silverton Colorado about 50 miles north of Durango. The mine is located on Cement Creek, a sterile trib of the Animas River. The economic and environmental impacts will no doubt have an impact on our local communities. Will the spill have a serious impact on the aquatic life of the Animas? Will it wipe out our already fragile fishery? Only time will tell. We hope the stunning trout of the Animas can survive. As for the who and why…the finger pointing can go in many directions. It is sad that in this day-and-age an environmental disaster like this could occur. We just need to remain positive; there is a chance this sludge could simply move through. In the past we have seen the Animas flow this gnarly orange-yellow color due to serious rain storms near old mine sites. During those rare events we did not see obvious impacts at that time on the river. We'll just have to keep our collective fingers crossed and hope for the best. #AnimasRiver #SilvertonCo #DurangoCo #EPOops #EPA #AnimasRiverspill #minesludge #AnimasRiverminespill #ahhhrats #guideproblems #superfundsite #superignorantsite #damnit Aug 6 2015 | Durango CO photo: KOB News #AnimasValleyAnglers ______________________________

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