EPA ‘accidentally’ spills contaminated mine water into Colorado’s Animas River

Durango stopped pumping water out of the Animas River on Wednesday to make sure none of the waste could be sucked up into the city reservoir.


An estimated 1 million gallons of contaminated wastewater is flowing through the Animas River, and it is acidic and contains heavy metals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. The crew intended to pump and filter the wastewater from the mine, but for unknown reasons, they caused the release of one million gallons of water heavily contaminated with iron, aluminum, cadmium, zinc and copper instead.

A plume of mustard-colored muck that spilled from a Colorado mine was inching downstream Friday as annoyed state and native officers awaited phrase from federal businesses on the type of pollution staining the water. EPA spokesperson Lisa McClain-Vanderpool said the agency hoped to have preliminary information available throughout Friday and Saturday.

DENVER – An eerie yellow sludge that poured out of a shuttered gold mine and into a southwestern Colorado river was inching its way downstream toward New Mexico and Utah.

EPA officials say there will be long term impacts because of sediment that is settling along the Animas.

“Gov. Martinez hopes the EPA will be more cooperative and forthcoming moving forward as we work to address this situation and that the EPA will demand the same of itself as it would of a private business responsible for such a spill”, said Chris Sanchez, a spokesman for the governor.

“It’s bad, it’s terrible”, said San Juan County undersheriff Stephen Lowrance. “And if those fish go belly up they will be tested”.

Authorities are urging people to stay out of the river.

Earlier Friday, New Mexico’s environment secretary, Ryan Flynn, the EPA downplayed the danger the contamination posed to wildlife, saying that potential harm couldn’t be known until the contents of the wastewater and their concentrations are known.

McGrath apologized for the EPA’s response and for previously sounding “cavalier” about the concerns for public health and the environment.

Few details have been released about the spill, except that a cleanup crew accidentally breached a containment structure. The plan, she said, is to continue the increased flow through the weekend and then take stock on Monday to determine whether the release is effective in diluting the contaminants coming down the San Juan.

Not surprisingly, the arrival of Technicolor toxic water has made its way onto the social media feeds of many distressed Coloradans, while Durango residents prepared for the worst, with some of them reportedly in tears at the news.


“We usually come out here in the handsome weather to fish, but no fishing today”, said McCoy, who lives in Phoenix.

Sludge from Colorado mine spill heads down river to NM