Representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency have disclosed that three million gallons of contaminated water accidentally released from the Gold King Mine in Colorado is three times the levels they originally thought. USAToday reveals that the mine continues to release 500 gallons of polluted water per minute and at their peak that arsenic levels were 300 times than normal while lead content was 3500 times the normal level.
An EPA spokesman says that though the lead and arsenic levels have gone down drastically since the plume moved through the Durango area of the Animas River, the polluted water is being treated and contained in two ponds near the site spill in Silverton, Colorado. Both metals, however, do pose a significant threat to humans and aquatic life when their content is very high. How much of a risk is not certain. EPA officials are urging residents along the Animas to avoid contact with the river’s water but, worst of all, the spill is going to affect many community water supplies since some Colorado cities, towns and even the Navajo Nation supply water for their communities from the river. Farmers rely on water from the Animas River for their crops and livestock.
The plume of contamination is making its way own the Animas in which it will hit Arizona by Wednesday by migrating into the San Juan River which feeds into the Colorado River that supplies water for the Western United States. Some communities will be able to benefit from federal emergency funds, but the results of this accident might cause massive damage to the review’s ecosphere and it can even affect the water supplies of the cities of Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Bureau of Reclamation is trying to dilute the contaminants by pumping more water into the river. The only thing that can be done is to wait for the pollution to sink or dilute down.
A lot of people would have been better off if the mine site were left alone. Now a large strip of of properties along the Animas, Durango and maybe even the Colorado Rivers could be rendered uninhabitable. It will take years and years for the waste from the mine spill to clean itself out. There are no treatments that can be conducted to clean up the level of contamination and, at the risk of sounding alarmist or melodramatic, the mine spill has the potential to be the greatest environmental catastrophe in human history. This event brought to you by the Environmental Protection Agency, a bureau of the United States government.