KUNM

EPA Mine Waste Spill Not Contained

Aug 7, 2015

Mine wastewater is still flowing into a tributary of the Animas River in Colorado after an accident on Wednesday. Environmental Protection Agency officials say they’re working to stop the contamination and now have a better idea of what exactly is in the toxic sludge.

Lead - Arsenic - Aluminum - Copper, those, according to Dave Ostrander with the EPA, are some of the heavy metals that are in at least one million gallons of orange colored mine waste released when the agency was assessing an abandoned mine near Silverton.

“This is a huge tragedy,” Ostrander said. “We typically respond to emergencies, we don’t cause them, but this is just something that happens when we’re dealing with mines sometimes.”

Environmentalists say this is the worst disaster of its kind in the region since 1975.

The plume is moving down the river slower than expected, and downstream communities, including Aztec, Farmington and Shiprock, have been warned not to irrigate or have any contact with the water. and water utilities have shut their intake pumps.

A map of the path of the spill and the impacted communities and farmland is available at publichealthnm.org