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SILVERTON — Three days after EPA workers triggered a huge blowout at a festering mine in southwestern Colorado, a mustard-colored plume — still fed by 548 gallons leaking per minute — stretched more than 100 miles, spreading contaminants including cadmium, arsenic, copper, lead and zinc.

Environmental Protection Agency regional chief Shaun McGrath on Saturday conceded that federal officials know the levels of the heavy metals in Cement Creek and the Animas River but would not reveal early testing results. “Those data sheets have not been finalized by the scientists,” McGrath said. “As soon as we are able to release them, we will.”
Potentially toxic contaminants had spread as far as a domestic well 60 miles away near Durango, which La Plata County officials said has prompted them to launch a well-testing operation for hundreds of residents. City water and irrigation intake gates were being shut in New Mexico and Navajo Country as the plume, moving at about 5 miles per hour, flowed from the Animas into the San Juan River.


Recent rain raised the prospect that yellow-orange sludge deposited along now-deadened black creek banks could be washed again into the Animas causing more harm. EPA crews sampling water had not tested the sludge, settling up to a half-inch thick at slower parts of the Animas above Durango (pop. 17,000). La Plata County director of emergency management Butch Knowlton said the sludge would be tested one way or another to protect public health. “The population that lives along this river is at the mercy of the EPA,” he said.

And EPA officials at a command post in Durango could not rule out the possibility that contaminants will remain concentrated enough to appear yellow on Sunday when the plume is expected to approach Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon, carved by the Colorado River.

This part of the Animas River Valley is mostly organic farms and Grass- fed beef ranches. It’s also the location of many movies including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, where the Durango to Silverton Steam train as well as the river itself was used in numerous scenes. I lived on the Animas River for several years, it wasn’t uncommon to encounter hundreds of Elk along the river, as well as black bear, coyote, mountain lion, deer etc. This River is part of the Colorado River system, so it flows into Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, well…you get the picture. I filmed this admittedly poor quality cell phone video while walking my dog along the river a little over a year ago.



  1. MikeN says:

    So will the EPA be given the same treatment as a company that did something like this? Will they be fined, will EPA employees be sent to jail?

  2. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist over invested in word play says:

    Over one million gallons of mine waste water? Must have been a earth dam that collapsed.

    Criminals do bad shit of purpose to make money.

    EPA/Gubment workers do bad shit because it makes their jobs easier and there is rarely any penalties for screwing up.

    The first is criminal intent, the second is negligence==both to the same effect. The first should always be prosecuted, the second more often than never.

    WASTE, and the concentration of harmful elements are all part of the external cost of all extraction industries. What we need is a BIGGER GUBMENT to issue and enforce MORE REGULATIONS. If y ou disagree—–have this nice glass of water.

    • Smokey the Bear really smokes dope in Colorado! Maybe THAT'S why it happened. says:

      It was a flooded MINE that burst open that has caused all the river mess (if you consider natural mineral in concentrated amounts to be a mess). It happened when “they” (the EPA) decided to clean up the mine. So it’s quite likely it wasn’t “criminal” behavior. More likely, it was NEGLIGENCE! And why not? The officials who made the decision were probably high on dope! Any “criminal” element you see is more likely due to the fact that they did not recognize or acknowledge the potential dangers. (But then, we don’t punish stupid people — that’s the law according to the liberal crowd running things in Colorado.)

      BTW, the last time the mine was “worked” was the early 1920’s — BEFORE the EPA even existed.

  3. Smokey the Bear really smokes dope in Colorado! Maybe THAT'S why it happened. says:

    Meanwhile, in other parts of Colorado, residents are still drinking FLAMMABLE WATER! The EPA is still out to lunch on that one too. But due to “fracking,” which is the most obvious suspect, parts of Weld County Colorado and in other counties on the east side of Colorado’s Continental Divide it’s now possible to ignite certain gases in your tap water which the EPA unsurprisingly says is “harmless.”

    So please. Keep buying those SUV’s and other gas guzzlers which suck up the oil that then allows big business to pollute our environment — and contaminate our water/air. We all know what REALLY motivates the EPA/government. (We also know how well all our government agencies work, too.)

  4. Smokey the Bear really smokes dope in Colorado! Maybe THAT'S why it happened. says:

    … OH! And let’s not forget about Colorado’s new VA hospital too! The damn thing is over budget by a TRILLION and a half dollars — that’s into FULL PERCENTAGES of the NATIONAL DEBT!!!

    Frankly, I can’t understand why people aren’t out with torches and pitchforks when a FRACTION of that over-spent VA money COULD be used to ENTIRELY clean up the river mess.

    • McCullough says:

      You’re only off by a factor of approx. 1000, give or take.

      “A top Department of Veterans Affairs official said Wednesday that his agency may never explain precisely how a hospital project in Aurora with a $604 million construction budget skyrocketed to $1.73 billion in barely two years.”

      But yeah, I get it. Like some dummy said…BIGGER GUBMENT is the cure.

  5. Smokey the Bear really smokes dope in Colorado! Maybe THAT'S why it happened. says:

    For more check out the following:

    http://cpr.org/news/newsbeat/epa-admits-it-triggered-million-gallon-mine-waste-release-animas-river

  6. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist over invested in word play says:

    But yeah, I get it. Like some dummy said…BIGGER GUBMENT is the cure. //// 1000’s of mines and waste pits in the USA waiting to collapse and discharge who knows what.

    OF COURSE—-the proper response is to do less.

    ………………….obviously.

    • McCullough says:

      Bigger is always better…obviously.

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist over invested in word play says:

        Well…..the position we both support would be to “work smarter” “using less money”.

        But that doesn’t work in the real world.

        Over and over again we read about inspectors having too many “clients” to provide any effecitive oversight at all. Is that true or could they all be dedicated superheroes living some alternate reality?????

        So………….IN THE REAL WORLD………… you hired MORE INSPECTORS to get the j ob done as expertly as the various interest groups can muster.

        The long and short of it is…..if y ou want more SERVICES…..you pay for them…. and that is called making the Gubment Bigger.

        I do notice y ou don’t handle colloquial language very well. Is that part of the problem, or do you just enjoy denying the natural conclusions to be drawn from what you post?

        Or………..do I have it all wrong?????

        Explain yourself. Eg: no reason to investigate abandoned mines with a million gallons of who knows what building up inside?

  7. Wayne R says:

    And I bet not a word from the Obama administration about who should be accountable for not properly protecting the environment.

    An actual danger to current environmental health versus ‘climate change’

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and free speech advocate says:

      Burst waste dam = local damage most likely attenuated by dilution and only a few generations of harm to local …..LOCAL… wildlife including silly hoomans like yourself.

      Climate Change: going to kill us all.

      See the difference?

  8. Tom says:

    And the Pubs want even less environmental regulation and a gutted EPA… Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?!

  9. Mr Diesel - No more bush in the White House, Hillary's or Jeb says:

    It is Smokey Bear and not Smokey the Bear.

    http://smokeybear.com/vault/story_main.asp

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and free speech advocate says:

      Kinda like real vampires: they can enter your house without invitation but can’t cross flowing water?

      Yes…………like so many issues………it can only be viewed ONE WAY…… the way I have come to understand the issue.

      Like the Lord intended.

      Yea Verily!!!!

  10. outta it says:

    Expect more water and food shortages, more bad wells, more empty business districts.

    Mollison’s Bureaucracy Hypothesis:
    If an idea can survive a bureaucratic review and be implemented it wasn’t worth doing.


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