Citizens of Silverton, Colorado were treated to a horrific sight last week as a huge toxic spill from an old mine turned turned the Animas River bright orange. A whopping three million gallons of toxic waste spilled into the Silverton waterways in a stream estimated to be 100 miles long.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 11, 2015
What began as an attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the people of Silverton from the harm of the old abandoned Gold King Mine turned disastrous as they inadvertently released toxic sludge into the Silverton waterways. Originally estimated at one million gallons, the spill into Silverton has since been reevaluated at three million gallons.
— Sierra Club (@sierraclub) August 10, 2015
The toxic sludge contains arsenic, lead, and other potentially harmful heavy metals. According to ABC News,Colorado governor John Hickenlooper says this type of spill could happen again, and he plans to do everything in his power to clean out the old mines and keep Silverton and surrounding areas safe.
“We are aware that there are a number of old mines that have water dams like, similar to this, and we’re going to go back through them. People think about Colorado for our skies and our landscapes and our rushing rivers. They don’t want those rivers to be orange.”
Silverton, Colorado, is not the only area, or state, affected by the toxic spill. The Los Angeles Times reports the Environmental Protection Agency has stated no immediate health threats are expected, as the sludge is moving very rapidly and is also diluted by the large river. However, that also means the sludge is moving into New Mexico and, potentially, Utah.
The Navajo Nation, which spans areas in New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona, declared a state of emergency and stopped using water from the San Juan river.
According to KRQE News, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez has also declared a state of emergency. She plans to use the additional state funding to support response teams, test water wells, and study long term effects of the sludge.
So far, the Los Angeles Times further reported, the wildlife in Silverton, Colorado have not seemed to suffer any issues due to the toxic mine sludge. A Colorado environmental group studied flies exposed to the Silverton water and did not note any unusual symptoms.
The following video shows an aerial view of the orange river. It is almost unfathomable.
Silverton is just the beginning of the path the toxic fluid will take during its journey. How long will the water remain orange? How many states will be affected? Will the animals of Silverton continue to show little to no issues from exposure to the contaminated water? These questions are yet to be answered.
[Image via Carbonated.tv]