The EPA did not mention whether the elements posed a health hazard, but said local authorities made the right decision to close the Animas River to human activities.
“We are demanding from the U.S. EPA an immediate release of detailed information on the type of contaminants that is flowing into the river from the Gold King Mine”, President Begaye said.
Dan Bender, with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, takes a water sample from the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Thursday, August 6, 2015.
“It’s incredible that we don’t know more”, State Senator Ellen Roberts told the Denver Post.”We have the equivalent of an EPA-caused Love Canal here”. The Animas River has had declining water quality since 2008, showing increased levels of heavy metals, making it toxic to most trout.
The EPA was working with Environmental Response and Restoration, a company that was contracted to assist with investigating the extent of contamination from the mine.
“Due to current and longstanding water quality impairment associated with heavy metals there are no fish populations in the Cement Creek watershed and populations in the Animas River has historically been impaired for several miles downstream”, the EPA released reads. EPA contractors are hastily building plastic-lined retention ponds and setting up pumps to try to catch concentrated bright orange contaminants before they reach streams and rivers.
Ostrander said the wastewater contained lead, cadmium, arsenic, copper, calcium and aluminium in “varying levels”.
“If there’s any safety issues at all, we’re going to have to cancel trips, and trips we had planned for next week-one in particular has been in the planning for eight months”, he said.
The EPA accidentally caused wastewater to spill into the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River and the Colorado River.
“Once the plume passes through town, it doesn’t mean the event is over”, said Dan Olson, executive director of San Juan Citizens Alliance, an environmental group based in Durango. EPA spokesperson Lisa McClain-Vanderpool said it is not known what the orange, acidic mess might mean for water users and the river’s ecosystem. So far officials are not aware about the concentrations of these heavy metals.
The mine has been inactive since 1923.
Officials also released extra water from a reservoir in order to dilute the pollution. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area officials said visitors will be warned starting Monday to avoid drinking, swimming or boating on affected stretches of the lake and river until further notice.
According to a statement from the San Juan County Health Department, the waste contains “high levels” of toxic materials. A pH of 4.5 is consistent with the pH of a liquid like black coffee. Lead poisoning, on the other hand, may lead to muscle and vision problems for adults, kidney disease, harm fetus and child development and possibly death in children.