Sunday, August 9, 2015

With great power

With great power comes unintended consequences.

An environmental cleanup of an abandoned mine in the mountains of Colorado went horribly wrong, leading to the spill of one million gallons of contaminated water into a creek that eventually drains into the San Juan River. 
The incident happened when workers for the Environmental Protection Agency were trying to clean the long-abandoned Gold King Mine, but allowed it to breach a berm, or small strip of raised land, and the toxic water flowed into the Animas River. It turned the clear mountain stream a mustard orange color, according to photos posted online. The local sheriff’s office on Aug. 6 closed the river to swimming, kayaking and rafting, and it remained closed Saturday. 
“It’s a sad irony that a program attempting to avoid harm to the environment, appears to have caused it,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group in Colorado. As the polluted waste moves downstream, “it will dilute, but we don’t know what’s in this water,” McKinnon said. 
According to a statement posted online by the San Juan Basin Health Department, the acidic mine water contains high levels of sediment and metals. Officials warned downstream users to shut off intake valves.

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