Yesterday, the EPA and State Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety team working to investigate and address contamination at the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colo. unexpectedly triggered a large release of mine waste water into the upper portions of Cement Creek. Initial estimates are that the release contained approximately 1 million gallons of water that was held behind unconsolidated debris near an abandoned mine portal. There were several workers at the site at the time of the breach, all were unharmed.
The EPA recommends that recreational users of the Animas River avoid contact with or use of the river until the pulse of mine water passes.
The acidic mine water associated with the release contains high levels of sediment and metals. EPA teams are conducting sampling and visual observations today and will be monitoring river conditions over the next several days. The water associated with the release is obvious and highly discolored.
This mine waste water was sighted at Baker’s Bridge (north of Durango) early this morning. It is estimated that it will arrive within the city limits of Durango by approximately 3:00 p.m.
La Plata County Office of Emergency Management, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, San Juan Basin Health Department and City of Durango have been monitoring the issue since yesterday. Local officials will be working to notify recreational users to avoid contact with the river until further notice. All agricultural water users have been notified to shut off water intake. It is recommended that pet owners keep their dogs and livestock out of the Animas River until further testing can be done to determine the content of the waste water.
Joe Lewendowski, Public Information Officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango said, “Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists are monitoring the impacts to the fish and other wildlife in the Animas River.”
A Call Center has been set up for the public at 970-385-8700. As additional information is received, it will be posted to the La Plata County website at http://www.co.laplata.co.us/emergency, San Juan Basin Health Department’s Website at www.sjbhd.org, La Plata County Government Facebook and San Juan Basin Health Department Facebook.