From TheDenverChannel.com (Deb Stanley):
More than 1 million gallons of contaminated water was accidentally released from the Gold King mine in southwestern Colorado on Wednesday.
The acidic mine water is traveling down the Animas River and is expected to hit the city limits of Durango at approximately 3 p.m. on Thursday.
“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,” according to a news release from the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management. “Initial estimates are that the release contained approximately 1 million gallons of water that was held behind unconsolidated debris near an abandoned mine portal.”[…]
County officials said the acidic mine water 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,” county officials said. “The water associated with the release is obvious and highly discolored.”
Residents with questions about the water may call 970-385-8700.
The Gold King Mine is just outside Silverton. The mine started operations in 1887. According to NarrowGauge.org, the Gold King shipped more than $8 million in ore during its operations.
From The Denver Post (Jesse Paul):
Health and environmental officials are evaluating the river, and officials say the mine water is acidic and contains high levels of sediment and metals.
Downstream in Durango, where the water is expected to reach by 3 p.m., city officials are asking residents to cut back on their water use and irrigation of city land at local Fort Lewis College have been stopped.
Photos from the area showed the river’s waters turned a thick, radiant orange. It is approximately 55 miles from the mine to Durango.
The water release was triggered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday north of Silverton by the Environmental Protection Agency as it was investigating contamination at the abandoned Gold King Mine, federal officials say. The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety said they had been in the area in recent days. The EPA called the release “unexpected.”[…]
The water spilled into the upper portions of Cement Creek, officials say. The fluid was being held behind unconsolidated debris near an abandoned mine portal.
All agricultural water users have been notified to shut off water intake, officials say, and pet owners have been told to keep their dogs and livestock out of the Animas River until further testing is done.
Steve Salka, utilities manager for the city of Durango, said he pulls water from the Animas in the summer to help replenish the Terminal Reservoir. He said while the city’s main water source is another river, the contamination could cause serious problems.
“I want to know what’s in it,” he said Thursday in an interview. “The most important thing is what’s in it. I need to know.”[…]
Joe Lewendowski, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango said biologists are completing testing the area.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists are monitoring the impacts to the fish and other wildlife in the Animas River,” he said.
From The Durango Herald (Shane Benjamin):
The city of Durango stopped pumping water out of the Animas River on Wednesday to make sure none of the waste could be sucked up into the city reservoir.
However, the Animas is an important secondary source of water for the city during the summer and residents need to conserve as much water as possible over the next few days until the water in the Animas is safe to use.
“It’s a very important water source in the summer. I can’t keep enough water in the reservoir with it,” said Steve Salka, the city’s utilities director.
During the emergency, Salka is not going to be sending raw water to Fort Lewis College or Hillcrest Golf Course. The city also will not be watering any of the parks for the next three days to help conserve, he said.
On a hot summer day, the city can use up to 9.2 million gallons a day. But the city can pump only 5.3 million gallons a day out of the Florida River.
Right now the city reservoir is about 4.5 feet below capacity, he said.
“This couldn’t happen at a worse time for me, so I have to be really cautious,” Salka said.