First a little history on the Animas River. Wikipedia:
Animas River is a 126-mile-long (203 km) river in the western United States, a tributary of the San Juan River, part of the Colorado River System.
The river’s free-flowing status ended when the Animas-La Plata Water Project was completed in 2015. The project pumps water over a low pass to fill a reservoir, Lake Nighthorse, in Ridges Basin to satisfy Southern Ute tribal water rights claims associated with the Colorado Ute Settlement Act amendments of 2000.
It is a tributary which means it flows into other rivers, eventually into the Colorado River which Wiki describes as: The Colorado River is one of the principal rivers of the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico (the other being the Rio Grande). The 1,450-mile (2,330 km) Colorado River drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. and two Mexican states.
Here’s how the Animas River became poisoned and how far reaching the effects are…..
From the Denver Post, Aug. 9, 2015:
Three million gallons of water containing mining waste has poured into the Animas River since Wednesday, and it is still unclear what the environmental and health impact of the spill, caused by the Environmental Protection Agency, will be.
Water collected at sampling stations along Cement Creek and the upper Animas found higher-than-normal levels of arsenic and other heavy metals, Deborah McKean, an EPA toxicologist, said in a Sunday conference call with the media.
But the levels are dropping as the plume drifts farther down the river and is diluted. “Those concentrations increase for a few hours and then decrease again by the next sampling period,” she said. “Those numbers are high and they are scary because they seem so high. However, risk associated with exposure to a chemical is a matter of how much of the chemical you are exposed to.”
It remains unclear if the spill poses health risks to humans and aquatic life.
On Sunday, La Plata County and Durango both declared a state of emergency as a result of the spill, which originated at a mine near Silverton.
“This action has been taken due to the serious nature of the incident and to convey the grave concerns that local elected officials have to ensure that all appropriate levels of state and federal resources are brought to bear to assist our community not only in actively managing this tragic incident but also to recover from it,” La Plata County Manager Joe Kerby said in a release.
On Sunday, the EPA posted reports on its website including sample data taken from the river at different locations that detail how much metal is in the water. Tom Dea, vice president for TZA Water Engineers in Lakewood, reviewed those reports for The Denver Post. [more at link]
The effects of this toxic spill: From CNN:
‘A major, major problem’
“This is a major, major problem,” said Jonathan Freedman, a toxicologist at the University of Louisville, who until recently worked as an investigator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Typically it takes years or even decades for health problems from metals to develop.
Spokespersons for the EPA did not respond to emails Monday regarding the levels.
The mayor of Durango, Colorado, said experts from the agency were “noncommittal” about the health effects of the contamination during a community meeting Sunday night.
“There was no good discussion of what these levels mean, and that’s what’s frustrating. I’m a fairly smart guy, and I walked away without having answers,” said Dean Brookie. “It wasn’t a great confidence builder.”
According to the EPA, Wednesday’s spill caused a spike in these metal concentrations, but levels “began to return to pre-event conditions” by Thursday.
However, according to the EPA’s own data, there were still very high levels of metals on Thursday. A lead sample was more than 300 times higher than the EPA acceptable level, for example, and an arsenic sample tested 26 times the acceptable level.
EPA spokespersons did not respond to emails Monday asking how many residents rely on the Animas River for their drinking water and how many farms use the water for irrigation.
Cadmium is a particular concern for crops, Costa said, as it’s readily absorbed.
“Of all the toxic metals, it goes into plants like crazy,” he said.
We must contact our Congress people, both State and Federal, to strengthen the EPA and the laws to not allow dumping poisons into our rivers, streams, farm land and there needs to be more control over the Corporations that use these poisons. We are killing ourselves and our Planet!