According to the AP, the team was working with heavy equipment to secure an entrance to mine when they accidentally triggered the large gush that reportedly caused the Cement Creek’s water levels to rise two to three feet.
“The project was intended to pump and treat the water and reduce metals pollution flowing out of the mine,” EPA spokesman Rich Mylott said in a statement.
San Juan County health officials said that the acidic mine water associated with the release contains high levels of sediment and metals. EPA teams are conducting sampling and visual observations and monitoring river conditions over the next several days.
David Ostrander, director of EPA’s emergency response program in Denver, informed the AP there is no threat to drinking water from the spill, however downstream water agencies were warned to avoid Animas water until the plume passes. Ostrander noted that the acidic sludge could irritate the skin.
In a precautionary measure, nearby residents have been warned by local officials to avoid consuming the water as the deluge made its way to La Plata County, Colorado yesterday. In particular, the city of Durango—which uses the river as a secondary source of water during the summer—has been advised to stop pumping raw water from the river, the Durango Herald reported.
Steve Salka, Durango’s utilities director, told the publication that residents need to conserve as much water as possible over the next few days until the water is safe to use.
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