EPA’s blows it — causes massive mine wastewater spill at Colorado rivers

EPA’s blows it — causes massive mine wastewater spill at Colorado rivers

These images, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency, show the mouth of the Gold King Mine tunnel (left), and the channeled runoff on the mine dump (right).

Talking about ironies… The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revealed that one of its clean-up teams working at an old Colorado gold mine Thursday accidentally caused the spill of over one million gallons of mining wastewater into a local river.

According to a statement by the EPA, the contaminated water was hiding out behind debris near the now shut-down Gold King Mine entrance, where the crew was working with heavy machinery. The mine waste poured out into a nearby creek, eventually leading to the Animas River where the spill spread.

EPA’s blows it — causes massive mine wastewater spill at Colorado rivers

Gold King Mine discharge. (Screenshot from Fox13 video)

The agency said is currently testing the polluted water to see what toxins may contain. Previous analysis of the same mine's water has shown it to have iron, aluminum, cadmium, zinc and copper in varying concentrations.

EPA said the spill does not threaten local sources of drinking water and the main contaminants responsible for the leak’s mustard-like colour are unlikely to be dangerous.

EPA’s blows it — causes massive mine wastewater spill at Colorado rivers

"It's not going to look pretty, but it's not a killer," Don Cooper, emergency manager in San Juan County told The Farmington Daily Times.

Still, recreational activity on the affected waterways has been suspended until the orange-coloured plume has dissipated.

EPA’s blows it — causes massive mine wastewater spill at Colorado rivers

(Click on it to enlarge)

As the mine spill made its way through the river, authorities told people to avoid contact with the water. EPA recommended recreational users stay out of the water, putting a halt to summer kayaking, swimming and fishing for the time being.

The Animas River is the largest tributary of the San Juan River, which flows through Utah into Lake Powell.