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EPA accidentally triggers wastewater spill into Colorado river

By
Danielle Haynes
The accidental release of mine wastewater turned Colorado's Animas River bright yellow Wednesday. Photo by Office of Emergency Management in La Plata County Colorado
The accidental release of mine wastewater turned Colorado's Animas River bright yellow Wednesday. Photo by Office of Emergency Management in La Plata County Colorado

DURANGO, Colo., Aug. 7 (UPI) -- An Environmental Protection Agency inspection unintentionally released 1 million gallons of wastewater from an abandoned mine into southwest Colorado's Animas River, prompting warnings for farmers and recreational users to steer clear of the waterway.

The breach happened Wednesday morning as the EPA the the State Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety team investigated potential contamination of the river at the Gold King Mine in San Juan County. The acidic water, contaminated with zinc, iron, copper and other heavy metals, broke free of a barrier of unconsolidated debris, the San Juan Basin Health Department said.

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No members of the team were injured in the incident.

Mustard yellow water flowed down the Animas River, changing its color and leaving a thick sediment that stretched south to Durango, Colo. The EPA said it would be collecting samples of the river water and conducting visual observations to determine what, if any, affect the spill will have on the environment.

The La Plata County Sheriff's Office closed the river from Durango south to the New Mexico state line to all watercraft and recreational users. Officials warned agricultural water users to shut off their water intakes.

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"Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists are monitoring the impacts to the fish and other wildlife in the Animas River," said Joe Lewendowski, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango.

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