DURANGO [Denver Post] — Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy said Wednesday that water quality in La Plata County has “returned to pre-event conditions” after last week’s Gold King Mine wastewater spill.
The spill was caused by an EPA cleanup crew on Aug. 5 and released 3 million gallons of acidic water into the Animas River basin.
“We have water quality data from August 7, 8 and 9 from La Plata County that show levels have returned to pre-event conditions,” McCarthy said during a 15-minute news conference in Durango at the command center …
Oh really? Here Gina, drink this …
Apparently Ms. McCarthy was missing some of her own EPA Preliminary Analytical Data from last Thursday that showed high levels of levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper and mercury.
FARMINGTON, N.M. [KRQE] – Preliminary testing data from earlier in the week released by the EPA on Sunday shows dangerous levels of a number of heavy metals in the Animas River.
The data from tests taken Wednesday and Thursday, comes from various testing sites downstream from where the Colorado site EPA accidentally released millions of gallons of mine waste water into a creek that flows into the Animas River.
One test from Thursday taken in Silverton shows levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper and mercury well above federal limits for drinking water.
More testing results are expected to be released later on Sunday. New EPA estimates put the amount of waste water dumped at three million gallons, much higher than initially thought …
We should be very skeptical when they tell us the river is back to normal. A recent sample from the Animas River found the lead level is nearly 12,000 times higher than the acceptable level set by the EPA. It can take months, years, or even decades for health problems from heavy metals to develop.
Don’t believe what Gina McCarthy says. Toxicologists and scientists beg to differ. They know what they’re talking about. Keep reading …
DENVER [CBS4] … Scientists fear effects from the yellow plume of waste water could linger well after the river regains its natural color.
“Remember, this is mine waste, it’s heavy. It’s going to sink to the bottom of these streams, it’s going to get into the layer at the bottom,” said Dr. Dan Teitlebaum.
Teitlebaum is a toxicologist who says the elements in the water can pose the risk of illness. The waters were loaded in lead, copper, cadmium, and arsenic, some of which can cause cancers in prolonged exposures.
“They’re a problem because they’re long-term poisons. And low levels consumed over a long period of time create serious problems, particularly arsenic, produce very serious problems,” said Teitlebaum.
Wildlife officials have been quick to show fish that have survived the event, but Teitlebaum says that’s not necessarily an indication that everything is safe.
“If you’re going to eat those brown trout that somebody’s catching in that river, what are the arsenic levels going to be? What are the lead levels going to be? We don’t know,” said Teitlebaum.
He said health concerns in the river are just beginning, even as it appears to look more normal.
When asked if it’s possible for that much pollution in a river to have no effect, Teitlebaum said, “Everything is possible. Is it likely? I think not” …
[CNN] While the mustard-yellow hue of the Animas River is fading, leading toxicologists say there could be health effects for many years to come from heavy metals such as lead and mercury that spilled into the water.
“This is a real mess,” said Max Costa, chair of the department of environmental medicine at New York University School of Medicine. “These levels are shocking.”
Exposure to high levels of these metals can cause an array of health problems from cancer to kidney disease to developmental problems in children.
“Oh my God! Look at the lead!” said Joseph Landolph, a toxicologist at the University of Southern California, pointing to a lead level in the Animas River nearly 12,000 times higher than the acceptable level set by the Environmental Protection Agency …
DURANGO, Colorado [Minneapolis Star Tribune] — The toxic waste gushing from a Colorado mine and threatening downstream water supplies in at least three states will continue to be dangerous whenever contaminated sediments get stirred up from the river bottom, authorities said Wednesday, suggesting that there’s no easy fix to what could be a long-term calamity.
The immediate impact of the 3 million gallon spill was easing as the orange-tinted contamination plume becomes more diluted on its way into Lake Powell along the Utah-Arizona border. But the strong dose of arsenic, cadmium, lead and other heavy metals is settling out as the wastewater travels downstream, layering river bottoms with contaminants sure to pose risks in the future.
“There will be a source of these contaminants in the rivers for a long time,” said hydrologist Tom Myers, who runs a Nevada-based consulting business. “Every time there’s a high flow it will stir it up and it will be moving those contaminants downstream.”
EPA tests on the sickly orange-yellow plume showed a spike in heavy metal levels that decreased as the pollution moved downstream. The tests won’t be considered final until they have been validated, which usually takes seven to 10 days.
EPA officials did not immediately respond to Associated Press questions about long-term dangers, but environmental regulators in downstream New Mexico warned that sediments get kicked up by storms and high water, so it’s crucial to determine where contamination settles.
Past mine waste accidents in the Rocky Mountains have shown that the impact can linger for decades, said John Stednick, a watershed scientist at Colorado State University. He cited efforts to clean up Colorado’s stretch of the Arkansas River that began with a 1982 spill, and the decades of fish kills after the Summitville Mine dumped wastewater into Wrightman Fork, near Del Norte, Colorado.
“It takes years for sediments to clean once acid mine drainage has been removed,” Stednick said …
[Phoenix New Times] … Yet while many are concerned with the direct effects of this spill, environmentalists like Roger Clark, program director of the Grand Canyon Trust, say it’s really important “for people to realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg.” This was not an isolated event, he adds: “The Gold King mine is one of literally hundreds of mines that periodically release waste into the Colorado River.”
Clark says that by no means is he trying to downplay last week’s spill – and he predicts the effects of it will be felt for years, if not decades, particularly as the heavy metals within the sludge bio-accumulate in the food chain – “but we also need to pay attention to the backlog of hazardous waste from mines that is just waiting to contaminate the Colorado River” …
Animas River spill leaves Colorado, neighbors weighing EPA lawsuit
Cynthia Coffman says she will explore suit while meeting with her New Mexico, Utah counterparts
DURANGO [Denver Post] — Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said Wednesday that a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency is “certainly on the table” after a massive wastewater spill caused by the agency last week fouled the Animas River.
“I would hope that it would not be necessary,” Coffman, a Republican, said. “The statements by the (EPA’s administrator) indicate the EPA is accepting responsibility for the accident. The question is: What does that mean? What does accepting responsibility mean?”
Coffman talked about Colorado’s legal response with The Denver Post as she prepared to meet with her counterparts from New Mexico, Democrat Hector Balderas, and Utah, Republican Sean Reyes.
Coffman said she already has been in contact with Balderas and Reyes over the phone.
“The federal government and the EPA have some immunity from legal action,” Coffman said. “It depends on the circumstances. It is not impossible for a state to sue” …