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Disaster Emergency Declared for Colorado Gold King Mine Release

Posted by feww on August 11, 2015

Colorado Governor declares disaster emergency for Gold King Mine release

Gov. Hickenlooper has issued an Executive Order declaring a state of disaster emergency due to the Gold King Mine release and resulting impacts to downstream waters.

Workers employed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) triggered a breach at the Gold King Mine outside Silverton in San Juan County on August 5, 2015. The breach released a plume of more than three million gallons of water containing potentially harmful contaminants into Cement Creek, which flowed into the Animas River and continued downstream, according to a statement released by the governor’s office.

Elements contained in the plume turned the water a striking mustard-yellow, and graphic images of the discolored water have contributed to community concern about river impacts and water quality. The Southern Ute Tribe, the counties of La Plata and San Juan, the City of Durango, and the Town of Silverton all declared disaster emergencies, highlighting the gravity and severity of impacts to Cement Creek, the Animas River, the San Juan River, and downstream waters. Local authorities have closed the affected rivers to all uses, causing significant local economic impacts. The extreme flow rate of the plume caused significant damage to the Cement Creek stream bed resulting in sedimentation uptake and downstream deposits in both Cement Creek and the Animas River. All of these impacts require emergency action by the Southern Ute Tribe, the State of Colorado, and local officials to avert loss of life, injury, danger or damage, including but not limited to unknown economic, financial and natural resources impacts.  The full Executive Order is attached here.

 The Executive Order will last for 30 days unless extended by the governor.

cementcreek -
Massive waste spill “accidentally released” by EPA investigators turns river in Colorado bright orange. Image source: Earth Justice

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