The latent crisis of Mine Wastewater and Colorado State of Emergency
Aug 13th, 2015
crisis of Mine Wastewater and Colorado State of Emergency
On August 10, 2015 at Gold King Mine near Durango, Colorado millions of gallons of toxic sludge were accidentally discharged into the Animas River by a EPA cleanup crew.
But lets start with a bit of context:
Starting in the 1870s, miners rushed to the Silverton region to seek out gold, silver, and other valuable resources.
The entrance to the Gold King Mine has long been collapsed, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) planned to clear material blocking the tunnel to install a pipe allowing to pump out contaminated water in the mine. The mine has been inactive since 1923.
Since the 1980s, EPA has wanted to declare parts of the Silverton region a Superfund site, which would trigger federal funds for intensive cleanup efforts. Environmental officials have been working for years to clear toxic metals (contaminants including cadmium, arsenic, copper, lead and zinc) and acidic (acid rock drainage) water from Colorado’s roughly 22,000 abandoned mines.
However, local residents have long resisted this move, out of concern that the bad publicity would drive away tourists. Indeed Durango’s thrives on its tourism, including rafting, kayaking, fishing, tubing and other river activities. Again a case of physical, H&S risks against socio-economic, cultural consequences, and finally risks.
In June of 1975, a tailings storage on the banks of the Animas River northeast of Silverton was breached, dumping tens of thousands of gallons of water, along with 50,000 tons of heavy-metal-loaded tailings into the Animas. For 100 miles downstream, the river ‘looked like aluminum paint,’ according to a Durango Herald reporter at the time.
A few days ago the agency was trying to clean up a toxic mess that has been simmering for decades.
Unfortunately, the definition of emergency in this industry (mining and environmental rehabilitation) comes short of including the public and other actors from a hazard exposure point of view. I wonder now what are the local residents opinions.
Tagged with: abandoned mines, acid rock drainage, acidic, Arsenic, cadmium, Colorado State of Emergency, copper, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Gold King Mine, H&S risks, lead and zinc, Mine Wastewater, socio-economic
Category: Consequences, Risk management