Animas River: Green to Yellow, Then Read All Over

Animas River: Green to Yellow, Then Read All Over

Editorial Staff


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In case you hadn’t heard, millions of gallons of toxic water from a mine leaked into the Animas River this past August. We get it if you’re out of the loop; it was was pretty easy to miss the bright orange water and the 200 million news stories worldwide.

Don’t worry, this isn’t an article telling you to avoid the river because you might grow a third eye or an accusatory column. Instead, we’re here to tell you that it’s actually mostly okay now. Not to undermine the severity of the spill, but, at this point, everything seems mostly business as usual.

Obviously, the event was shocking at the time, and we are still dealing with countless repercussions. The spillage precipitated issues throughout the entire region, since the Animas flows into the San Juan River which later flows into the Colorado River. Farmers, ranchers, small towns and rivergoers suddenly had to deal with the water shortage in the heat of the summer.

So, what caused this “downstream” event? Most blame the EPA, and while the event unfortunately occurred on their watch, other factors were in play. For one, the Gold King Mine never dealt with the toxic sludge in the first place. And two, Silverton refused to make the area a Superfund Site.

Naming the Gold King Mine a Superfund Site would have required the Federal Government to clean up the refuse toxic waste much earlier. Instead, the EPA faced opposition from Silverton government because they were scared of losing tourist dollars. They think a Superfund Site has a big stigma that will scare tourists from visiting the area. Other Superfund Sites, however, such as the one in Moab, UT, have had no effect on capital from tourism. I mean, have you ever tried to camp in Moab on Labor Day Weekend?

Despite the huge disaster, Silverton still refuses to make the area a Superfund Site, which would help stop future disasters.

The event could have been avoided, but it wasn’t, so we’ve learned to deal with it. While we thought it was the worst thing in the world to be banned from the river when we were sweltering in the summer heat, we could get back on and in the river within a week, as long as we avoided the sediment. Experts do say adverse health effects can take up to a year to present themselves…but for now we’re feelin’ great!

With the orange sludge long downstream, our river seems like it’s back to it’s old self. So, go for a swim before winter rolls in and actually ends the river season.