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Colorado’s Governor Just Declared a State of Emergency After Major Ecological Disaster

While investigating toxic water leaks from the Gold King Mine near Cement Creek, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tasked with protecting our precious ecosystem, leaked millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the creek. Cement Creek is a tributary of Colorado’s Animas River, which empties into Lake Powell — one of the largest reservoirs in the United States.

The river, which is normally quite clear, has taken on a burnt-orange coloration. EPA officials are warning citizens to keep out of the water, while Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper has declared the event a disaster emergency.

Colorado river turns Yellow after spillA toxic leak of wastewater that has turned a river in the US state of Colorado mustard yellow http://bbc.in/1ThhgihThe Environmental Protection Agency says that three million gallons of wastewater spilled from an abandoned mine last week.

Posted by BBC News on Monday, August 10, 2015

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The incident occurred when Agency workers dislodged a plug that had previously contained the mine’s more than three million gallons of orange-yellow sludge. The mine has been inactive since 1923 and, like many other mines in the area, has held toxic water since its close.

While the EPA has admitted full responsibility for the spill, the White House has yet to comment on the issue. The president of San Juan Corp., who own the Gold King Mine, has called on Kinross, another major mining company, to take blame for the wastewater and construct a aquatic treatment plant. A representative from Kinross has denied any fault. Meanwhile, toxins continue to leak from other mines into the Animas at a rate of 500-700 gallons per minute.

The contamination may have resounding effects, and not just in Colorado. A number of large cities and territories in the surrounding states, many of which are already affected by drought, rely on the Colorado River and its distributary channels for their supply of fresh water.

After examining water samples, the Agency reported findings of lead, arsenic, cadmium, and copper, though they also claim that it isn’t yet clear whether these heavy metals will be a risk to the environment, wildlife, or humans.

The EPA is mounting a massive cleanup effort, and continues to evaluate possible health risks resulting from the spill. You can find updates on the disaster at the EPA’s Gold King Mine Release Emergency Response webpage.

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Matthew M. Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Grand Valley State University, with emphases in fiction and nonfiction. He lives smack-dab between some railroad tracks and Grand Rapids Michigan's third-busiest road, and spends his time studying film and literary fiction.