2015 Gold King Mine Wastewater SpillExplain the event and the who, what, where, when, and why.
On August 5, 2015, during a US EPA mine site investigation of the Gold King Mine the heavy equipment disturbed loose material surrounding the plug . The acid mine drainage that had built up behind it, gave way due to water pressure, and a flood of wastewater broke out. Wiched release of 3 million gallons of acid mine drainage into Cement Creek, which then flowed into the surrounding rivers. The water contained a abundant of heavy metals.
The Gold King Mine spill affected six states , and 12 Native American tribes.What is the cause of this event? Did it occur naturally or was it anthropogenic (human caused)? If anthropogenic, was your event because of point source pollution or nonpoint source pollution?On August 5, 2015 the US EPA workers caused the release of toxic wastewater when adding a tap to the tailing pond for the mine. When the plug was destroyed three million gallons of mine waste water, tailings, heavy metals and toxic elements flooded into the Cement Creek in Colorado. The tap was necessary because local jurisdictions refused to pool money to removal of pollution from environmental regions. How has it impacted the people living in the area? The spill of the water waterways affect many cities in the states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the Navajo Nation, and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe. The Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management issued a state of demand San Juan rivers were advised to have their water tested before using it for cooking, drinking, or bathing. People should wash hands and clothes thoroughly with soap and water . Children under the age of 6 years should be supervised by adults and or guardians when around the river.
How has it impacted the environment? The Animas River was closed until August 14. The Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management issued a state of emergency in response to the spill. The impacts of the spill are unknown, the sedimentation are expected to dilute as it moves downstream. The acid mine drainage changed the river to a orange yellowish color. By August 7, it then reached New Mexico. On August 10, it reached San Juan River in New Mexico. The heavy metals appeared to be settling to the bottom of the river.
The Utah Division of Water Quality said the remaining material will be diluted to a point where there will be no threat . On August 11 the pollutant levels returned to pre-incident levels. How has it impacted the economy?An estimate of 2,000 Navajo farmers and ranchers were affected directly by the closing of the canals after the spill. The spill affected their crops, gardens, and cattle herds because they could no longer irrigating them. So they had water driven into the area to provide water to the fields.
They suffered widespread crop damage which cause a total of $150,000 according to hearings at the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Since this event, how have people been trying to fix the issue? Have any laws or regulations been passed? The EPA has began working to control acid mine drainage and making water quality measurements to evaluate impacts of the spill. The US EPA built settling ponds which was a temporary solution to divert additional acid mine drainage flow away from Cement Creek, and treated the water to neutralize the acid and remove solids and metals from the water. They have announced that they will install a portable treatment system to handle the ongoing discharge from Gold King throughout the winter as freezing temperatures will make it unsafe to continue to treat it using settling ponds. This will lower the acidity and remove solids and metals from the acid mine drainage before it reaches Cement Creek. What things in the area have changed to make the area a better place? What effect does this event have on the future? Has anything good come of this event? Water companies are required to test your water and give an annual report.
If you own your own well you are responsible for your own testing and treatment. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recommends that people do not drink untreated water directly from the river. Water used for animals, should be allowed to settle out for any sediment particles for at least 24 hours. They also declared the risk of adverse health effects from typical recreational activities or incidental contact with river sediment to be low.