NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Animas River is turning orange, and residents are turning red after more than three million gallons of waste water spilled out of an abandoned gold mine, releasing high levels of heavy metals.
Now in the fifth day after the spill began at the Gold King Mine in southern Colorado, the toxic sludge is flowing downstream at the rate of 500 gallons a minute, contaminating water supply and causing unknown harm to wildlife.
On Sunday, the waste water crept south into New Mexico, and is now moving even further along into the San Juan river. To make matters worse, the Environmental Protection Agency is to blame for the spill. The EPA, the federal agency that is supposed to be preventing disasters, accidentally leaked the big and potentially hazardous mess last Wednesday when investigating the old abandoned mine.
Bill Simon, coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, normally works closely with the EPA to improve water quality in the area. But this time he says the agency acted alone without mining expertise.
Simon says the disaster could have been prevented if the EPA utilized the expertise that the ARSG provides. Simon expects the spill to have lasting effects on the 126 mile long river of up to two years.
Simon added that the sludge is already starting to dilute, with the orange turning into a mustard yellow. As for miners in the state including Newmont Mining (NEM) - Get Report, Simon said there is likely no impact on how they produce. He believes the trouble largely has to do with the abandoned mines, not the ones in operation which already have strict rules on dealing with waste. Still, the EPA has a lot of work ahead, with an estimated 23,000 abandoned mines in the state of Colorado alone.