Type: Response Essays
Sample donated: Jacqueline Walton
Last updated: December 21, 2019
Explain the event and the who, what, where, when, and why.On August 5, 2015, during a United States Environmental Protection Agency mine site investigation of the Gold King Mine the heavy equipment disturbed loose material around a soil “plug” at the mine entrance. Where acid mine drainage had built up behind the plug, which then gave way due to water pressure in the tunnel, and a flood of water burst out. This resulted in the release of 3 million gallons of acid mine drainage into Cement Creek, which then flows into the San Juan River and Colorado River. The water contained a number of heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. The Gold King Mine spill affected Upper Colorado River Basin . Which includes 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, EPA workers for Environmental Restoration LLC caused the release of toxic wastewater when adding a tap to the tailing pond for the mine. When ehe plug was destroyed three million gallons of mine waste water, tailings, heavy metals and toxic elements into Cement Creek in Colorado. The tap was necessary because local jurisdictions had refused fund money to remediate the regions’ derelict mines. The EPA was criticized for not warning Colorado and New Mexico until the day after the waste water spilled, despite the fact the EPA employee “in charge of Gold King Mine knew of blowout risk.
” How has it impacted the people living in the area? The spill affects waterways of municipalities in the states 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 living along the Animas farmers and ranchers who rely on the rivers for their livelihoods. How has it impacted the environment? The Animas River was until August 14. The Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management issued a state of emergency declaration in response to the spill. The impacts of the spill are unknown, as sedimentation is expected to dilute the pollutants as the spill cloud moves downstream. The acid mine drainage changed the color of the river to orange.
On August 7, it reached Aztec, New Mexico the next day, it reached Farmington. By 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 contaminants will be diluted to a point where there will be no danger. On August 11, pollutant levels returned to pre-incident levels. On August 12, the leading edge of the plume was no longer visible due to dilution and sediment levels in the river. How has it impacted the economy?The Gold King Mine spill has affected the Navajo Nation their crops, home gardens, and cattle herds. They had to ceased irrigating their crops from the San Juan River.
An estimate of 2,000 Navajo farmers and ranchers were affected directly by the closing of the canals after the spill. So water was drove into the area to provide water to fields, but most home gardens and remote farms did not receive any. They suffered widespread crop damage. The Navajo Nation has to reimburse a total of $150,000, according to testimony 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 the 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 stand at least 24 hours to allow any sediment particles to settle out. They also declared the risk of adverse health effects from typical recreational activities or incidental contact with river sediment to be low. So they have advise that you avoid contact with the orange/yellow-colored river water, or colored sediments around creeks and riverbeds.
Wash hands and clothes thoroughly with soap and water after contact with sediments. Children 6 years of age or younger should be supervised by adults when along the river, and to ensure there is no consume of river sediment.