Will EPA Benefit From Its Own Mistake?

When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) literally popped the cap holding back toxics-filled water at the Gold King Mine above Silverton and Durango, Colorado, it really messed up.Here’s what we know: The Gold King Mine had been closed and plugged since 1923. Behind the plug were several million gallons of tainted water laced with toxins and heavy metals. Among the potential toxins in the mine were lead, sulfuric acid, dissolved iron and copper, zinc, beryllium, cadmium, and arsenic. Note I said potential toxins. Any of these chemicals or metals alone, or combined as they were in the waters in the Gold King Mine, could be dangerous, but only if a person were exposed to them in particular ways and in sufficient amounts.Even before there was mining in the area, Cement Creek—the stream first hit with three million gallons of sludge released by EPA’s snafu at Gold King—had been declared undrinkable as far back as 1876. Nature was poisoning the water even before humans got involved. Mining exacerbated the problem. Tainted water had been seeping out of abandoned or closed mines near Gold King for decades.

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