Ronald Reagan’s famous quote about the most terrifying line in the English language being: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” has taken on new meaning in Colorado–where a federal environmental cleanup crew from the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally destroyed an entire river.
While cleaning up an abandoned mine in southern Colorado, EPA agents accidentally caused wastewater to spill out directly into the Animas River. An estimated 1 to 3 million gallons of heavily polluted water from the mine flowed out, altogether.
The tremendous influx of wastewater soon turned the Animas River a bright neon orange–with one local even claiming that the river looked like it “was turned into carrot juice.”
The waste has continued to move downstream, dyeing more than 80 miles of scenic riverscape an unnatural color–all the way into New Mexico, where the Animas River ends.
According to the EPA, the spill occurred when its team was using heavy equipment to excavate the Gold King Mine, which has been suspended. Instead of entering the mine and pumping out the contaminated water, which was carrying “metals pollution” of iron, zinc, and copper from the abandoned mine, the team accidentally caused it to flow into the Animas River.
It’s unknown, at this time, what kind of threats the polluted river has for aquatic life or for the people who depend on water from the Animas River. The EPA is continuing to test the water quality to learn more–but one thing’s for sure; if you need an environmental cleanup, there’s a chance that entrusting it to federal agents might just make the whole thing a lot worse.