The EPA Accidentally Turned This River Toxic—And Orange



“SINCE WEDNESDAY MORNING, a ribbon of bright orange water has been making its way down the Animas River in southwest Colorado. The cause? A million gallons of gunk pouring out of an abandoned century-old mine.

The Environmental Protection Agency is already on the scene, though. Because, well, they caused it. Yeah, oops.

The mines still aren’t on the Superfund list, but the EPA has been trying to them clean up anyway.

“It’s hard being on the other side of this,” said Dave Ostrander, the regional EPA director of emergency preparedness, at a public meeting on Friday afternoon. “We typically respond to emergencies; we don’t cause them.”

It’s a classic case of good intentions backfiring. The abandoned mines in the area have long been a problem, filling up with acidic wastewater that leaches heavy metals out of rock and leaks into the river—a slow-motion environmental debacle. And the EPA has been trying…

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