On August 5, 2015, EPA personnel along with workers for Environmental Restoration LLC caused the release of toxic wastewater when attempting to add a tap to the tailing pond for the mine.
Before the incident, the local jurisdictions refused Superfund money to cleanup the regions' derelict mines due to a fear of lost tourism. Following the spill, the local government of Silverton decided to accept Superfund money to fully remediate the mine.
Workers accidentally destroyed the plug holding water trapped inside the mine, overflowing the pond, spilling three million US gallons (11 ML) of mine waste water and tailings, including heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, and other toxic elements, such as arsenic into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River in Colorado. The EPA was criticized for not warning Colorado and New Mexico until the day after the waste water spilled.
The EPA has taken responsibility for the incident, and the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, declared the affected area a disaster zone. The spill affects waterways of municipalities in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah as well as the Navajo Nation. As of August 11, acidic water continued to spill at a rate of 500-700 US gal/min (1.9-2.6 m3/min) while remediation efforts were underway.
What's really surprising here is that no one has lost a job. No one has been fired or disciplined for these actions. What is really maddening is these are the same people who make the environmental laws and now we find that they themselves can not keep within the boundaries of these laws. What would have happened if it was a mining company? Well I can tell you that the shit would have hit the fan full force. Heads would roll. The EPA would set out on witch hunt to "set and example" of what happens to those who stray outside the boundaries of their rules and regulations.
It's sad because now mining will have even a bigger black eye to contend with as naïve people will wonder and ask stupid questions like, "Who put the arsenic in the mine"?
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