Gold Medal Waters*

via Daily Prompt: Toxic

By Eilene Lyon

August 2015: I was working the MAPS bird-banding station at the Oxbow Park and Preserve along the Animas River, just north of Durango. Some of our volunteers happen to be active-duty, uniformed Parks and Wildlife officers, so we heard early on that something was amiss high in the San Juan Mountains above Silverton.

A contractor working for the EPA at the Gold King Mine had breached a retaining wall, loosing 5 million gallons of toxic mining waste into our beautiful, free-flowing river. It quickly became national news.

We ran over to the river banks to see for ourselves, but it would take hours before the wave of day-glow sludge would pass by the park. It would be another day before I watched it flow past my home south of town.

We take our water from a well, which just may delve into the water table fed by the river. I keep a frozen jar of water I poured from the tap before the heavy metals melted by, on their way to Lake Powell. All along the way, some of them filtered down to the river bed – and beyond.

It could take years or even decades, maybe never?, for the the toxins to impact our well water. If I notice anything odd, though, I’ve got my evidence.

Some of the reasons behind this event are rooted in greed and supported by the outdated 1872 mining law. It allows people to extract minerals from our public lands without even paying royalties, and more importantly, without having to clean up the mess they make.

With mountains riddled with tunnels, filling with spring- and rain-water which dissolve the minerals within the earth, the government’s response was to plug a hole and try to forget about it. But the water always wins. It must flow to the sea – along with our toxic legacy.

P1130384

P1130318* The title refers to the fact that the stretch of water in these photos is a Colorado gold medal trout fishery

5 thoughts on “Gold Medal Waters*

Add yours

    1. They were fine. Parks and Wildlife even put a cage of fish in the stream and only one died, but not due to the toxins. I wouldn’t ever eat a fish out of this river, though. Up near Silverton, the water has always been dead due to heavy metals. Even before mining, actually.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I realize my first response to your question was a bit glib and incomplete – perhaps thinking about the hyperbolic responses I got to that photo on FB back in (“Soon to be dead ducks!’)
        The water you see in these photos contains lots of nasty stuff such as arsenic and cadmium, but not in levels high enough to outright kill something. The problem is how these will accumulate in the food web, which is bad for all living things, including us.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I didn’t read your response as glib. I appreciate your second response. It is very disappointing that something such as this, which should be preventable, may have long lasting effects. Effects which may not be noticeable until it is too late.

        Liked by 1 person

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