Governor tours environmental disaster on Animas River

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DURANGO, Colo. -- Gov. John Hickenlooper traveled to the Durango Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum on Tuesday to tour the site six days after a plume of 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater spilled into the Animas River.

The water has a green tint to it after being a dark orange for several days after the spill, and for the most part, it is slowly returning to normal.

“This is in every sense unacceptable,” Gov. Hickenlooper said, “We’re going as fast as we can. As a small business person, I know what it`s like to sit on the side of commerce when there is business waiting.”

Governor John Hickenlooper asked for patience from the public as he learns the full extent of the environmental crisis in Durango.

The concern is about the damage already done. On the river banks of the Animas, the dangerous orange remnants from the plume remain and that is why Hickenlooper is traveling to southwest Colorado. That plume traveled through New Mexico on Monday and is on its way to Utah and the Colorado River.

Contained within that plume are dangerous levels of copper, zink and iron. The Environmental Protection Agency has taken responsibility for the disaster.

It said that as crews were trying to contain the waste site at the Gold King Mine north of Silverton, equipment ruptured a wall, causing the disaster. The Department of Natural Resources put fish nets in the river to begin assessing the chemical loads in the fish. It will give officials some idea of how bad the environmental crisis is. The river, normally filled with tubers and rafter, remains closed to the public.

"The EPA has taken steps to capture and treat the discharge at the mine itself so that we're addressing the issue of any additional downstream impacts and we have constructed four ponds at the site where we are actually diverting water and treating it to lower the acidity levels and to remove the dissolved metals,” said an EPA spokesperson.

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