Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency said Sunday that the Gold King Mine discharged an estimated 3 million gallons of contaminated water, three times the amount previously believed.
The mine continues to discharge 500 gallons per minute, EPA Region 8 administrator Shaun McGrath said in a teleconference call Sunday afternoon, but the polluted water is being contained and treated in two ponds by the site of the spill near Silverton, Colo.
According to preliminary testing data the EPA released Sunday, arsenic levels in the Durango area of the Animas River were, at their peak, 300 times the normal level, and lead was 3,500 times the normal level. Officials said those levels have dropped significantly since the plume moved through the area.
Both metals pose a significant danger to humans at high levels of concentration.
"Yes, those numbers are high and they seem scary," said Deborah McKean, chief of the Region 8 Toxicology and Human Health and Risk Assessment. "But it's not just a matter of toxicity of the chemicals, it's a matter of exposure."
At 27,000 square miles, the Navajo Nation is comparable in size to West Virginia.
Begaye told the Daily Times that he had directed Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch to assemble a legal team to file a lawsuit against the EPA.
"They are impacting the livelihood of our people," he said.
Begaye said he was disappointed with the EPA's lack of information and disclosure about the types of toxic metals that were discharged into the Animas and San Juan rivers.
Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates told the Daily Times that residents were concerned about drinking water safety, river access, water for livestock and crops, and the possibility of compensation for failed crops. With irrigation canals shut off, many farmers are concerned about their next step, Bates said. (Read more.)
"And the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. " Apocalypse 8:10 Share