Why Did The Animas River Turn Orange?


In what may turn out to be one of the worst
ecological disasters in recent memory, the EPA recently “accidently” spilled millions
of gallons of waste into the Animas river in Colorado. Why did it turn that freaky orange
color? So, the EPA made the Animas River orange on
accident by spilling some wastewater out of a mine. I don’t know about you but I’m
picturing buffoonish guys carrying barrels of waste and one of them just trips and whoops
it all falls into the river. While there might have been some buffoonery, the whole incident
is a little more complicated than that. Like most Western Tales it all starts with
a mine. The Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado in fact. Most of the area is littered
with mines, when in the late 1880-1920s lots of people went looking for precious metals.
But, the thing about mining is, sooner or later if you dig deep enough, you’ll run
into water. If the water ends up reacting with pyrite (or fool’s gold) and oxygen it
will form a pool of sulfuric acid and dissolved iron. This acid isn’t good on it’s own,
but if it gets in contact with people it can cause blindness, and if swallowed it can burn
holes in your insides. In this case, the water dissolved other minerals too, like lead and
copper. Each metal is toxic on its own, but mix them all together and you get a nasty
soup of heavy metals. Miners back in the day didn’t have to do
anything with it, because there was no one regulating their wastewater. Usually they
just dumped it somewhere, like a nearby river. But in this case, a lot of it was still trapped
inside The Gold King Mine… or it was. The mine changed hands multiple times over the
past few decades, and eventually fell into disrepair. Now, it had been leaking toxic
water for a while now — which brings us to the EPA. The EPA knew the mine contained wastewater,
and was considering designating it a superfund site since the 1980s; a designation reserved
for only the worst toxic messes. Remediation efforts were underway, but that’s what caused
all this trouble. You see, the EPA was trying to clean up the
site. The main goal was to install a pipe to drain some of the water and plug the mine
so that all the toxic water would stay trapped inside. While trying to excavate some fallen
debris in the mine, some of that debris collapsed and it all went south really quick. Toxic
water started pouring into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River. Turning the
Animas River the color of… well Newsweek describes it as “reminiscent of boxed mac
and cheese”. yuuuum. One EPA official said they were surprised
that “there was quite a bit more mine wastewater up there than [they] had expected. They were really trying to make things better.
but they didn’t. While initial reports estimated the spill
at a million gallons, four days later it became apparent that THREE TIMES that amount was
actually spilled, releasing all those toxic heavy metals into the environment. The UK
based Guardian reported that metals like “cadmium, arsenic, lead, copper ,and manganese”. At
it’s peak, the mine was gushing about 500 gallons of water a minute! Most of these metals were released in an initial
“plume” where levels of lead spiked to 3,500 times the normal level and arsenic,
300 times normal. But according to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife test, the water isn’t
too deadly. They tested the toxicity of the water by placing cages of fish in the water
for a few days. They’ve only had one fatality out of hundreds of fish. Unlike a similar
test during another big spill back in the 1970s when a huge heavy-metal-loaded tailings
pile spilled into the river. During that similar test with fish, nearly all died within 24
hours. So this isn’t the first or worst disaster
the river has seen, but we can hope it’ll be the last. Already things seem to be clearing
up, the EPA says the notoriously orange tint isn’t visible anymore, but the river remains
closed indefinitely.

100 thoughts on “Why Did The Animas River Turn Orange?

  1. witch one of them are going to loose there job … or just like the government business as usual  nothing will happen just more finger pointing

  2. I understand that you want to engage your viewers by asking a question and soliciting comments. But please ask thoughtful questions. Asking whether we would want to swim in orange colored water is a very unthoughtful question to put it politely.

  3. If more of those canary test fish died and showed the toxicity was worse what would they even do?

  4. I found it really strange that the news sad that the river got mixed with lots of mining water with high concentrations of sulfiric acid. But that the health organization said that people didn't have to worry about the savety. But that is close to spreading false information because as they say here it is dangerous. Swiming in it because its a hot day and the health organization said it isn't so bad will probably cause serious damage to your health.

  5. its like bigger version of sweeping dust under the carpet hopping no one see it but sooner or later it will surface.

  6. Well I had tried adding Magnesium into Sulphuric acid in my school lab and tons of gas bubble was produced…well I was afraid that it will burst but when I wrote down the equation, I came to realise that the gas bubble produced was actually Hydrogen gas…..H2SO4 + Mg produce MgSO4 + H2……

  7. Is real-time DNA Fingerprinting possible i..e within minutes instead of hours or days!?

  8. 'one of the worst disasters' Please have you seen China? All there rivers are Orange. Let alone the rivers in Africa near the mines, where everyone down stream dies.

  9. so swimming in the orange colored river will kill only 1 out of 100 and rest might become superheroes hehe

  10. Just saw this on the news and understood nothing!
    Then I saw this video now I understand <3

  11. Love you Julia, but let's not be too flippant about this ecological disaster stuff … mkay?

  12. I'm new here… does this channel have anything to do with the Discovery channel on TV?

  13. get ready for a huge waves of law suit from the effected area and resident.

  14. Thank you guys for putting out a well rounded report, past/present, on what happened with the mine spill in Colorado!

    I'm still not sure about swimming in an orange river though… if it was dyed? maybe, but then I wouldn't want to come out looking like a a tall Oompa Loompa with brown hair.  Would the acidity of orange juice be too irritating to swim in? ha

  15. Man, when will youtube get around to updating their comment system? Like holy crow it is nasty down there.

  16. ah man, what if all humans lived on Mars and we turned earth into an agricultural planet and ship the resources?

  17. Good fucking job to everyone that was involved in that mine thanks to our noble efforts to save the earth we gave humans -0.50 years of life spawn

  18. Why are lefties life toxic to themselves. I've seen many drawback(life haggles, phycic being and so on) so why is it so bad and scarse?

  19. if they had released 6000 gallons every month, 200 gallons every day on that river  the consequences for the environment would have been pretty much innocuous or irrelevant. but instead the EPA went all fundamentalist about not spilling a single drop of that "obnoxious" liquid and ended up screwing up even more. yes, it would have taken 51 years to empty the mine, but at least there would not be any serious consequences for the environment.
    The key lesson to learn: don't be fundamentalist about (almost) anything!

  20. "but without big government… who would polute the Colorado river"
    i say get the govt out of a lot of things, including this kind of things, the mine was bare leaking, no incidents for decades, suddenly they come to fix everything and boom, this happens. that was not broken, stop trying to fix things that are not broken!!!! some leaks during years is way better that all the water being leaked all at once

  21. All of those drugs in Colorado can make people not think so well thus causing accidents like that.  just sayin

  22. @DNews 
    Testing toxicity by placing living creatures in it and seeing what happens… is that ethical?

    Don't we have some science for that kind of thing?

  23. had it been anyone else accident or no thy would have been fined tremendously people would have lost jobs and all sorts of lawsuits..,, the does it and no repricutions. .. Hypocritcy

  24. had it been anyone else accident or no thy would have been fined tremendously people would have lost jobs and all sorts of lawsuits..,, the does it and no repricutions. .. Hypocritcy

  25. Yea then when that toxic crap flowed into the San Juan river it went into the Navajo Nation where the EPA gave us Form 95, which said they would pay us for current claims being held against them and that would be satisfactory and final, any and all future claims would be waived away. They of course wanted us to sign before they also said the effects of this "spill" would last as long as ten years! Now they're trying to get request that ALL waterways be under their control, to "prevent future incidents", as if we somehow got in their way of fixing this one.

  26. I wonder if when people make such big blunders like this do they still get their big fat pay check.

  27. She's cute.
    Story is bogus.
    Sounds like someone payoff someone to drain the water out, to re use the gold mine.
    Surely some of the cleanup cost would be covered by some "good corporation" that just happen to want to mine gold and "help" the environment…

  28. If the mining company had spilled the water there would be people out for blood. How come when the government screw up its like. Welp it was just an accident whoops! Have they developed a plan? How have the reached out to the Native American nation that this river flows to. Is anyone going to be held accountable? Have they hired any private contractors to clean up the mess or are we just going to give billions more to the EPA?

  29. I don't live by the Animas river (fortcollins), but it was fun going by it. 😀

  30. here it is on google maps for anyone interested
    https://www.google.ca/maps/@37.0158484,-107.8722888,436m/data=!3m1!1e3

  31. It will all end up into our ocean and be negated by the radioactivity from fukushima

  32. the original miners should not have been allowed to leave this in the situation it was left in, where is the accountability for those assholes?
    now everyone blames the EPA, blame the fucking companies who are allowed to leave their toxic tailings ponds in such a state!

  33. Fund anything campaign to to sue the EPA. If this was an oil leak law suit would be in the books by now!

  34. But of course, the Republicans used this incident in their push to disband the EPA, because it is a government department and if the EPA was disbanded or by defunding it,  then the corporations would be free again to dump their waste into the water and air, because having to be responsible for their waste cuts into their profits, which is what their anti-government, anti-EPA is all about.

  35. ahahah ! you hope this will be the last !!! this is just the beginning of the planet destruction … this planet is doomed !!!

  36. Sounds like you said " ewoahmay" right at the very start of the video. Why did no one catch this and restart or edit?

  37. hmmm, swimming in a soup of acid and heavy metals all of which will kill me…. how about no.

  38. so if it's not in your country you don't care don't you realize that this is messing up the earth humans are messing up life on earth why do humans exist we are a mistake

  39. there's so much idiots on here saying theyd ont care I hope they get hit by a b us because its those people that'll wreck the wolrd

  40. But people are still going to defend the EPA. You know they will (well, actually, they ARE). Pitiful.

  41. I found my self not learning anything because I was distracted by how hot she is

  42. I have no idea what she’s talking about but man I do enjoy watching her

  43. ACCIDENT ? NOPE they admit they did it on purpose but thought it wouldn't be that bad. They also failed to involve MSHA. WHICH IS ILLEGAL !!
    The EPA can get fucked !!!

  44. That stuff will never go away! It will just settle on the bottom, in the rocks. Don;t eat the fish, release them.

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