Statement on Animas River disaster in Colorado

August 10, 2015

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(Durango, CO) – As mining waste continues to pour into the Animas River through Durango, Colorado and downstream into the San Juan River and Lake Powell, American Rivers President Bob Irvin issued the following statement:

“There are two lessons we must learn from the Animas spill. The first is that we need to hold mining companies and other polluters accountable for the damage they cause to clean water, river health and communities. Take responsibility for cleaning up your mess – don’t pass the cost on to taxpayers. The second is that we must stop proposed mines in the headwaters of pristine rivers, such as the Smith River in Montana. Looking at the toxic orange sludge contaminating the Animas River, we must stand together to say, ‘Never again’.”

“The toxic waste polluting the Animas River is a tragedy for Durango, and all of the communities that rely on this river for clean drinking water, irrigation, recreation and livelihood. This disaster is a reminder of our dependence on clean, healthy rivers, and the importance of rivers to our health and local economies.”

“While this particular spill was an accident, the disaster was a long time in the making. The Gold King mine owners ceased operations in 1923, leaving taxpayers stuck with the mess today. Abandoned mines are ticking time bombs, and there are more than 4,000 abandoned mines in Colorado alone. These mines continue to pose serious threats to rivers across the west.”

“Half of the rivers we named as America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2015 are threatened by mining: the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Montana’s Smith River, Alaska’s Chuitna River, Oregon’s Rogue River, and Minnesota’s St. Louis River. Industrial scale mining can have devastating and permanent impacts and we must mobilize public action to protect clean water and river health.”


About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 250,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.