On August 5, EPA contractors conducting an investigation into a minor leak at the abandoned Gold King mine in Colorado inadvertently ripped a hole in a retention wall which in turn resulted in 3 million gallons of contaminated water spilling directly into the adjacent Animas River. According to a CNN news report, the polluted water contained various metals and harmful chemicals such as arsenic and lead. The wastewater spread throughout the river creating an eerie yellow hue and even spread as far as the San Juan River in New Mexico and Utah.
The Animas River, which has been described as a moving Main Street, has been the focal point of community life in surrounding areas. The New York Times describes it as the cultural soul of Southwestern Colorado as it not only brings people together, but also supports a variety of important local industries. As a result of the spill, the City of Durango and La Plata County declared a state of emergency. Tourism took a hit after the spill, with water sports coming to a complete halt. Furthermore, city officials stopped pumping water from the Animas River into the reservoir responsible for supplying drinking water to the city of Durango (pop. 17,500).
Read more on Forbes.