Letter from Colorado: On the Dirty, Deep-seated Origins of the Animas River Spill

Co-Creating Our Future on Planet Earth



In early August, the EPA accidentally released three million gallons of contaminated water from the Gold King mine into Cement Creek, a tributary of Colorado’s Animas River. Jeff Snowbarger, who’s at work on a novel about the development of the region, spent time on the banks of the Animas, where he’s discovered connections between the river’s past and present.

“Mustard-colored”: that’s the hue various commentators used to describe the shocking plume of thick orange mine waste that snaked across the Colorado Plateau earlier this month. But to anyone who saw the sickening photos, much less saw the color in person, this description is unappetizing at best, at worst almost offensive. To me, the color looked more like liquid Hell.

I’ve spent the best part of my last three summers jeeping around the rugged mining district that encompasses the headwaters of the Animas River while researching a novel in progress…

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