Durango, COLORADO — Effective Thursday, August 6, 2015 at 3:00 p.m., La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith issued an order pursuant to CRS 33-13-111 and 112, closing the Animas River to all watercraft including canoes, kayaks, tubes, rafts and other flotation devices from the north County line (San Juan County, Colorado) to the south County line (at the Colorado/New Mexico State line) until further notice. Furthermore, all such watercraft must be removed from the Animas River within the locations cited above.
The accident occurred about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Gold King Mine in San Juan County. Soon after, the river turned orange.
A mining and safety team are investigating contamination at the mine triggered a large release of mine wastewater into the upper portions of Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River, according to a news release issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. The mining and safety team was working on behalf of the EPA and State Division of Reclamation.
City residents are being asked to conserve water for the next few days.
“This decision was made in the interest of public health after consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, San Juan Basin Health Department and representatives of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe,” advised Sheriff Sean Smith. “This Order shall remain in effect until it is determined that the river is safe. EPA test results of the Animas River are expected within 24-48 hours, and the Order will be re-evaluated at that time.”
The City of Durango and La Plata County Sheriff’s Office are posting notices along the Animas River to notify citizens.
A Call Center has been set up for the public at 970-385-8700. As additional information is received, it will be posted to the La Plata County website at http://www.co.laplata.co.us/emergency, San Juan Basin Health Department’s Website at www.sjbhd.org, La Plata County Government Facebook and San Juan Basin Health Department Facebook.
(Photo: NBC News)