Nobody who saw the Animas River will soon forget the sight of the orange waters flowing our way from the spill at an old Colorado gold mine.
The odd color increased fears of what was now in those waters.
I grew up with that color.
Orange tailings spilling from old shafts in Colorado’s mountains remind us of the state’s colorful, boomtown past. Now we call them “legacy” sites, a word that’s all too familiar in New Mexico. Our legacy mines are mostly uranium, but the mess, the issues and the costs are the same.
As often happens, the reporting by small, local media has been the best — and in this case, the least hysterical.
Samantha Wright, of southwestern Colorado’s online news site San Juan Independent (sjindependent.org), wrote that Cement Creek, an Animas tributary and first recipient of the Gold King Mine’s three million gallon spill, runs orange every spring.
The Gold King is one of many mines honeycombing those mountains. Colorado has 22,000 abandoned mines because back then, there were no environmental laws. Some of the worst are around Silverton.