Photo Credit: Kathy Myrick
If you are like me, you were probably hoping that by now – 6 days into the Gold King Mine release – the EPA would be giving our beloved river the “all clear.”
Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.
Yesterday, the EPA announced that it would be another week before they could make any determination about the safety of these waters.
That is another week of ag lands drying, parched cattle, municipalities calculating reserve water supplies, raft and fishing guides sitting idle.
Worse, though, is the fear and unknowing. At Sunday night’s public meeting, anger, frustration, and a deep sadness pervaded. What I believe ties all of these emotions together is fear. Fear of loss. Fear of uncertainty. Fear in the face of having to acknowledge we have lost, or perhaps never had, control.
That which sustains our lives and our livelihoods, the lifeblood of our community, was ravaged in slow motion before our very eyes, and we were utterly powerless to help.
As if it could not get worse, for some of us it was. We have long known that this disaster was perfectly predictable. It was inevitable. And though for decades we have tried to forestall it, we have failed.
The historic mining district at the headwaters of the Animas has been degrading water quality in the river since mining began. Over the past 25 years, politics, egos, narrowly defined self-interest, and fanciful visions of mining’s return have kept necessary remediation at bay.
We are all paying the price of losing that struggle.
While we are still in the thick of emergency response, I cannot help but begin to lay the groundwork for the political fight ahead.
Every community up and down this watershed has a right – a responsibility – to hold mining companies and the agencies that regulate them accountable for the complete remediation of historic mine wastes.
And that’s exactly what we are going to do.
Let’s keep our heads down and deal with the immediate crisis at hand. But in the moments your mind steals away to what next, commit. Commit to staying involved with the Animas River and historic mine remediation until our communities are finally protected.
SJCA will be with you on every step of that journey.
For the river.