A million gallons of toxic wastewater—enough to fill one and a half Olympic-size swimming pools—spilled into southwestern Colorado’s Animas River near Silverton, turning it day-glo orange and prompting city staff downstream in Durango to halt public use.

The accident occurred at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday at the Gold King Mine in San Juan County. According to reports, a mining and safety team working on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) triggered the discharge. At about 8 p.m. last night, the plume reached Durango.

“It’s moving slower than anticipated because of dropping summer flows and it’s not as orange-looking in town as it’s been up high,” says Deb Flick at Durangers Fly Shop. Staff have moved Animas trips and events to other area waters until recreation bans are lifted. The shop is also waiting to learn more about effects on fish and river habitat.

After the spill, Colorado Parks and Wildlife inserted four trout-filled cages in the Animas to monitor fish health. Spokesman Joe Lewandowski said the cages were placed at 32nd Street, the fish hatchery, Dallabetta Park, and at High Bridge. EPA, on the other hand, is downplaying potential effects on aquatic life, saying there are long-standing water-quality impairment issues associated with heavy metals in Cement Creek and upper portions of the Animas.

The Animas River is a 126-mile-long tributary of the San Juan. The freestone fishery, with strong, smart rainbows and browns, has gold medal status in Colorado.

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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