Editor’s Note: “First Casts” is an occasional feature that highlights great fly-fishing content from around the Web—from how-to articles, to photo essays, to interesting reads. As you surely know by now, horrifying mine sludge was accidentally spilled into Colorado’s Animas River last Wednesday, when an EPA cleanup operation went awry. The initial photographs were devastating, and the public outcry was loud and aguished. Here’s a roundup of news reports, analysis, and reactions.
- The coverage of the spill in the Durango Herald on Thursday shocked the nation and provided the images that came to define the spill.
- By yesterday, a clearer picture emerged, and the Herald featured the headline “Threat Lessens on Animas River.”
- Trout Unlimited offered their take on the disaster in a press release on Friday: “This toxic spill into the Animas is a shocking incident that underscores how vulnerable our rivers, streams and fisheries are to abandoned hardrock mine pollution,” said Steve Kandell, director of TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project.
- One of the best descriptions of the history of the mine and the political situation that led up to the accident was posted on the political website Daily Kos.
But unfortunately, this accident has been waiting to happen for decades, as this particular mine was closed in 1923, left abandoned by the mining operators for the public to clean up generations later. This is exactly what the EPA was beginning to do when the release was triggered. Much blame has been laid at the feet of the EPA, and they have expressed their apologies and commitment to address the immediate mess as urgently as possible. But it is really the toxic legacy of abandoned mines, and just within the area surrounding Silverton in San Juan County, there are over 1,100 of these sitting idle, that is the real story.
How much longer will these abandoned mines continue to leach their poisonous legacy into our streams? How much longer will they impact fisheries, agriculture, and the communities that depend on these rivers for their core viability?
In fairness, it’s not like there are floor plans available for the more than 4,000 abandoned mines in Colorado alone. Much work must be done to reduce or eliminate the toxic legacy of mining effluents running into our streams every day, and we hope that this effort will take on an even greater degree of urgency after this tragic event.