“Oh. Shit.” These were the first words spoken when mine sludge carrying heavy metals began spewing out of the side of Level 7 portal of the Gold King Mine. On August 5, 2015, EPA staffers and contractors were working to start clearing out debris from the mine, and instead opened a hole on the side of an old mine tunnel which released three million gallons of water and sludge into the Animas River below. The sludge would travel downstream, passing the old mining community of Silverton, CO, continuing past Durango, CO, and eventually crossing state lines into New Mexico where it would affect the communities of Aztec and Farmington before traveling through the Navajo Nation. The sludge eventually settled into Lake Powell, but not before it turned the Animas River a bright orange hue. The 2015 Gold King Mine Spill, as disastrous as it was, was not the first time the Animas River or valley had experienced such a large polluting event. In River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster, Jonathan Thompson dives into the history of the San Juan Mountain Range, the Animas Valley, the inhabitants, and the Animas River.



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