People, Travel

EPA Blunder to Cost US Tourism

EPA Blunder to Cost US TourismEPA Blunder to Cost US Tourism

For rafting and fishing businesses, this year was set to be one of the best but all that changed last week after the massive spill of wastewater in Animas River.

“We are 95 percent shut down,” said David Moler, owner of Durango River Trippers and Adventure Tours, CBS Local reported.

Moler, who owns Durango River Trippers and Adventure Tours in Durango, said the spill has already hurt his bottom line.

“It breaks my heart what happened. The EPA did not put a contingency in place before they started poking around up there … This is a devastating blow,” said Moler.

The EPA accidentally unleashed the contaminated wastewater last week as federal and contract workers inspected the abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado. The agency estimates more than 3 million gallons of sludge laden with lead, arsenic and other heavy metals flowed at least 100 miles downstream to New Mexico.

Communities and farmers along the Animas and San Juan rivers were forced to stop using river water, and it’s unclear when it will be safe to resume irrigating.

The plume of wastewater is gone and the river is clearing up, but it is still off limits until at least next week. Yellow sludge can still be seen on the shorelines of the river.

Gov. John Hickenlooper says he’s concerned about health and businesses. He toured the river in Durango on Tuesday and talked to a fish biologist at a fish hatchery to learn more about the impact the spill is having on the fish population.

“It is in every sense unacceptable; we share the anger that something like this can happen. Now our primary goal is how are we going to move forward,” said Hickenlooper.

Many who live in the area are concerned tourism won’t bounce back even though the river appears to be returning to normal.

 “I’ve had a chance to observe this river all my life, 60+ years,” said La Plata County rancher Ed Zink.

Zink is cautiously optimistic that the impacts will not be as bad as many fear.

“These mountains are very acidic, that is reality, mineral zones, all of Colorado has this,” said Zink.

He also said this is not the first time he’s seen the river turn colors and is not worried about the impact on drinking water.

“The indications are that this will pass and life will be getting back to normal soon.”

The spill is causing more concern downstream. Hundreds in Farmington, New Mexico, took their water to be tested. Animas River feeds irrigation ditches and wells, making it key for not only people but crops and animals.