Metal-contaminated water escaped from a treatment plant near Gold King Mine

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DENVER (AP) — Discolored water containing metals escaped into a Colorado creek from a wastewater treatment plant after heavy rain fell near the site of an earlier mine waste spill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The EPA hasn’t identified the metals or quantities that were released in the incident Tuesday near the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado.

Local officials said the release wasn’t big enough to warrant a public advisory.

Last year, an EPA-led crew inadvertently triggered a 3-million-gallon spill while doing preliminary cleanup work at the mine, tainting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The EPA estimates that spill sent 880,000 pounds of metals into the Animas River, including arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc.

The treatment plant was installed to clean up water still flowing from the mine while the EPA looks for a long-term solution. The agency has proposed a Superfund cleanup for the Gold King and 47 other nearby mining sites.

The agency said the metals released Tuesday had been at least partially treated and would settle out of the creek quickly.

The rains sent so much water into the treatment plant that part of the process was overwhelmed, the EPA said. The problem was corrected in about two hours, the agency said in a written statement.

The incident was first reported by the Durango Herald.

The overflow was too small to affect irrigation ditches, drinking water or recreation, La Plata County emergency director Butch Knowlton told the Herald.

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