I'm not in Durango anymore, and even though the shimmering ribbon of the Animas river has been turned into a nationally-televised disaster--the color of which is somewhere between Captain Kirk's shirt and John Boehner--I still wish I were there right now. To be honest there's never not a time when I'd rather be in Durango. The Animas River nearly took my life three times (all my fault) and I'll jump right back in again. Seriously, I'll get in now and swim a hundred yards. Then scientists can test me instead of dipping unsuspecting trout into the goo. It's OK, I'm used to it. I live near Denver's stretch of the Platte River. Our ducks have five legs and are powered by combustibles and Red Bull urine. We don't want it to flood not so much because of the damage, but because we might be forced to touch the water. But, dammit, we're talking about the Animas; a recreation hub. Home of bald eagles, cutthroat, browns, rainbows and countless svelte paddlers with awesome nicknames. If a million gallons of something horrible spills into the Platte, we call it Tuesday. Politicians don't get all that eager to stand by it. This jewel called the Animas, however, is something to sweat over. And when you get imagery of people pulling their kids out of the water and it's in the heart of beautiful tourist country, not Bangladesh or even West Virginia, people get fired up.
The rap is that the EPA caused this, and as far as the actual physical act that triggered the toxic spew, it looks like they're a pretty clear target. And boy is it going to be fun for Congress to point fingers at big government. They're already queuing up quips and adorable colloquialisms about federal ineptitude to protect industry donors through the election cycle. Last night I saw 3rd District Republican and Fort Lewis Grad Scott Tipton having a grandstand orgasm on his Facebook page. He's going to get those bad guys at the EPA. He had hundreds of 'likes' and people high fiving across the digital expanse. But I'm not so giddy about attacking the EPA.
Of course they're going to be accountable. They're covered in orange. They're your stoner roommate generously dusted by your missing Cheetos. Accountability isn't the issue. Blame shouldn't be the focus.
We can't even rip on the dastardly mine.
The Gold King Mine was a thing before we gave a damn (and realized just how damning that can be.) Colorado's statehood relied on mining and the people who came here to work in terrible conditions (in whatever that orange stuff is) to make a buck. We get that. But to hold the EPA as the only accountable party is egregiously political and misses the point entirely. There are thousands of abandoned extraction sites in Colorado, and when you have that many land mines lying around, someone is going to step on one.
Boom. Here we have the pyroclastic ooze shutting down wells, interrupting lives and poisoning the entire reason people live in the Southwest. If golden rocks brought people to the area in the 1800s, it's the natural splendor we thrashed for those nuggets that convinced people to stay. It's the reason that someone will pay six bucks for a microbrew and why better-than-average professors take pine cones over pay to make FLC the attraction that it is. The EPA was doing its part to inspect the mine; to ensure that the goop that made Colorado a state wouldn't leave Colorado in a state. They screwed up. But it's not a sign to go on the attack. It's an even bigger (like a river of Tang) omen that if we're serious about handing down Colorado's natural beauty to our children, then we should take the steps to avoid more places that the EPA will have to inspect. The Gold King Mine was recognized as killing off a creek in 1876. Since then we can only hope we've learned to engage in methods that don't lead to more bureaucrats in bulldozers. It seems like a win/win to advance to a place where disaster isn't a mistake away.