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Mine Waste Spills into Colorado’s Animas River

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Mine Waste Spills into Colorado's Animas River

Residents lined the banks of the Animas River on Thursday afternoon to see the toxic wastewater as it flows through town. The wastewater is a result of a spill from the Gold King Mine in Silverton.

The accident occurred about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Gold King Mine in San Juan County. A mining and safety team investigating contamination at the mine triggered a large release of mine wastewater into the upper portions of Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River, according to a news release issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. The mining and safety team was working on behalf of the EPA and State Division of Reclamation.

Animas River users were advised to stay off the water Thursday until contaminated water from a mine mishap above Silverton has passed through Durango. City residents also are being asked to conserve water for the next few days.

La Plata County emergency workers discouraged any recreational activity on the river until the plume had passed. They also urged residents to keep pets and livestock away from the river.

“Because of the discoloration, we don’t want people in the river,” said Butch Knowlton, the county’s director of Emergency Preparedness. “It’s really, really ugly. Any kind of recreational activity on the river needs to be suspended.”

The city of Durango stopped pumping water out of the Animas River on Wednesday to make sure none of the waste could be sucked up into the city reservoir.

The Animas is an important secondary source of water for the city during the summer, and residents need to conserve as much water as possible over the next few days until the water in the Animas is safe to use, said Steve Salka, the city’s utilities director.

During the emergency, Salka is not going to be sending raw water to Fort Lewis College or Hillcrest Golf Course. The city also will not water any city-owned parks for the next three days to help conserve, he said.

On hot summer days, the city can use up to 9.2 million gallons a day. But the city can pump only 5.3 million gallons a day out of the Florida River, the city’s primary source of water.

The city reservoir was about 4.5 feet below capacity on Wednesday, Salka said.

“This couldn’t happen at a worse time for me, so I have to be really cautious,” he said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife placed four cages containing fish in the Animas River to monitor what happens to them, said spokesman Joe Lewandowski. The cages were placed at 32nd Street, the fish hatchery, Dallabetta Park and the High Bridge.

“We’ll see if those fish survive,” Lewandowski said. “We’re also monitoring to make sure we don’t get infiltration into the hatchery, because that could be a problem.”

Local officials have asked all agricultural water users to shut off water intakes.

The mishap released about 1 million gallons of acidic mine water containing sediment and metals flowing as an orange-colored discharge downstream through Cement Creek and into the Animas River, according to the EPA news release.

When the accident happened, EPA’s team was working with heavy equipment to secure and consolidate a safe way to enter the mine and access contaminated water, said Richard Mylott, a spokesman with the EPA in Denver. The project was intended to pump and treat the water and reduce metals pollution flowing out of the mine into the Cement Creek watershed, he said.

Durango resident Lisa Shaefer said she was near the mine at Gladstone on Wednesday when a mine bulwark seemingly broke and sent a torrent of water downstream that raised the water level 2 to 3 feet in Cement Creek. The initial wall of water carried rocks and debris and made a roar as it pushed through a culvert, she said.

“What came down was the filthiest yellow mustard water you’ve ever seen,” she said.

Peter Butler, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, said everybody had wanted to get into the Gold King because for years, it had been one of the two biggest contributors of toxic water to the heavy metal loads in the Animas Basin.

“They had a plan for handling the mine pool but something went wrong and it all came blowing out,” Butler said.

He said the water being discharged from Gold King carried high concentrations of iron, aluminum, cadmium, zinc and copper.

While he didn’t know precisely the metal levels in the water that surged out of Gold King, Butler said: “I’m sure they were really high.”

Though Gold King has no record of emitting mercury, Butler said “when old mines open up like that, mercury sometimes drains out. Possibly, some other metals might have been released, like lead and arsenic. But there’s no evidence of that at this point.”

The contaminated water made its way to Bakers Bridge in La Plata County as of Thursday morning and had hit town by Thursday afternoon. The material was expected cross the New Mexico state line between 4 and 5 a.m. Friday and arrive in Farmington on Friday evening.

Butler said Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety scientist Kirstin Brown had tested pH levels – the telltale measure of acidity in water – in the Animas River at Trimble Lane when the toxic plume arrived.

The pH level dropped from 7.8 to 5.8.

“That’s a pretty big drop,” Butler said.

Farmington city officials shut down all water-supply intake pumps to avoid contamination and advised citizens to stay out of the river until the discoloration has passed.

The discharge consists of water that was being held behind unconsolidated debris near an abandoned mine portal.

Several workers were at the site at the time of the breach; all were unharmed, according to the release.

The workers were exploring the mine to determine a way to stop water from flowing out of the mine, said William Tookey, the San Juan county administrator who met with EPA officials on Thursday.

Silverton does not use water from Cement Creek, so its water source remained uncontaminated, he said.

The Animas River was looking healthier about 24 hours after the discharge in Silverton, he said.

This is not the first time there has been a water-related accident at one of the mines, but it did come as a surprise to the town, Tookey said.

He was not sure if the release would change attitudes toward the EPA in town. For years, some town residents and local officials have been opposed to a Superfund listing.

“Since it was the EPA that was responsible for this, it may make people less likely to be open to them,” he said.

Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment notified water users downstream of the release so they can take appropriate steps to turn off intakes until the contaminated water passed.

The EPA downplayed the potential effects on aquatic life, saying there is long-standing water-quality impairment issues associated with heavy metals in Cement Creek and upper portions of the Animas River. As a result, there are no fish populations in the Cement Creek watershed, and fish populations have historically been impaired for several miles downstream of Silverton in the Animas River, the release said.

Butler said it remains to be seen whether the toxic metal concentrations flowing downriver will impact the few fish species living below Bakers Bridge. But if the plume does have a negative impact on aquatic life, Butler estimated that fish would die within hours of contact with the plume.

EPA teams will be sampling and investigating downstream locations over the next several days to confirm the release has passed and poses no additional concerns for aquatic life or water users.

“This unfortunate incident underscores the very reason EPA and the state of Colorado are focused on addressing the environmental risks at abandoned mine sites,” said David Ostrander, director of EPA’s emergency response program in Denver. “We are thankful that the personnel working on this mine cleanup project were unharmed. EPA will be assessing downstream conditions to ensure any impacts and concerns are addressed, as necessary.”

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80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?

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80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?

Americans will start to see their stimulus payments this week, a centerpiece of the $2.2 trillion rescue package meant to provide a buffer against the coronavirus pandemic that’s shuttered much of the U.S. economy.

The Internal Revenue Service has begun sending $1,200 payments to middle and lower income adults, plus $500 for their minor children, though it could take until September for every eligible person to get the money.
The first payments “should be deposited directly into individuals’ bank accounts; the precise date you will see payments in your account depends on how long individual banks typically take to process direct deposits,” according to a press release from House Ways and Means Committee Republicans.

The IRS will first send the money to individuals for whom the agency has direct deposit information. The remainder will be mailed as checks. That process is expected to begin April 20 but could take until the fall to complete.

The IRS processed more than 80 million payments on Friday that should be available in bank accounts early this week, Sunita Lough, the IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, said in a video conference Monday.

Payments will be made first to those earning the least.

The IRS has launched a tool for non-tax filers, such as those who had income under $12,200 last year and weren’t required to file a federal return, to enter direct deposit information to get their payments.

The agency plans to have a second website up by April 17 that will show people the status of their payments, including the date the money is scheduled to be deposited or mailed. That tool will also let people who’ve typically gotten their tax refund in the mail to provide their bank account details to get their stimulus payment more quickly.

The IRS is using information from 2018 and 2019 tax returns to process the payments. It says taxpayers who’ve yet to file a return this year should do so as soon as possible, and elect to receive the refund via a direct deposit. The information can then be used to distribute the stimulus payments. Social Security and disability recipients will receive their payments automatically.

The tax deadline was extended to July 15 from April 15 to give people more time to file and pay during the pandemic.

Taxpayers who don’t need extra time and who expect to get a stimulus payment should file as soon as possible so the agency has their most up-to-date details on file, said Christina Taylor, head of operations for Credit Karma Tax.

“The quicker, the better,” she said.

Americans earning $75,000 or less, or $150,000 and below as a couple, are eligible for the full $1,200 payout per adult, plus $500 for each child under 17. Those amounts are reduced for people with higher incomes, and people who make $99,000 or more in earnings (or $198,000 for a couple) get nothing, even if they have children. Individuals must have a Social Security number to receive a payment.

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A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry.

A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming…

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A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here's Why You Shouldn't Worry.

A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming.

Hantaviruses are a family of virus that spread through rodents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Yunnan Province, a man died on his way back to Shandong Province, according to Global Times, an English-language Chinese news outlet.

“He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested,” the news outlet tweeted.

The tweet, sent amid a pandemic caused by a new coronavirus, has been shared more than 15,000 times.

Though countries across the globe are on high alert due to uncertainty around the coronavirus, there is no indication that the hantavirus poses a global public health threat.

According to the CDC, hantavirus cases are rare, and they spread as a result of close contact with rodent urine, droppings or saliva.

Certain kinds of rats and mice in the United States can carry the virus, which is transmitted when someone breathes in contaminated air.

“The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another,” the CDC says on its website. Rare cases in Chile and Argentina have seen person-to-person transmission when a person is in close contact with someone sickened by a type of hantavirus called Andes virus, the CDC says.

In the U.S., the virus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory disease that can be fatal. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems. Coughing and shortness of breath can occur later in the disease as the lungs fill with liquid, the CDC says,

Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, found mostly in Europe and Asia, can also occur, which causes pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision, the CDC says. More serious symptoms include acute kidney failure.

Cases in the United States have typically been concentrated in the western and southwestern states.

From 1993 to 2017, there were only 728 confirmed hantavirus cases in the United States, with most being non-fatal, according to CDC data. In comparison, since late January, when the first known coronavirus case was identified in the U.S., there have been 46,805 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

In May 1993, a hantavirus outbreak occurred in an area between Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. A 2012 outbreak in Yosemite sickened 10 people. In seven states, 17 people were infected in a 2017 outbreak.

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Developments in Presidential Race, Trump does Terribly at Forum as Clinton shines

November is lurking around the corner and will be here before you know it, so my question to you is, have you decided who you will vote for? I have, and I proudly say my choice is Hillary Rodham Clinton. I am informing you all that there are ample development in the race for the presidency of the United States…

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November is lurking around the corner and will be here before you know it, so my question to you is, have you decided who you will vote for? I have, and I proudly say my choice is Hillary Rodham Clinton. I am informing you all that there are ample development in the race for the presidency of the United States.

First of all, Donald Trump, according to Kristina Vong’s article at Thehill.com, wrongly corrected a veteran Marine during a forum. The veteran, a woman named Rachel Fredericks, asked Mr. Trump how he plans to stop 20 veterans from committing suicide, daily. Trump tried to correct the woman, who needed no correction. He said it is actually 22, trying to emerge correct, when he was essentially incorrect.

Mr. Trump also does not have a real plan to defeat ISIS, as “his plan is to have a plan” according to Igor Bobic at the Huffington Post. He also insulted military leaders calling them embarrassments to the country when they were under President Obama. He wants to give the generals 30 days to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS.  Of course, this even makes it more obvious that Mr. Trump does not have a plan to defeat ISIS. Why, then did he call our current president the founder of ISIS? How can you give your vote to someone so unprepared and unfit for the presidency that constitutes a whole country? Sorry to say, but Donald Trump is not someone to vote for, at least not as US President!

According to Sean Colarossi at PoliticusUSA.com, a presidential forum highlighted how prepared Trump and Clinton are compared to each other, with Clinton appearing as the more prepared one, very easily. Clinton was engaged with questions, expressed gratitude, and was very prolific and intelligible in her responses. To reiterate, Trump has not a plan to defeat ISIS, where Hillary has a well thought-out plan. She outlined her plan, entailing it could take any form and she iterated and supports the idea that terror suspects should not be able to purchase firearms. Clinton also covered issues like mental health, illuminating the fact that it is overlooked, and mental health should no longer be stigmatized and victims of mental disorders should have access to resources. On the other hand, Trump gave generic answers like that he knows what is going on in the world. Also according to Colarossi’s article, Trump showed as an “empty suit” and “showed he is not prepared to be commander-in-chief” and that the contrast between him and Clinton could not be clearer”; this essentially means Clinton showed to be immensely more prepared to lead and did not focus on attacking others, like Trump’s approach does.

Lastly, Donald Trump has insulted women, children, ethnic groups, religious groups, his opponent, our current president, the military, and the list goes on. He is patronizing and unprepared to preside over our country as well. He constantly attacks others, with no action in mind. Consider if you want to have him as president, seriously!

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