Colorado wants to re-open the river that turned mustard-yellow with toxic sludge days ago

The toxic water that spilled out of an old gold mine in Colorado and stained a river deep yellow could be dissipating fast enough for the river to be re-opened as early as Wednesday.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday that the river in southwest Colorado, which was contaminated with toxic metals like iron and lead, has returned to pre-spill levels.

Gov. Hickenlooper wants to allow boats, rafts, and other recreational activities to return to the water. Drinking and fishing (other than catch-and-release) would still be off-limits, the Durango Herald reports.

According to the Herald, Hickenlooper said he based his decision on samples taken from the water two days after the spill, which he says show the river’s pH and heavy-metal levels have returned to a normal range.

But the EPA, who caused the spill in the first place, are a little more hesitant.

At the time of the accident, the agency had been working to treat the contaminated water trapped inside the Gold King Mine, which has been closed since 1923. But while investigating the area, workers accidentally knocked down a part of the mine, allowing some 3 million gallons of metallic sludge to pour out.

The EPA isn’t sure the samples collected on Friday tell the whole picture of the river’s health now. Just because the results were good one day, doesn’t mean it’s a sign that the river’s actually back to normal and safe to use.

“It doesn’t show where we are at right now,” Shaun McGrath, Region 8 administrator for the EPA, told Hickenlooper, the Herald reports. “You have to have a couple of days of data to show that you’re actually back to baseline conditions, and we’re not there yet.”

EPA Chief Gina McCarthy is expected to tour the area today.

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