Five years after the Gold King Mine spill, what has actually changed? Not much. |

Five years after the Gold King Mine spill, what has actually changed? Not much.

In this Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 file photo, people kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., in water colored yellow from a mine-waste spill. (Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP, FILE)

It didn’t take long after the sludge settled five years ago for the calls for change to begin. 

In fact, 3 million gallons of orange-gold water that poured out of the Gold King Mine on Aug. 5, 2015, was still flowing through the Colorado River watershed when discussions about the broader issue of thousands of abandoned mines in the U.S. heated up. 

Environmentalists and conservationists hoped that the disaster would provide an opportunity for change after decades of stalled efforts to address historic mining sites that leach heavy metals into waterways every day.  

But for all the talk, there hasn’t been much action. 

Congress has been unable to reach accord on how to clean up abandoned mines, an estimated 23,000 of which are in Colorado. In Silverton, just downstream from Gold King, people are still waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to tackle the problems related to the many other toxic sites that surround the town. In fact, in some ways cleaning up historic mine waste has actually become more difficult for environmental nonprofits since the spill as regulators, wary about another calamity, have increased hurdles for groups before they can begin work.

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