- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2015

DENVER—Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s big gulp of water from the formerly orange Animas River wasn’t just icky, it was “reckless and irresponsible,” said New Mexico’s top environmental official.

New Mexico environment department secretary Ryan Flynn said Mr. Hickenlooper’s decision to fill up his water bottle from the site of the EPA’s 3-million-gallon wastewater spill in Durango, Colorado, sends the wrong message.

“If it’s true, it’s a reckless and irresponsible act by a public official,” said Mr. Flynn in the Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times. “He might as well stick 15 cigarettes in his mouth and light them all at the same time and take a picture about how that’s good for you.”

Mr. Flynn noted that nobody should drink water directly from a river, even one that hasn’t been flooded with acidic drainage, although Mr. Hickenlooper did put a tablet of iodine in his water bottle first to kill germs before dipping it into the river.

Mr. Hickenlooper’s drink, filmed by the Durango Herald, was aimed at proving that the Animas River is safe for rafting and other recreational watercraft, a huge part of Durango’s tourism business, but the move has also generated criticism.

The conservative website Colorado Peak Politics called it an “idiotic press stunt,” given that EPA officials have not yet released complete data from testing on the water’s quality in the aftermath of the Aug. 5 accident.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said during her Wednesday visit to Durango that the Animas River is back to pre-spill conditions, although other agency officials said the Gold King Mine continues to emit 500 to 700 gallons per minute.

That wastewater is being captured in settling ponds outside the mine and treated before entering the Animas, said EPA Region 8 administrator Shaun McGrath.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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