Clear Creek Becomes Orange Creek

Residents Report Orange Tint In Water Near Idaho Springs

The city of Golden temporarily shut-down its water intake gates from Clear Creek after an accidental mining leak turned the normally colorless creek bright orange. A shut-down residents didn't even notice.

“We’ve got plenty of water to make it through a short shut-down like this,” said Anne Beierle, deputy director of public works for the city of Golden.

Residents living near Idaho Springs grew increasingly concerned Wednesday night and Thursday morning because the water in Clear Creek turned orange.

The Colorado Office of Emergency Management was working to identify the source which appears to be tailings from an old gold mine, which somehow overflowed or leaked into Clear Creek. Those tailings could contain heavy metals, even arsenic and cyanide.

The color of the discharge appears to match the color of mine tailings from gold mines.

"It could kill the birds and all the wildlife that use the river," resident Helen Wightman told 7NEWS. "It's very serious."

On Thursday, Golden was only treating the water it had in storage.

Golden is used to it. Its system is so sophisticated, it even shuts down when a car or truck plunges into the Creek. Creek flow measurements allow the city to time out exactly when dirty water will get to its facility.

“Anytime a car gets in the creek, we want to make sure we don’t collect any of that fuel that might come out the car when that happens,” said Beierle. “We just let that slug of dirty water just go right by.”

The Environmental Protection Agency was also looking into the problem.

Golden, which is downstream from the release, issued a statement Thursday that said:

"The release will not have an impact on Golden's water. Plant operators were notified Wednesday and have determined how long it will take for the material to reach Golden. Operators will stop diverting water into the treatment plant before the spill reaches Golden and will not reopen the gates until it has passed. The City has plenty of water stored to last during the intake stoppage.

"There are hundreds of old mineshafts in the Foothills and releases of this nature occur frequently. The City of Golden has protocols in place to deal with any potential spill into the creek and we are following those protocols. Golden residents shouldn't see any impact from this event."

Print this article Back to Top