At a minimum, the mining spill in the Animas River will cause a multi-million dollar loss to the area economy, economic experts estimated on Friday.
“This is a man-made disaster,” said Roger Zalneraitis, executive director of the La Plata County Economic Alliance. “It’s striking at the heart of what our community is all about.”
Zalneraitis was taking a walk on the river trail Friday, joining dozens of tourists and locals who were stopping to stare at the oddly-colored orange water flowing by.
The alliance, which works to recruit and retain businesses in the county, will have an emergency meeting Monday to decide what the group should do in regard to the spill.
While the rafting and kayak businesses are obviously impacted, the ripples in the economy from the spill will spread beyond the Durango area, Zalneraitis said. He’s already heard from a person who is cancelling plans to buy a second hom in Durango.
“We’ll try to figure out what we can and ought to do to help the situation,” Zalneraitis said. Options include supporting “Good Samaritan” legislation that would have allowed groups to clean up sources of pollution that are fouling the area’s waterways.
If such legislation had been enacted 10 years ago, for example, “we would have a less of a chance of seeing something like this,” he said, nodding at the river.