Snake River: Some heavy metals in stream naturally occuring

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Here’s an analysis of a study released today for the Snake River watershed, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

A significant part of the heavy metal contamination in the Snake comes from natural sources, said Jim Shaw, a local engineer who recently completed a watershed plan for the river. After walking along nearly every mile of every stream in the basin, Shaw said he found natural springs, “where man has never tread,” with high levels of zinc and acid-tinged water…

Zinc is poisonous to trout at concentrations that aren’t harmful to humans. Several recent experiments showed that zinc levels in the Snake River near Keystone are high enough to kill trout in just a few days. Farther downstream, the metals are more diluted, with some trout surviving a short distance upstream of Dillon Reservoir. “There’s a reason it was mined,” Shaw said, referring to the high level of naturally occurring minerals in the rock. “It’ll never be a fishery,” he said of the Snake River. Even cleaning up every single source of mine-related pollution wouldn’t be enough to reach existing water quality standards, he said.

The abandoned Pennsylvania Mine has been the key focus for various parties working on a cleanup plan. But Shaw’s plan goes beyond the Pennsylvania Mine, identifying numerous additional sources of metals in many of the river’s smaller tributaries. The watershed plan, to be unveiled Thursday at a Blue River Watershed Group forum in Frisco, prioritizes cleanup sites.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

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