Animas River watershed: Acid mine drainage mitigation has caused water quality to deteriorate due to increased metal loading in the river

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From The Durango Telegraph (Will Sands):

“Unfortunately, it’s not looking so good for the Animas,” said Bill Simon, coordinator of the stakeholders. “We were making really good progress through remediation efforts. However, the metal loading in Cement Creek has radically increased in the last five years. The loading has overcome the gains we’ve made, and the pollution is back to where we were when we started off.” Simon explained that pollution levels between Silverton and Baker’s Bridge are as bad as they have been since 1990. Last fall, the stakeholders conducted a fish survey at the Animas River’s confluence with Cascade Creek. In just a few years, three species of fish had disappeared from the section, and only hardy brook trout remained. “I assume that we can expect these impacts to find their way to Durango as well,” Simon said.

Ironically, the culprit behind this pollution was an attempt to fix mine drainage. In 2004, Sunnyside Mining heeded a court decree and plugged its American Tunnel at the head of Cement Creek. However, the tainted water backed up, found its way to other openings and is now leaching out into the creek and running downstream to the Animas. “The water’s now coming out of a bunch of other mines, and it’s nasty,” said Simon. “The new discharges are leaching presumably because of the bulkhead that was placed in the Sunnyside Mine.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

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