Animas River watershed: ‘Our river is ailing’ part one of a four part series from The Durango Herald

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Here’s the link to part one of Dale Rodebaugh’s four part series running in The Durango Herald. The focus is mining and agricultural runoff. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1978, Lake Emma, under which miners had bored the Sunnyside tunnel, collapsed. The ensuing torrent of water spewed timbers, equipment and tons of debris from the mine. Miraculously, no lives were lost because it occurred on a weekend.

When Sunnyside Mining Co. closed its operations in Silverton in 1991, it was facing an annual expense of $800,000 to treat 1,200 to 1,600 gallons a minute of contaminated waste.

Instead, the company negotiated a court decree with the state to install bulkheads to plug draining adits.

Todd Hennis, who has an ownership stake in a couple of the leaking mines, said that agreement in the mid-’90s was a grievous error because it allowed a $5 million bond to be returned to Sunnyside despite the potential for future contamination.

Later contracts with other companies to treat waste didn’t work out, and since 2004, contaminants have been flowing freely from the mines.

Click through and read the whole article. They’re also running a slideshow and video.

More Animas River watershed coverag here