From The Farmington Daily Times (James Fenton):
Weeks after 3 million gallons of heavy metals-laden toxic waste from the Gold King Mine in Colorado traveled down the Animas and San Juan rivers, many business leaders in San Juan County say the local economy dodged a bullet — more or less.
Raymond Johnston, owner of the Float ‘N Fish Fly Shop and Guide Service at Navajo Dam, said that aside from an uptick in phone calls from people asking about conditions at the Quality Waters section of the San Juan, his business remained fairly steady.
“I couldn’t really tell any difference, but I did have quite a few phone calls,” Johnston said. “Mostly calls from people back east who had guide trips planned, and they were really freaked out. It didn’t affect us financially, but there was a lot of concern.”
Johnson, a fourth-generation Aztec resident, said he has seen incidents like the Gold King Mine spill before.
“This is the third time in my lifetime,” he said of such river-pollution events. “The other two times, it wasn’t any big tailings. But, you know, Aztec has been drinking polluted Durango sewage for 100 years, so we’re used to something.”
But just three miles downstream on the San Juan River, Larry Johnson tells a different story.
Johnson’s Soaring Eagle Lodge — which is the only private riverfront lodge on the San Juan River and offers lodging, meals, guide services, fly fishing instruction, float trips and private river access for its clients — took a sizeable hit.
That was not so much from the pollution, but, as Johnson explained, from the perception of pollution.
“It’s ironic, (the water in the river) is the clearest I’ve ever seen it right now,” Johnson said after getting back from giving a fishing guide tour for charity on Friday. “No, we haven’t been harmed by the spill, I told people. We’re conservationists, not environmentalists. We’re stewards of the river, and we were disheartened by the (mine spill).”