#NM Environment Department: Silver Wing Mine incident summary — No hazard to human health or the environment in New Mexico

#NM Environmental Department: Silver Wing Mine incident did not harm Animas River water quality in New Mexico — The Farmington Daily Times

Location map for abandoned mine near Silverton. The Silver Wing is in the upper right corner of the aerial.

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

The additional discharge from the Silver Wing Mine into the Animas River did not have a negative impact on water quality, according to the New Mexico Environment Department.

The Silver Wing Mine discharged a larger amount of water than usual last week, causing some discoloration in the Animas River near Silverton, Colorado.

However, the discoloration was not visible downstream, and NMED does not see any evidence of negative impacts to water quality…

NMED has been monitoring water quality data for both turbidity and pH in the Animas River in Colorado and New Mexico. According to the slides, the Silver Wing Mine has not, to date, caused potentially harmful changes in turbidity or pH in the Animas River as it flows from Colorado into New Mexico at Cedar Hill.

Sliver Wing Mine: Photo credit: San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad

Southwestern Water Conservation District’s Annual Water Seminar: Friday, November 1, 2019

Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click here for all the inside skinny:

The 37th Annual Water Seminar will be kicked off by SWCD’s new executive director, Frank Kugel. He has a strong track record of building partnerships and leveraging local resources for collaborative water solutions. Frank will speak to some of the challenges SWCD sees facing water management in southwestern Colorado, and opportunities for our communities to proactively address them.

Anxious for winter storms? First, we’ll hear about the forecast from KKTV meteorologist Brian Bledsoe, and cutting-edge methods for snowpack measurement from Jeff Deems of the National Snow & Ice Data Center.

No water seminar in 2019 would be complete without a discussion of the state’s current feasibility investigation of a demand management program. Mark Harris, Grand Valley Water Users Association, will moderate a panel of heavy hitters on the topic: Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Becky Mitchell, The Nature Conservancy Water Projects Director Aaron Derwingson, and Colorado River District General Manager Andy Mueller.

Further expanding on the subject, we’ll hear a proposal from local economist Steve Ruddell and consultant Dave Stiller which challenges the notion that a successful *and* voluntary, temporary, compensated demand management program would be impossible. State Senator Don Coram and State Representative Marc Catlin will react to this proposal and provide their thoughts more generally on funding water management in Colorado.

And if you haven’t heard the latest results of the West Slope Risk Assessment, John Currier, Colorado River District, will be summarizing the report for southwestern Colorado and taking questions. Jayla Poppleton, Water Education Colorado, will also preview several exciting programs and content making waves across the state. Watch your inbox for the final program, coming soon!

Reserve your seat now. Registration includes catered breakfast and lunch. Click here to register or call 970-247-1302.

Southwestern Water Conservation District Area Map. Credit: SWCD

@EPA: Mine spilling waste into Animas River returns to normal — The Durango Herald

From the San Juan County Sheriff’s office via The Durango Herald:

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it would continue to monitor a mine that spilled wastewater into the Animas River and added sampling results should be available next week.

Crews with the Bureau of Land Management notified the EPA on Wednesday night the Silver Wing Mine, north of Eureka, was releasing mine wastewater into the Animas River, discoloring the waterway.

The mine is in the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund, but the EPA has not begun cleanup work there, agency officials said. The Silver Wing Mine historically has discharged wastewater, but the spill is thought to have released more wastewater than normal.

Andrew Mutter, a spokesman for the EPA, said field crews that visited the site Thursday reported the discharge flow rate from the Silver Wing Mine was similar to past flow rates and the water in the Animas River downstream of the Silver Wing was running clear.

Sliver Wing Mine: Photo credit: San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad

Another mine spills into Animas — The Navajo Times

Location map for abandoned mine near Silverton. The Silver Wing is in the upper right corner of the aerial.

From The Navajo Times (Cindy Yurth):

Both the New Mexico Environment Department and the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management reported today that they were notified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of a wastewater spill from the Silver Wing Mine in the area of Eureka Gulch, north of Silverton, Colorado, which occurred Wednesday afternoon.

According to the San Juan OEM, the spill was the result of a “burp” from the mine and is unrelated to either the Gold King Mine or the Bonita Peak Superfund site.

The source is 10 miles from the Animas River and the spill was expected to dilute by the time it reached Silverton. The spill was moving slowly and was expected to reach the San Juan River.

So far, “Data do not currently indicate any evidence of water quality impacts that could affect human health and the environment,” stated NMED in a press release, adding that the department will continue to monitor the situation.

Although the EPA has not issued a notice to close municipal drinking water supplies, the cities of Farmington and Aztec, New Mexico and the Lower Valley Water Users Association have shut off water intakes to municipal drinking water supplies “out of an abundance of caution.”

Neither the volume of the spill nor the contents of the water were known as of 4 p.m. Thursday. EPA officials were conducting tests to learn more.

Yolanda Barney, program manager for the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency’s Public Water Supply Program, said Thursday NNEPA is aware of spill and is still gathering information.

Sources in Durango, Colorado, reported Thursday the river appears normal.

Colorado abandoned mines

Fort Lewis College home to the new Four Corners Water Resources Center

Here’s the release from Fort Lewis College:

Fort Lewis College is now home to a new collaboration between regional water leaders and academics. The Four Corners Water Resources Center, housed in Reed Library under the leadership of Director Gigi Richard, will be a space where students and community members can work together to address water issues in the Four Corners.

Richard has been a visiting instructor in Geosciences for the last year at FLC, and prior to that was a professor of Geosciences at Colorado Mesa University, where she taught for 16 years and co-founded and directed the Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center. Most colleges in Colorado have a water center with a specific geographic focus. The Four Corners Water Resources Center will have a Southwest and Tribal focus, with collaborations with other colleges possible.

“A water center at FLC creates an exciting opportunity for the college to be a part of solutions to some of the challenging issues facing the region and to help develop the next generation of water leaders,” says Richard. “Water underpins everything in the Southwest, including our agriculture, economy, ecosystems, recreation, spiritual values, and cultural history.”

Students across all majors will be able to engage with the center, from courses to campus projects and events. The center will connect students to the broader water community and expand student opportunities for internships and careers. As Richard states, water touches everything and everyone, and the greatest global challenge is having both clean water and enough water.

“Students are interested in water! So many aspects of water are urgent for present and future grand societal challenges in the Southwest and globally. The new water center will strive to leverage FLC’s existing strengths to develop coherent water-related curricular and co-curricular opportunities for students,” says Richard.

The water center serves as an interdisciplinary information hub to harness the expertise of faculty and enhance or facilitate new relationships between campus and the region. Water leaders, professionals, and other entities will be able to bring data and initiatives under one roof, to generate greater impact and access to regional water issues.

“Fort Lewis is uniquely poised to play a leadership role in facilitating the development of solutions to the challenging water issues facing the Southwest,” says President Tom Stritikus. “FLC already possesses faculty expertise in water-related fields across disciplines, from science, policy and engineering, to the humanities.”

Located in the middle of the San Juan River basin, which is a major tributary to the Colorado River, the water center will be able to engage with both major Western water issues and local water issues. The first undertaking for the center will be to form an advisory council of local and regional water leaders to develop the mission of the center. Richard will be focused on developing an online database of the rivers of the Four Corners, beginning with the Dolores River. The interface will be user-friendly to the general public, and those who are interested can dig in for more technical information, too.

“Many opportunities for partnerships exist both on campus and in the local and regional community. We are looking forward to collaborating with existing groups and building new connections for Fort Lewis students and faculty,” says Richard.

Community events, public talks and tours, and more information about the water center are at https://www.fortlewis.edu/water.

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Zink Ranch receives permission to expand wetlands north of Durango

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo) via The Cortez Journal:

Last week, the Zinks officially announced they received approval from a consortium of government agencies – including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, La Plata County government, among others – to expand the wetlands project by 15 acres…

Before Western settlement reached Colorado, the best estimates show there were probably around 2 million acres – about 3% – of wetlands across the state, which provide some of the most biologically diverse habitats for wildlife and serve as a natural filter for water.

It’s estimated that about 80% to 90% of all wildlife rely on wetland habitats.

But development and other human-related impacts over the decades have caused many wetlands, about half, to disappear. In recent years, though, there has been a push for restoration projects to bring back the instrumental ecosystems when possible.

At the Zinks’ ranch, for instance, a bird count in 2009 tallied 26 species. This year, after more acres of wetlands have returned, that number has jumped to more than 110 species. Patti Zink, Ed’s wife, said other wildlife, too, like deer, are frequenters on the property.

And though the Zinks’ effort is voluntary and self-funded, it is likely they will see some returns for their project, Ed Zink said.

The Clean Water Act of 1974 requires any new development that will destroy wetlands to find new land to restore back to a wetland.

Zink said his property could be used for this purpose.

As an example, he said if the Colorado Department of Transportation ever sought to expand U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Bayfield, about 20 acres of wetlands could be affected. In turn, CDOT could reimburse the Zinks for their restoration project…

[Patti Zink] said the wetlands will enhance the environment, as well as conserve the land forever as open space.

“We’re really glad we’ve done it,” she said. “It will be a family legacy for us.”

Ed Zink said he has heard some of his neighbors express interest in wetland projects, which would provide more robust and expanded habitat for wildlife and improving water quality.

Ed Zink Animas River wetlands. Photo credit: The Durango Herald (Deep link not working)