Mine Site Remediation by Good Samaritans in the Animas Watershed

Storosh, Matthew (2013) Mine Site Remediation by Good Samaritans in the Animas Watershed. In: 8th Annual Natural & Behavioral Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium Program, April 18, 2013, Fort Lewis College.

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    Abstract

    Located in Colorado’s southern San Juan Mountains, the town of Silverton was established as a mining community due to the high-mineralized content of the Silverton caldera and perpetual market demands for crude-ore. During the 120-year period between 1872 and 1991 (when Sunnyside Gold Co. closed the last major mine), the Animas watershed became a retainer for over 8.6 million short tons of mining and milling by-products containing high levels of potentially toxic elements. As a result of largely unregulated mining and milling practices, ecological impairment and habitat degradation in the Animas watershed are reflected through reduced abundance and diversity of aquatic invertebrates, and in some cases, the absence of viable fish communities. There are roughly 400 abandoned mine sites above the town of Silverton. Few potentially responsible parties have been identified to conduct remediation projects on these historical mines that have been deemed the primary source of water-quality degradation in the Animas watershed. In the early 1990’s, the State Water Quality Control Program designated the upper Animas watershed as one of the most deteriorated stream segments in the state as a result of elevated levels of toxic metals. Due to a lack of potentially responsible parties for the remediation of mine sites found on both private and public lands the task of meeting instream water-quality standards proposed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been problematic. In response to potential designation as a Superfund site, the Animas River Stakeholders Group (ARSG) formed in 1994 at the urging of the Water Quality Control Division (WQCD). Operating as third-party volunteer group, ARSG has spent the past eighteen years seeking to improve water quality and habitats in the Animas River through a collaborative process designed to encourage participation from all interested parties. This paper exposes the need to give greater attention to the correlation between past mining activities and the degraded water quality in the Animas watershed. An amendment to section 402 of the CWA would serve as a means to create a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit specifically for accomplishing the partial cleanup of abandoned mines by third-party volunteers seeking to improve watershed quality in areas such as Silverton and San Juan County. By drafting a bill that addresses the concerns of various interest groups such as environmentalists, mining corporations, and state and local agencies, an amendment to section 402 of CWA would serve in the remediation of several major draining mines that drain up to 800 gallons a minute of heavy metals such as, iron, zinc, copper, lead, cadmium, mercury and manganese into Cement Creek, a tributary to the Animas River. Such remediation action would go a long way to improve water quality, yet until the liability issues faced by Good Samaritans are addressed and resolved, all action is on hold.

    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
    Created by Student or Faculty: Student
    Additional Information: 8th Annual Natural & Behavioral Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium Program
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Silverton, Mining, Crude ore, Watershed, Mining practices, Water quality, Public Health, Water pollution, Water supply, Water quality, Environmental aspects, Land use, government policies and bills
    Subjects: School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences > Environmental Studies
    School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences > Geosciences
    NBS Symposium
    Interdisciplinary > Pre-Health
    School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences > Public Health
    Depositing User: Alejandro Marquez
    Date Deposited: 08 May 2013 10:01
    Last Modified: 26 Jun 2013 14:20
    URI: http://eprints.fortlewis.edu/id/eprint/260


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