EPA official: Silver Wing Mine is no longer discharging additional heavy metal laden water

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
An Animas River sign is shown on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, on Highway 550, north of Aztec.

FARMINGTON — The Animas River is running clear near Silverton, Colorado, after an increase in discharge from the Silver Wing Mine earlier this week.

“We were notified on the ninth by the (Bureau of Land Management) that there was discoloration of the Animas River that seemed to be coming from the Silver Wing Mine,” said Christina Progess, the senior remedial project manager for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 and the team lead for the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site.

She said the EPA responded by taking samples to determine the concentrations of metal in the discharged water. Progess said the EPA should receive the results from those samples next week.

The additional discharge from the Silver Wing Mine likely had minimal impact on water quality in the Animas River. Progess said there is no discoloration in the Animas River as of Oct. 11.

The town of Silverton is visible in December 2014 from U.S. Highway 550 in Colorado. Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say the Silver Wing Mine near Silverton spilled wastewater into the Animas River earlier this week.

The Silver Wing Mine is located above the Eureka townsite outside of Silverton. It is on private land. Access to the mine was cut off when an avalanche last winter washed out the bridge over the Animas River.

While it is one of the 48 historic mine sites in the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site, it is not connected to the Gold King Mine or its treatment ponds, which are in the Cement Creek drainage area.

More:US EPA provides update on Gold King Mine area

The EPA has monitored the Silver Wing Mine and collected data to determine the normal discharge rate.

“We’ve been measuring the discharge for several years,” Progess said.

While the EPA has monitored the discharge, Progess said it has not done any remediation work at the site.

Progess said the mine is no longer discharging more than its normal amount of wastewater and whatever led to the increase earlier this week appears to have resolved on its own.

She said mines will occasionally have periodic surges of discharge, and the EPA has not yet determined the cause.

Farmington, Aztec and Lower Valley Water Users Association have closed intake pumps from the river out of caution. However, Progess said the EPA will not be issuing orders to close intakes as it did following the Gold King Mine spill.

More:Study continues monitoring Gold King Mine spill aftermath

New Mexico Environment Department is also monitoring the Animas River, according to a press release issued Oct. 10. The press release stated that NMED did not see any signs that the additional discharge from the mine could have negative impacts to human health or the environment.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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