Letter: Silverton residents share blame for mine spill
The Animas River spill has created a lot of controversy, including blaming the EPA. However, the most astounding element in the story is that the quality of the Animas River has mainly been determined by a small town in Colorado — Silverton with a population of 640. Since the 1990s, Silverton has strongly resisted the clean up of polluted water leaking from mines reasoning everything from it is "natural" to it will hurt the tourist trade.
In April, 2015, the EPA reported that the water quality in the Animas has been declining since 2005 noting the following:
•Water in the Animas River from Arrastra Creek to approximately Cement Creek is likely toxic to all trout species, with the exception of brook trout. Brook trout living in this reach, however, are likely stressed much of the year.
•Metals concentrations in the Animas River below Mineral Creek have eliminated virtually all fish down to Elk Creek and all cutthroat and rainbow trout down to Cascade Creek, where only a small community of brook and brown trout exists. Results also predict fish populations are likely impaired down to at least Bakers Bridge.
The Denver Post reports that there are 29 leaking mine sites in the Animas watershed. Three, not including the Gold Kind Mine, release 540 to 700 gallons of toxic water into the watershed every minute. The discharge from the Gold King Mine prior to the spill was 50 to 250 gallons per minute.
Based on these numbers, every day from 849,000 to almost 1.4 million gallons of toxic water leaks from these four mines.
It behooves us to quit blaming the EPA and see that the Animas River is cleaned up whether the Silverton residents like it or not. The accidental release by the EPA of 3 million gallons of waste is unacceptable, but it is less than 1 percent of the toxic waters released into the Animas on a yearly basis.