#AnimasRiver #GoldKingMine: “Do we come out stronger?” — Gov. Hickenlooper

Colorado abandoned mines
Colorado abandoned mines

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus and Edward Graham) via the Cortez Journal:

The Gold King Mine blowout six months ago that dumped 3 million gallons of orange sludge into western waterways spurred action that could lead to remedies for the long-standing problem of toxic drainage from thousands of abandoned mines.

A flurry of bills has been introduced in Congress, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper established a task force to identify priorities for restoring inactive mines across the state.

But it’s not a small problem, and there are no quick solutions…

“I think those photographs of the orange Animas River focused people’s attention in a way that wasn’t focused before,” U.S. Sen Michael Bennet said of the renewed efforts in Congress to address the nation’s mining legacy. “I’m not saying at the local level. I think people at the local level understood that this has been an issue for a long time, but I think that this has caught the attention of Congress finally.”

Bennet, a Democrat, and Republicans Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton have crafted Good Samaritan legislation that would provide liability protection for third-party groups to pursue mine cleanup efforts. Although their legislative efforts preceded the mine spill, the fallout has renewed attention on the need to remediate abandoned mines.

“This is something that I’ve been supportive of for as long as I’ve been in public office, but this certainly gives it a stronger impetus and perhaps momentum to finally finish the job,” Gardner said.

Last month, Hickenlooper unveiled the Mining Impacted Streams Task Force, which includes state water, mining and salt and hazardous waste officials, as well as federal agencies.

The goal is to identify gaps in data by pooling resources from the Water Quality Control Division, Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and tribal entities, among others.

Researchers will look at water-quality data going back 30 years to take a full watershed approach, examining water from the Upper Animas River Basin to Lake Powell.

Hickenlooper wants to turn disaster into action, pointing to the resiliency of the Durango community.

“Do we come out stronger?” Hickenlooper asked. “That’s the hope … Otherwise, you’ve lost so much. If you say you’re going to build back to almost as good as we used to be, that’s like nature’s winning.”
Hickenlooper wants the task force also to identify new technologies that could assist with reclamation efforts.

“We’re looking at what are some out-of-the-box ideas on how you address mines like this, mines that show some great risk,” the governor said.

Having data and identifying priorities to tackle the inactive mines also provide ammunition for getting federal help, including possible Superfund listings for sites across the state and encouraging Congress to pass “Good Samaritan” legislation…

“We believe that with good, appropriate Good Samaritan legislation that we can actually achieve that goal and we hope that we’ll be able to find that good common ground – sensible common ground – to do what we would all like to have done, and that’s to be able to clean up these areas,” [US Rep. Scott Tipton] said.

Patrick Pfaltzgraff, director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division, said the new state task force and other efforts will allow the long-standing problems to be addressed.

“There’s a bunch of different impacts throughout the state in the mining district that we’re going to have to look at and try and get our arms around,” Pfaltzgraff said.

“I need a site picture as to what the problem is before you can even think about what you’re going to do by way of treating it. Then we can start providing decision-makers with the information that will allow them to make those next-step decisions.”

Hickenlooper added, “With good people, or good communities, many times bad things do create better conditions. I think this might be one of those cases where it is going to be stronger.”

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage
Bonita Mine acid mine drainage

Study: Local water contaminated — The Colorado Springs Business Journal

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (John Hazlehurst):

Recent studies in Fountain, Security and Widefield show that the water there is contaminated with industrial chemicals that could cause a public health hazard.

Known as perfluoroalkyls, or PFAs, research suggests the chemicals are potent carcinogens and endocrine disrupters at levels far below the Environmental Protection Agency’s provisional exposure limits for drinking water.

And no one seems to know where the contaminants are coming from — or even that they were there in the first place. The city of Fountain’s 2015 Drinking Water Quality Report doesn’t mention PFAs or any other “unregulated reportable contaminant.”

Ron Woolsey, who heads Fountain’s Water Department, was unaware of any PFA contamination of the city’s water supply or of the EPA test results. It’s not clear if the EPA reported these results to the three affected systems.

“We get about 70 percent of our water from the Frying Pan/Arkansas project, via Pueblo Reservoir,” he said. “The remaining 30 percent comes from wells in Fountain and wells on the Venetucci Farm that we share with Security and Widefield. When [CSU’s] SDS [Southern Delivery System] comes on line, we’ll get 100 percent of our water from Pueblo Reservoir.”

[…]

It could be that water from Fountain Valley wells or surface water sources are contaminated by either landfills or residue from industrial processes, but no one is really sure.

WHAT ARE PFAS?

Perfluoroalkyls were first developed by 3M in 1951. DuPont used them for decades to manufacture common commercial products such as Teflon and Scotchgard.

Many are ubiquitous in world ecosystems. Once in a fish, a bird or a human body, they neither decay nor metabolize. The chemicals have been found in people’s bloodstreams, in polar bears in the Arctic and salmon caught in Alaska.

PFAs are highly toxic, but it has long been assumed by public health officials that minute quantities in drinking water pose no risk.

But that might not be the case.

TESTS CONFIRM

Although industrial use of these compounds has been curtailed recently, EPA testing has found that 6.5 million Americans in 27 states are exposed to PFA-tainted drinking water. The chemicals have been detected in 94 public water systems — including the three El Paso County systems.

According to information on the EPA’s website, PFAs are present in drinking water systems that serve 70,000 customers in El Paso County; the agency found more than 200 contaminants in 106 tested samples with a maximum contaminant level of 1.3 parts per billion — among the highest levels of all the water systems that showed evidence of PFA contamination.

“In January 2009,” according to the EPA’s website, “the EPA’s Office of Water established a provisional health advisory of 0.2 micrograms per liter for PFOS and 0.4 µg/L for PFOAs to assess the potential risk from short-term exposure of these chemicals through drinking water. PHAs [advisories] reflect reasonable, health-based hazard concentrations above which action should be taken to reduce exposure to unregulated contaminants in drinking water.”

[…]

CHANGING REGULATIONS

But the EPA might soon deliver new regulations based on recent studies. A paper by Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health and Richard Clapp of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell published in the journal “New Solutions” found that PFAs are hazardous at much lower levels. They can cause cancer, heart disease, birth defects and weaker immune systems.

“Grandjean and Clapp suggested that the EPA’s approach in 2009 led to a presumed safe level ‘at least two orders of magnitude’ higher than the newer studies indicate would protect human health with an adequate margin of safety,” the Environmental Working Group said in an analysis of the study. “… lower than the EPA advisory level by a factor of more than 1,300.”

About 200 prominent scientists worldwide signed the 2015 Madrid Statement, calling on the international community to limit the production and use of PFAs. The statement noted the “growing body of epidemiological evidence” linking PFAs to testicular and liver cancer, liver malfunction, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, obesity, decreased immune response to vaccines, reduced hormone levels and delayed puberty.

If EWG’s calculations are correct, drinking water in Security, Widefield and Fountain could contain hundreds, even thousands of times the safe level of PFOA and PFOS contaminants. Other PFA contaminants detected in the three systems include perfluoroheptanoic acid, perfluorohexanesulfonic acid and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid.

A REGULATORY TANGLE

Thanks to legal constrictions, the EPA has little power to regulate industrial chemicals such as PFAs.

“Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act,” reporter Nathaniel Rich pointed out in a recent New York Times article, “the EPA can test chemicals only when it has been provided evidence of harm. This arrangement, which largely allows chemical companies to regulate themselves, is the reason that the EPA has restricted only five chemicals, out of tens of thousands on the market, in the last 40 years.”

Lawsuits related to a class action against DuPont for harmful use of PFAs have been making their way slowly through the courts. Filed on behalf of thousands of residents of Ohio and West Virginia, the suits allege that DuPont is responsible for adverse health effects from PFA pollution of multiple drinking water systems.

While there are no certain guidelines that specify PFA drinking water safety levels. The lawsuit against DuPont in West Virginia included anyone whose drinking water had PFOA or PFOS levels above 0.05 parts per billion.

Water provided to residents of Fountain, Security and Widefield showed maximum PFA contaminant level of 1.3 ppb, 26 times greater than the 0.05 cut-off for West Virginia plaintiffs.

NO STATE RECOURSE

Although a handful of states — Minnesota, New Jersey and North Carolina — have established guidelines for PFA contaminants, Colorado is not among them.

CDPHE administers the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, but its regulatory flexibility is limited by state legislative mandate to be neither more nor less restrictive than those set by the EPA. CDPHE is able to give assistance to local water providers.

“We provide assistance to water systems throughout the state,” said Nicole Graziano, CDPHE’s technical and regulatory implementation and coordination unit manager for the safe drinking water program.

“We have a lot of staff who work to assure that drinking water is at the highest level of safety to protect public health.”

Fountain’s Woolsey is determined to find the source of the PFA contaminants and eliminate them. It’s not his first rodeo.

“We went through this sort of thing with Schlage Lock and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) years ago,” he said. “Well pollution has always been a concern. The three systems are all interconnected in lots of ways, so it’s possible that we can identify the source, but it may not be simple.”

The EPA confirmed that the chemicals can be removed from water by implementing treatment at centralized facilities or in homes by installing activated carbon filters.

#AnimasRiver #GoldKingMine: New Mexico official — spill is a human health issue

From from the Associated Press (Susan Montoya Bryan) via The Durango Herald:

The head of the New Mexico Environment Department blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday during a legislative committee meeting, saying federal officials are downplaying the long-term effects of the Gold King Mine spill.

Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn told members of the House agriculture committee that the agency has been pressuring communities to get behind a proposal that calls for monitoring water quality for only a year.

Flynn also argued that the proposal would look at whether the water is safe for recreation rather than digging deeper into recurring spikes in the readings of heavy metals that state officials fear could affect crops, livestock and wildlife in the years to come.

The EPA has maintained that water quality returned to normal in the weeks following the Aug. 5 spill. Flynn disputed that, and he pointed to readings taken after a series of storms last fall.

“When storm events occurred, the sediment was remobilized, and we’re seeing the levels of lead and other metals in the river increase well above safe drinking water standards,” Flynn testified. “So the idea that: ‘Hey, everything is back to normal, we’re good,’ is just flat out false and that’s a problem.”

Flynn said the agency needs to treat the incident as a human health issue.

The EPA did not respond directly to Flynn’s criticisms, but noted that it has been working with communities in the region on a draft monitoring plan. Flynn is part of that working group, according to the agency.

“The work group’s goal is to finalize a plan based on broad stakeholder input that has support among the jurisdiction,” EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham said in a statement.

State, local government and tribal representatives met last week in Colorado to discuss steps forward, but the timing on a final monitoring plan remains unclear.

A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon August 10, 2015 -- photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin
A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon August 10, 2015 — photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin

Fountain Creek: “Colorado Springs has offered $19 million a year, which is inadequate” — Ray Kogovsek

Fountain Creek flooding 1999 via the CWCB
Fountain Creek flooding 1999 via the CWCB

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo City Council wants the federal government to crack down on Colorado Springs for violating its stormwater permit in order to reduce the risk of damage from Fountain Creek flooding.

Two weeks after approving a resolution with a list of recommended conditions for Pueblo County commissioners to apply in an anticipated intergovernmental agreement, council voted to send the same list to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Among the conditions would be the expenditure by Colorado Springs of $50 million annually to address a $534 million backlog of stormwater control projects, adequate staffing to maintain structures already in place, a reliable source of future stormwater funding and additional help to dredge Fountain Creek in Pueblo in order to maintain levees.

The action was requested by City Council President Steve Nawrocki because Colorado Springs is on two tracks of negotiations over its lack of stormwater control, City Attorney Dan Kogovsek explained.

“Colorado Springs has offered $19 million a year, which is inadequate,” Kogovsek said.

Pueblo County is looking at assurances of future stormwater control in relation to its 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System. The U.S. Attorney’s office is working with the Environmental Protection Agency on prosecuting Colorado Springs violations of its stormwater permit.

The city’s resolution refers to the 2009 demise of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise as a contributing factor to continued sedimentation in Fountain Creek that increases the risk of flooding in Pueblo.

A Wright Water Engineers report for Pueblo County revealed that 370,000 tons of sediment annually is deposited in Fountain Creek between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. A root cause for the increased load is the increase in impervious surfaces in Colorado Springs since 1980.

Colorado Springs had a stormwater enterprise in March 2009 when Pueblo County issued the 1041 permit for SDS. The Bureau of Reclamation considered it to be in place when it issued a record of decision for SDS.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs has not confronted its stormwater problem on Fountain Creek for years, and there’s no reason to believe they will after the current crisis blows over, in Jay Winner’s opinion.

“Every elected official from the Springs knows how to feed this crap to Pueblo in order to keep sending it down Fountain Creek,” said Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Every city council comes to us with the same message. I want our elected officials in Pueblo to understand what has happened.”

Colorado Springs last month sent emissaries to the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Pueblo City Council and Pueblo County commissioners to convince them that the city has seen the light after facing legal action from the federal Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency.

That didn’t stop council from passing a resolution recommending that commissioners push for $50 million annual funding for stormwater in Colorado Springs, more help with dredging Fountain Creek and other measures to mitigate damage from increased flows. Commissioners maintained a hard stance that the 1041 conditions require stormwater control, and might not be enough if just followed to the letter.

Do the right thing

In short, both wanted Colorado Springs to do the right thing when it comes to Fountain Creek.

The Lower Ark district has been trying to do that since 2005, shortly after Winner stepped into his job — first through negotiations and then through the threat of a federal lawsuit. They worked cooperatively on a $1.2 million Fountain Creek corridor plan that was crucial to early funding of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The relationship has soured.

Winner was at some of the meetings last month where Colorado Springs pleaded for time and understanding, but is far from convinced Colorado Springs will follow through on promises this time. He heard Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers’ pitch that it’s better to spend money on solutions than lawyers — even though lawyers were in the mayor’s entourage.

“Put your money where your mouth is. There are a couple of ways to do this. Maybe it’s time the legal system goes through the process, to make sure Colorado Springs spends the money on the solution,” Winner said. “I believe they could be fined up to $38,000 a day, so that might get their attention. Maybe the EPA could talk to its sister agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, and not let them turn on SDS until this gets taken care of.”

2013: Shortfalls found

Winner is concerned that last year’s EPA audit said Colorado Springs had taken little action to correct deficiencies identified in a February 2013 audit.

A look at the audit reveals the Colorado Springs stormwater department had been gutted in late 2012 and personnel reassigned to other areas.

Testing of water quality samples in the Fountain Creek watershed was farmed out to the U.S. Geological Survey, the results were ignored and staff was poorly trained to do the work itself.

Waivers of regulations meant to assure developers would properly install drainage structures and ponds were granted routinely without inspection, resulting in siltedup, overgrown ditches and basins.

City staff failed to follow through on cleaning up a gasoline spill that occurred during the inspection while the EPA waited on site. Snow was forecast for the next day.

The solution promised to federal inspectors was a regional stormwater task force that would eventually try to form the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage District, which would have generated $40 million annually to address a $700 million backlog of needs in El Paso County.

When voters rejected that idea in November 2014, Colorado Springs apparently did nothing to correct the problems by the time EPA inspectors returned.

2015: Nothing fixed

The 2015 EPA audit revealed interviews with city stormwater staff who said they did not have the funding or personnel to fix the problems identified by the EPA.

It revealed other things too.

For instance, a 2010 Colorado Springs Utilities stabilization project for a 66-inch-diameter sanitary sewer line on Shooks Run was not properly installed, never inspected by city stormwater staff and never maintained.

Colorado Springs staff told inspectors $11 million in high priority projects could be undertaken when Federal Emergency Management Agency funds came through. The EPA noted that some of the projects were routine maintenance, not flood damage.

The audits are far from exhaustive. In 2013, a team of four inspectors spent four days poking through records and visiting some sites. In 2015, five inspectors spent two days.

But the offenses were judged serious enough that EPA threatened legal action last year.

Chess game

So what was the Lower Ark district doing during the two-year gap?

Trying to move stormwater into the limelight.

Unsuccessfully, it turned out, as Colorado Springs made flanking maneuvers in a political game of chess.

Colorado Springs was, in 2013, trying to deal with the aftermath of the Waldo Canyon Fire, which destroyed 346 homes in 2012 and badly damaged the mountains west of the city. The challenges included building storm detention ponds that were quickly filled in with silt and overrun by summer rains.
Winner tried to raise the issue with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which had shelved its own plans to secure a funding source — state law allows it to collect a mill levy — while the stormwater task force worked in El Paso County.

In July 2013, Winner raised questions about Fountain Creek water quality as it relates to downstream farming, but was told by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King that the city was not obligated to do projects that benefit Pueblo or downstream communities in the Arkansas Valley.

Bach presented a list that purported to show $46 million in stormwater projects, although many of those used federal grants, were aimed at fire mitigation or would not be completed by the end of the year. Many dealt with new damage that occurred after the 2009 demise of the stormwater enterprise.

In September 2013, during one of the most intense floods on Fountain Creek since 1999, Lower Ark attorney Peter Nichols explained the connection between high water levels on Fountain Creek and the presence of E. coli in the water at a Pueblo County commissioners hearing.

Nichols pointed out the 2012 report card of the American Society of Civil Engineers that gave Colorado Springs mostly Ds and Fs when it came to stormwater control. The city’s per capita funding was the lowest for any large city in Colorado.

At the same meeting, Pueblo County commissioners heard assurances from Colorado Springs Utilities officials and Councilwoman Jan Martin, who voted to repeal the stormwater enterprise in 2009, that stormwater needs would be met.

Colorado Springs also was successful in 2013 in fending off a legal challenge in the state Supreme Court and an appellate court by the Pueblo district attorney — Bill Thiebaut started it; Jeff Chostner finished it — over water quality in Fountain Creek.

A lawsuit is born

A week after the commissioners’ hearing, the Lower Ark board instructed Nichols to begin preparing a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act. That lawsuit was put on hold last year until the EPA action plays out, but federal attorneys are plowing some of the same ground.

Originally, the Lower Ark sought to sue Reclamation because stormwater control is tied into the federal contract for Southern Delivery System. It’s also a part of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS, which must be met under federal guidelines.

After the 2014 vote against the regional stormwater authority, the focus of the lawsuit shifted to Colorado Springs.

“We’d heard enough by that point,” Winner said.

Winner has pushed for setting up stormwater as a standalone utility that would be isolated from political whims of Colorado Springs City Council. The current promise of $19 million annually doesn’t necessarily bind future councils to spend money in a way to improve conditions on Fountain Creek, he said.

“I’m glad the EPA is doing something, because Colorado Springs has been thumbing their noses at us for a long time,” Winner said. “They came down here and tried to tell the water board that street sweeping in Colorado Springs will somehow benefit Pueblo. I’d recommend we delay SDS until the EPA gives Colorado Springs a clean bill of health.”

#AnimasRiver: A consensus strategy for mitigating Cement Creek is coming together

Gold King Mine entrance after blowout August 2015
Gold King Mine entrance after blowout August 2015

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

Officials are edging closer to recommending a Superfund listing in the wake of the Gold King Mine spill after closed-door meetings Friday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper met with officials from Durango, Silverton and San Juan County late Friday afternoon. After the meeting, the governor said it appears stakeholders are on board to pursue the designation.

“These communities have made it clear that a Superfund designation is the most viable path to address pollution in the affected area and protect our public health and environment,” Hickenlooper said. “We’re all working around the clock to ensure that remaining points of negotiation are resolved in time for the March Federal Register listing in order to move this process forward.”

The governor has until Feb. 29 to meet a deadline extension to propose a new Superfund site in San Juan County.

Local officials are also hopeful that they are getting close to offering a formal opinion on the Superfund designation, which would culminate in a vote by Silverton and San Juan County elected officials. The communities delayed a vote in late January.

There are some outstanding issues to work out, including securing assurances that impacts to the town would be mitigated and ensuring a seat at the table for local governments. But San Juan County Administrator William Tookey believes the area has gone through a bit of an evolution on the subject.

“There’s been a perception that because we haven’t gone out and requested Superfund that we were somewhat anti-clean water, which we haven’t been,” Tookey said, underscoring that the local governments simply wanted assurances. “We recognized that … if in fact a treatment plant is a solution, the resources weren’t there without a Superfund site.”

[…]

Also Friday, the EPA met separately with tribal, state and local government officials for several hours to update them on the spill and plans for monitoring the affected waters.

La Plata County Commissioner Julie Westendorff, who represented the county at the meeting, said it was the first time that all stakeholders got together in one room since the spill, including representatives from Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

Even though the meeting concerned public safety, including discussing next steps for a water monitoring plan, the agency opted to close the meeting, citing a legal opinion.

“We reviewed potentially applicable laws and did not find anything. The Sunshine Act does not, by its terms, apply,” an agency spokesperson told The Durango Herald in an email when asked why the meeting was not open to the public.

At the Friday meeting, EPA researchers released a preliminary analysis of water quality to describe the release, transport and final destination of the acid mine drainage. Results must be peer reviewed by an external panel during the week of Feb. 22. The report is expected to be completed by mid-March.

“We estimate that, by the time the plume reached the lower Animas River, the metal load in the plume was roughly equivalent to one day’s worth of high spring runoff,” the preliminary report states.

Researchers say “hot spots” of metal contaminants in the lower Animas and San Juan – unrelated to the spill – may warrant further investigation.

“It may not be possible to isolate the specific effects of the GKM event from the ongoing cumulative effect of multiple sources of metals from past or future runoff,” the preliminary report states.

In September, the EPA released a draft monitoring plan to evaluate pre- and post-event conditions. Sampling activities include water and sediment quality and biological and fish analyses in Cement Creek and the Animas. Cement Creek is a tributary of the Animas.

The EPA plans to collect the data for one year to review results.

Westendorff, however, said outstanding concerns remain with how the monitoring plan will take into account spring runoff, which could begin in as few as six weeks.

“My takeaway is there isn’t a plan now,” Westendorff said. “I hope they can get something worked out because people downstream are getting restless.”

The EPA says it is working on a long-term, robust strategy.

The EPA spokesperson, in emailed responses to questions, added: “Attendees also assessed tribal, state and local interest in collaborative approaches to monitoring water quality and solicit ideas for structuring a water quality monitor program across the watershed going forward.”

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

Environmental experts say spring runoff not a concern for dredging up sediment laced with metals from Gold King Mine spill

“When you have more spring runoff, you have a lot more turbulence, so sediments can get remobilized,” said Peter Butler, a coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

“However, usually the lowest metal concentrations we see throughout the year are during spring runoff, and that’s because you have so much dilution. So I’m not really expecting an issue.”

Scott Roberts, an aquatic biologist with Mountain Studies Institute, said water samples from the Animas during storms in October show little sign of increased metal concentrations.

“I think most people were concerned with the sediment not only deposited around the river margin, but also at the bottom of the channel,” he said. “But it’s amazing how much it seems to already have washed off with the few storms we’ve had. You don’t see a lot of evidence left.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s temporary water treatment plant can handle 900 to 1,200 gallons per minute. Currently, the facility treats only discharges from the Gold King Mine, which averages 525 gallons per minute.

Mine discharges usually increase in the spring because of more ground water movement but are diluted in the runoff.

“But we may be dealing with a whole different ground now,” Butler said. “Nobody really knows what the flows are going to be like. That’s why the EPA oversized the treatment there, so they have the capacity to handle it.”

[…]

In the meantime, state health officials are developing a notification stakeholder group to address how best to notify local governments and agencies if a spill occurs.

Health officials added a second monitoring station on Cement Creek above the confluence with the Animas River. The department is coordinating with federal agencies on a long-term monitoring plan for the entire watershed.

“We’re very lucky the disaster did not have a long tail,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told The Durango Herald. “The consequences aren’t as dire as many of us first thought.”

Still, state water experts say they don’t have a full picture of the impact the spring runoff might have.

“I don’t know, and that’s a problem for me,” said Patrick Pfaltzgraff, director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. “I want to have some certainty, and where I don’t have certainty as a water quality professional, I want to have some process in place to respond to that.”

#AnimasRiver: #GoldKingMine spill 6 months later — The Durango Herald

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]
This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

From The Durango Herald:

On Aug. 5, 2015, contractors for the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally released 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River. Six months later, questions about the effects of spring runoff, Superfund status and remediation remain unanswered.

Coyote Gulch has been reporting since August 5. Here’s the link to the Animas River category. Take a little scroll back in time.

#AnimasRiver: Durango sends letter to Colorado governor in support of Superfund — The Durango Herald

Animas River through Durango August 9, 2015 photo credit Grace Hood
Animas River through Durango August 9, 2015 photo credit Grace Hood

From The Durango Herald (Jessica Pace):

Mayor to meet Friday with Hickenlooper

As Silverton and San Juan County officials continue struggling with the terms of Superfund designation, Mayor Dean Brookie said the city of Durango sent a letter this week to Gov. John Hickenlooper supporting National Priorities Listing for a Silverton-area mining network, pointing to concerns about water quality for Durango residents.

“What Durango needs might be different from what Silverton needs,” Brookie said. “This is not to upstage Silverton in any way, but the 20,000 people on our water system, compared with the repairs needed on our water system, creates vulnerability for next summer. This is a way to make sure we have a safety net in the event of another spill.

“This is fairly urgent on our part, and independent of Silverton action.”

[…]

Last month, the La Plata County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution of support for Superfund designation. Commissioner Julie Westendorff has expressed in public meetings that she thinks La Plata County should take a supporting role to Silverton’s lead, though Commissioner Gwen Lachelt said she would support sending pro-Superfund communication to the governor ahead of Silverton.

However, all commissioners are unanimous in their support for Superfund.

Brookie said he will meet with the governor on Friday to discuss Durango’s needs.