September 27, 2014--EPA to plug polluted mine in Silverton (Durango Herald)

Poisonous metals flow from many abandoned mines near Silverton, but in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to address one that is draining hundreds of gallons of toxins a minute into the watershed. Representatives from several government agencies, including the EPA, informed La Plata and San Juan county commissioners last week that the Red and Bonita mine will be plugged to help stem the flow of metals. “This is a worthwhile investment,” said Steve Way, on-scene coordinator for the EPA. The EPA plans to pay for the large concrete bulkhead, which could cost between $750,000 and $1.5 million, Way said earlier this year. The Red and Bonita Mine is a major source of metals such as cadmium, zinc, iron and aluminum that have been flowing into Cement Creek and are responsible for killing off native fish and other species, the researches told local commissioners. “We really need to do something about this before it gets worse,” said John Ott, general manager of Animas Water Co. While his well water is in good shape, as a farmer on the Animas River below Bakers Bridge, he said he is disturbed by the pollution. In 2003, the Sunnyside Gold Corp., the last major mining operation in Silverton, stopped treating the water in Cement Creek. Then in 2006, the Red and Bonita started leaking high levels of metals after the American Tunnel was plugged in several places, which raised the water table, said Peter Butler, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group. In recent years, the EPA and other agencies have come together to assess if plugging the mine would significantly reduce pollution. They found it contributes some of the highest levels of heavy metals year-round to Cement Creek and leaks about 300 gallons of polluted water per minute, Way said. A plug would help, but it would not eliminate all the seeping metals.

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