February 24, 2016--Future of Animas River Stakeholders Group uncertain (Durango Herald)

After more than 20 years leading the cleanup of mine waste in the Animas River basin, the future is a bit of a mystery for the Animas River Stakeholders Group now that a Superfund listing is officially in the works. “I think it’s really just up in the air,” said Peter Butler, a coordinator with the group. “We don’t know at this point. It’ll make it more challenging to do any more remediation projects for sure.” On Monday, Silverton town trustees and San Juan County commissioners voted unanimously to direct Gov. John Hickenlooper to request a Superfund designation – a move the community has resisted for more than two decades. The reason Durango’s neighbor to the north historically opposed federal intervention was a twofold concern: The designation could rid any chance of mining’s return and bring with it a perceived stigma that could negatively impact the town’s fragile tourism-dependent economy. In Superfund’s stead, a coalition of local, state and federal agencies, as well as mining companies and interested individuals, banded together in 1994 as the Animas River Stakeholders Group to improve the river’s degrading water quality. The group embarked on an extensive project characterizing the entire Animas basin and the inactive or abandoned mine sites contributing heavy-metal laden water, also known as acid mine drainage. A total of 34 mine waste piles and 33 discharging portals were identified as accounting for 90 percent of the metal loading in the basin, and the stakeholders group drafted a 20-year plan of action. Strangely, Butler said, stakeholders were just about done with their list when the Environmental Protection Agency triggered the Gold King Mine blowout in August. “We were at the end of what we could address,” Butler said. “Not what we wanted to address.” To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.