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Animas River Stakeholders Group
History and Process


Stakeholder Process

Welcome and thank you for your interest in the Animas River Stakeholders Group! The Animas River Stakeholders Group (ARSG) was formed in 1994 in response to the Colorado Water Quality Control Division's (WQCD) reevaluation and upgrading of standards and classifications for segments of the Animas River Basin. The WQCD was keen to encourage grassroots, local participation and expertise. The water quality problem was identified as being related to historic mining and natural mineralization in the area, but there are also many unknown factors. The Animas River is a very complex and dynamic ecosystem which takes time  and research to understand.

The stakeholder process, although slow and time consuming, is proving an effective means of environmental problem solving. A driving force is the undesirable alternative of costly enforcement and regulatory intervention either under the Clean Water Act or under "Superfund".  In keeping with community-based problem solving, the group has chosen minimal internal structure. There is no hierarchy; only unspoken rules of respect and the services of a coordinator to keep the effort focused. Decisions are made by consensus, not by vote, and a feeling of teamwork prevails. Local people are taking responsibility for their community and their environment. One of the primary purposes of the stakeholders group is to serve as a clearinghouse for information about the Animas River watershed for the many interested groups and individuals who are contributing time and knowledge to the effort. The group has, however, been criticized for a preponderance of government agency involvement. The Federal Land Agencies are on board for good reason as 83% of the land in San Juan County is public land, which they are responsible for managing. Due to the scientific complexity of the contamination, the stakeholder’s effort has been able to utilize the expertise and funding from a number of agencies for a variety of projects. It should also be noted that the majority of these agency people involved also live in the area and care about the problem.

The group encourages participation from all parties and comments are always welcome. All meetings are open to the public and general meetings are held on a monthly basis in Silverton. An agenda is drawn up and generally includes updates on the status of different issues of interest to the group and reports from the working groups, which handle the more technical matters. New participants generally have some questions or grievances. We hope to be able to address them. The group has a list of available information (Index of Information) and has also sponsored an educational Animas River Library Series, which is on video. As it takes some time to understand the issues, there seems to be an adjustment period to incorporate an individual into the group, People experience a level of comfort and camaraderie when they realize their viewpoint will be heard and respectfully considered. We appreciate the input and have a wealth of written materials we can provide to help bring newcomers up to speed. We hope as a water consumer, landowner, mine operator, or just an interested citizen you will join us in this process! 

ARSG History

  • Around 1990 - the Colorado Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) starts doing extensive water quality testing in the Upper Animas River in preparation for a water quality standards hearing before the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.
  • 1991- The Sunnyside Mine closes.  It was the last major mine in the area and was easily the biggest.  Sunnyside Gold Corp. begins reclamation activities.
  • 1994- Animas River Stakeholders Group (ARSG) forms at the urging of WQCD which helps retain a facilitator.
  • 1995- WQCC adopts strict goal based (numeric) standards but delays the effective date to 1998 to allow ARSG to investigate metal sources and strategies to reduce them.  ARSG hires a coordinator.
  • 1996- Sunnyside Gold and WQCD sign a consent degree which allows Sunnyside to bulkhead its mine workings and turn off its treatment plant in Gladstone in return for remediating a number of historic mine sites.  The goal is to ensure that water quality will be no worse in the Animas River below Silverton than it was before the treatment plant was turned off. Zinc concentrations were used as the surrogate metal by which this goal was determined.  The treatment plant is used to treat Cement Creek while bulkheads are completed and the mine pool behind the bulkheads reaches equilibrium.
  • 1997- With ARSG's urging, WQCC grants an extension of the effective date of the water quality standards to 2001.  The Dept of Interior begins the Abandoned Mined Lands Initiative to study the effects of abandoned mines on water quality and designates the Animas as one of the two initial, national pilot project sites.
  • 1999- Sunnyside Gold completes approximately 17 remediation projects that it began in 1991. Several other mining companies, US, BLM and ARSG complete several more projects.   
  • 2001- ARSG presents a Use Attainability Study (UAA) to WQCC with recommendation for use classifications and water quality standards. WQCC adopts the recommendations. TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) are also determined based on the UAA. 
  • 2002- Gold King #7 level begins to discharge significant amounts of acid mine drainage.
  • 2003- Sunnyside and Gold King complete another group of remediation sites as part of an agreement to terminate the consent degree including bulkheading the Mogul and Koehler mines.  Operation of the treatment plant in Gladstone stops after the mine pool behind the bulkheads reaches equilibrium and water quality below Silverton indicates no statistical degradation has occurred as a result of the consent degree.
  • 2003-  ARSG has pilor project Good Samaritan legislation introduced into Congress. 
  • 2006- ARSG has completed 13 projects since 199, U.S., BLM and Forest Service have completed 10 projects since 1998. 
  • 2012- Upcoming WQCC Rulemaking which will include the Upper Animas River Basin.


Home History and Process Goals and Objectives FAQs Animas River Update Index of Information Meeting Summaries Bulletin Board Data Awards and Recognition Contacts ARSG In The News
Bill Simon 970.385.4138 w.simon@frontier.net