Animas River Stakeholders Group Update
Summary of Remediation Projects 2011
The Animas River Stakeholders Group (ARSG) would like to welcome the new decade with a brief look at what we've accomplished and the direction in which we are heading. The mission of the ARSG remains to improve water quality and aquatic habitats in the Animas watershed through a collaborative process. This broad statement encompasses a wide variety of components all focused on determining what has contributed to aquatic degradation, what the water quality currently is, and where it can feasibly be improved.
Initially formed in response to regulatory pressures to bring the Animas watershed into compliance with provisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA), we also find ourselves with the opportunity to influence how government will work in this new century. Our accomplishments give us credibility, and because we have chosen to actively participate in this regulatory process and we understand the importance of clean water to all, we are continuing to create a new form of grassroots led environmental stewardship.
The ARSG was begun in 1994 in response to the Colorado Water Quality Control Division's (WQCD) plans to upgrade stream classifications and standards on the Animas. Their analysis concluded that water quality in the Animas River could and should be improved to meet existing CWA provisions. ARSG participants in the hearings concurred with the Division's concept, yet maintained that there was insufficient data to support the proposed changes. The Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) responded by imposing the goal-based numerical and narrative standards suggested by the WQCD. However, in response to public testimony, they also provided a three year delay in implementation in order to empower the ARSG to provide additional information and possibly determine more practical and achievable standards. This gave the stakeholders a powerful and unique opportunity to affect the decision making process. In November 1997, based upon the stakeholders’ track record of investigations and remediation initiation, the WQCC extended this window of opportunity for another three years. They made it clear that no further extensions would be granted and that they expected precise "use classification and underlying standards" recommendations supported by scientific evidence in the form of a Use Attainability Analysis (UAA). We met these expectations in 2000 by submitting the Use Attainability Analysis for the Animas River Watershed, consisting of over 1000 pages of text, tables, graphs, and recommendations for setting new stream classification and standards. The document is the largest, most comprehensive UAA pertaining to abandoned mines in the state if not in the nation.
Available on CD; a few hard copies possibly available.
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL)
The WQCD developed 27 TMDL’s for the Upper Animas based upon the loading calculations presented in the ARSG Animas UAA. TMDL’s now exist for several tributaries and the Animas main stem for Al, Cd, Cu, Fe, Mn, Pb, Zn, and pH.
Upcoming Regulatory Events
The Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) will again be reviewing water quality standards for the Animas Watershed starting in the fall of 2010 and culminating with a Rulemaking Hearing in June 2012. See “Bulletin Board.”
A LOOK AT WHAT IS BEING ACCOMPLISHED
Scientific Programs and Studies
- Through an immense effort on behalf of both volunteers and agency personnel, we have sampled, characterized and compiled all data into a publicly available database of stream conditions, pollution sources, and biological integrity of the watershed.
- Characterized and recorded all major sources of mine/mill induced loadings.
- Ranked metal pollutant sources (mine drainage) and potential pollutant sources (mine waste sites) for each sub-basin. Based upon these rankings and other relevant criteria, we have prioritized sites for remediation.
"Natural" Acid Rock Drainage
Acid Mine Drainage and Mine Wastes (Red and Bonita Mine)
- Conducted studies to estimate natural sources of metals contaminants and quantified the metals contribution from natural mineralization and other potential sources versus mining sources. .
-Determined specific factors that limit aquatic life through several different investigations, so remediation can be focused on reducing these factors.
- Continuing efforts to monitor physical, chemical and biological water quality demonstrating the results of remediation efforts adn provides information to modify programs and develop new programs.
- Repeatedly diverted the EPA from placing the Upper Animas Watershed on the National Priority List (Superfund).
- Repeatedly appeared before the Water Quality Control Commission and influenced the decision making process.
- Influenced federal agency policies which can enable use of public funds for remediation on private lands that impact BLM and/or Forest Service lands.
- Supported the passage of a Good Samaritan Provision to the CWA that would release some third parties from liability of what may remain from a pre-existing discharge when remediating a mine site. See “Good Samaritan Legislation” and/or www.goodsamaritaninfo.org
- Assisted with the National AML (Abandoned Mined Land) Program, a Dept. of Interior initiative, that serves as a model for addressing mine related pollution in other basins.
- Participated in environmental education fairs, teacher’s workshops, watershed seminars, regional conferences and conducted informational Silverton Library Series presentations for the community.
- Created an Animas River Stakeholder Group web site and a Good Samaritan Provision website to share our process, information, and data.
Improvement in the Watershed / Fish Populations
One of the most noticeable improvements in the watershed has been the increase in trout populations in several segments of the Animas. Whereas in 1989 the Animas below Durango produced only 29 pounds per acre of trout, by 1997 this number has increased to over 90 pounds. That year evidence was first recorded of trout reproducing naturally in the Lower Animas. In 1998 we documented significant population increases and some indication of possible natural reproduction in some segments of the Upper Animas. These are strong indicators of improving conditions! In 2009 a survey indicates further population improvements in some small tributaries to the Upper Animas River.
Toxic metals concentrations have been diminished in Mineral Creek and slightly in the Upper Animas above Silverton, however metal concentrations have continued to rise in Cement Creek since the bulkheading of the American Tunnel by Sunnyside Gold Corp. and the related closing of the water treatment plant at Gladstone on Cement Creek.
Remediation Work Completed
* Sunnyside Gold Corp (SGC): All Consent Decree "A" list projects were completed including bulkheads in the American Tunnel, Terry Tunnel, tailings removal at Eureka, tailings consolidation at Howardsville, Longfellow Mine surface controls, Koehler Mine waste removal, Gold Prince remediation and bulkhead seal, American tunnel mine waste removal, Lead Carbonate millsite waste removal, Boulder Creek tailings removal, bulkheads installed at the Ransom, Koehler, and Mogul mines, power plant flats tailings removal, Mayflower mill tailings ponds run-on controls and installation of a reactive barrier wall to treat underground water downstream of Mayflower tailings pond #4.
* Mining Remedial Recovery Company - Sun Bank Mine. AMD (Acid Mine Drainage) passive treatment, surface water controls, bulkhead seal.
* Office of Surface Mining: Galena Queen, waste consolidation & hydrological controls.
* ARSG Project: Hercules and Galena Queen; Mine waste consolidation and surface water controls
* BLM: Forest Queen;AMD being treated by passive bio-reactor
* BLM: Mayday Mine;Mine waste surface water controls implemented
* ARSG: Carbon Lakes (Congress Mine Waste): Mine waste removal, surface water controls
* Salem Minerals: Mammoth Mine-AMD passive settling pond construction
*BLM: Joe and John Mine; Mine opened, AMD collected for eventual treatment
* BLM: Lark Mine; Mine opened, surface water run-on removed, AMD treatment possible
* ARSG: Mine Infiltration Source Identification and Control Project - Reconnaissance in 1999
*SGC: Mine bulkheads installed in Gold Prince, Mogul, and Koehler mines as part of a court consent decree.
*ARSG: San Antonio mine waste consolidation, waste neutralization, hydrological controls, and revegetation.
San Antonio Mine
*ARSG: Lucky Jack mine waste consolidation, neutralization, and revegetation of disturbance areas.
Lucky Jack Mine
*ARSG: Carbon Lakes ditch – purchase of water rights, closure, and restoration of ditch and water to natural hydrology. The ditch had been infiltrating into the San Antonio and Koehler mines, creating acid mine drainage.
Carbon Lakes Ditch (Infiltration Control)
*Pan Energy: Henrietta mine waste consolidation, capping, and hydrologic control implementation.
*ARSG: Pride of the West – infiltration control consisting of a steel and concrete closure of a large open stope that captured runoff from two streams resulting in leaching of metals throughout the mine.
Pride of the West
*Forest Service: Bonner Mine – mine waste and mine drainage consolidation.
*Forest Service: Brooklyn Mine – mine waste consolidation and disposal into an old glory hole; revegetation of the disposal area.
*BLM: Elk Tunnel – Installation of an oxic limestone treatment and settling ponds.
*ARSG: Upper Brown’s mine site – mine waste consolidation, neutralization, hydrological controls, and area revegetation.
*BLM: Forest Queen – acid mine drainage passive anoxic treatment system.
*ARSG: Kansas City group of three mines – mine waste consolidation,
neutralization, hydrological controls, and are revegetation.
*BLM: Upper Joe and John and Lark Mine – mine waste consolidation and burial in an engineered fabric liner.
*BLM: Lackawanna tailings – removal and containment in an engineered and clay capped structure at the Mayday mine site. Revegetation.
*Silver Wing Co.: Silver Wing Mine – passive anoxic treatment of mine drainage in buried vaults.
· Silver Ledge Mine: Mine waste removal from streambed, dump consolidation, disposal, neutralization, hydrological controls; 2010.
· Koehler Mine: Drilling and underground pressure grout curtain installation surrounding an existing bulkhead that impedes acid mine drainage from entering Mineral Creek; 2010.
· Good Samaritan Legislation: See “Good Samaritan Legislation”.
· Gladstone Treatment Facility: This is a project we have been developing to address the increase in metal loading coming from discharging mines in the Gladstone area of Cement Creek since the bulkheading of the American Tunnel. Initially an EPA Targeted Brownfields grant was used to investigate treatment plant options using existing technologies and methods of funding construction, maintenance, and operation costs. An additional Targeted Brownfields grant, awarded to San Juan County, was used to identify the possibilities for the structure of a permanent funding and operational entity. Since then ARSG has been exploring the possibility of developing a facility so as to test newly emerging technologies, providing a much needed capability of taking a bench tested technology and testing it in the field on a pilot level of 50 to 300 GPM. Both these possibilities are being further explored with the cooperation of State and Federal agencies. We have identified good possibilities for significant financial contributions.
How Can ARSG help landowners:
Although we had been occupied for several years completing studies and satisfying regulatory commitments, the real challenge is to effectively remediate mine related damages. In the future, we expect more of our time, energy and funding to be focused on clean up efforts. We foresee many upcoming advantageous circumstances for landowners so please feel free to contact us and use the ARSG as your resource.
Opportunities that may affect mine site property include participating in the Stakeholders process to gain some control over regulatory issues, technical assistance in determining remediation feasibility, funding assistance for remediation, and networking to improve water quality and aquatic habitat while reducing landowner liability.
For further information please contact your Watershed Coordinator:
Bill Simon, 8181 CR 203, Durango, CO 81301 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or co-coordinator Peter Butler (970) 259-0986.