The Upper Animas Watershed
is formed by Mineral Creek, Cement Creek and the Upper Animas.
The three tributaries join to form the Animas River at the town
of Silverton. Historic mining practices have led to high heavy-metal
loads in the Animas, and these tributaries have carried metals
like iron, aluminum zinc, cadmium, copper and lead into the
river, threatening human and aquatic life. The Animas River
Stakeholders Group has evaluated sites throughout the watershed
and monitored streams for metal loads. The following are some
of the issues with the upper watershed.
On Mineral Creek, low flow analysis determined that more than
70 percent of the zinc loading in the Creek originates from
the area around Red Mountain Pass, which includes the Kohler
Five sites in Mineral Creek also have been identified by the
group as priority sites for drainage- and hydrologic-control
projects. This involves channeling water away from waste piles
and possibly removing certain piles.
Proposed mine-drainage treatment projects have been delayed
because of liability issues under the Clean Water Act.
However, as early as next week, legislation supporting a “Good
Samaritan Clause” will be introduced into Congress. The
legislation would amend the Clean Water Act to minimize liability
when a third party, like the Animas River Stakeholders, enters
an abandoned site to make environmental improvements.
In the Cement Creek drainage, the Sunnyside Gold Corp. has
plugged the Sunnyside Mine portal and is treating the upstream
waters of Cement Creek. The company also has removed tailings
in the Gladstone area in accordance with its Mined Land Reclamation
Monitoring of the Upper Animas from Howardsville, northeast
of Silverton, to Cement Creek, to the north, and Elk Park, to
the south, was conducted in the late summer and fall of 1997.
Feasibility and site-characterization monitoring was completed
for areas above Eureka, northwest of Silverton, in 1998.
An agreement between Sunnyside Gold and the Environmental Protection
Agency provided for the historic preservation of the Mayflower
Mill. Thousands of tons of mine tailings have been removed from
the floodplain and placed in a permanent repository in the area.