Durango Telegraph - Forgotten half lifes: Mill site still registers high for several toxins
Forgotten half lifes: Mill site still registers high for several toxins

The Durango Dog Park remains one of the “hottest” spots in La Plata County. Though it was the subject of a federal clean-up in 1986, the former Durango mill site continues to register above “regulatory levels” for several serious pollutants. In addition, evidence points to past practices at the mill having contaminated a sizeable stretch of Animas River. In its 2003 “Verification Monitoring Report for Durango, Colorado,” the Department of Energy revealed that the dog park will not be in compliance for many years. According to modeling:

• Uranium concentrations are expected to decrease to regulatory standards only after 80 years.

• Manganese and sulfate pollution should decrease to project standards in 70 - 100 years.

• Selenium levels should be acceptable within 100 years.

• Cadmium concentrations are not expected to be acceptable within 100 years.

In addition, should the natural flow of the Animas River not cure the site, contingency remedies may be needed.

The Animas River has been carrying this heavy load for some time, according to Michael Black, of the Taxpayers of the Animas River. Black noted that between 1942 and 1957, the smelter dumped all of its waste directly into the river. Citing the material’s high half life of 16,000 years, Black suggested that the contaminants are still in the Animas and likely polluting the river everywhere from the mill site to Lake Powell. “My assumption is that the Animas River from Lightner Creek down is still contaminated,” he said.

– Will Sands

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