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Old 08-10-2015   #41
Minden, Nevada
Paddling Since: 1961
Join Date: Jul 2015
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Animas R update

Thanks to Andy for an excellent post.
I used to live in Colorado but that was a long time ago. The mine in question closed in 1923 according to a recent article. The volume of discharge of the contaminated water appears to be larger than anticipated, and the dilution will taker longer than first expected. That is bad news for the macro-invertebrates and fish in the system.

The EPA really screwed up obviously, but the old mines are sometimes in a precarious state of affairs. Old earthen dams used to hold waste water and mine dumps, and tailings were not held to any standard when they were constructed and can fail at any time.

If there is anything positive about this event, it would be that we have learned a lot as a society since the early days of mining and now do a much better job of taking care of the environment. Old mine sites are some of the worst to clean up.

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Old 08-10-2015   #42
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NorCal, California
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There's a big push by republicans to close down the EPA, they will use this major screw up to make their case. You hate to see ammo given to a group who consistently fight against clean water and air.
However I predict some EPA heads to roll on this one.

Originally Posted by Canada View Post
Members of a prescribed burn team from the national parks lit a burn during a high wind advisory in Los Alamos and burned down large segments of the town. The only ramification for the decision was an early retirement with full federal benefits. (And yes, I irrationally place blame for the untimely death of my blind grandfather on this event and him being forced out of his home to an unfamiliar environment)

At what point does the negligence of a government worker become criminal? There has been toxic sediment going downstream from those mines for as at least a hundred years, and I know the river will correct itself, but damn this is one big screw up. I look forward to the investigation of the facts from the source and hope it wasn't something as dumb as not drilling a hole with a rock hammer through the plug before taking a backhoe to it and tearing it out.

I wish all of you downstream well.

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Old 08-10-2015   #43
Louisville, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 520
Hi everyone,

I thought I would pass along the official EPA incident response page. There is a lot of information, photos, etc., on this page.

Site Profile

Also, the long term work the EPA has performed, and been planning (plugging the Red and Bonita adits), that lead to this release is discussed here:
Upper Animas Mining District | Region 8 | US EPA

While the release is terrible, please keep in mind that the EPA was working to prevent this very thing from happening. They didn't create the threat, it existed beforehand and they were trying to manage it. This wasn't something the EPA went into lightly. They have been involved with this site since the 1990's. Also, rest assured, that under CERCLA they will be responsible for remediation. They may even be held accountable for damages to the community that go beyond the environmental realm in court.

Some people are going to accuse me of working for the EPA; I don't. I used to be a river guide on the Animas, which has a special spot in my heart.
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Old 08-10-2015   #44
Louisville, Colorado
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Originally Posted by Wendell View Post

I agree that we engage on too much second guessing. But the known potential for water impoundment in old mine works and proximity to the Cement Creek and Animas River watersheds requires a level of diligence and exploration that was not taken. Similar floods have occurred in the district (Sunnyside Mine 6/4/197. As investigators, we would want to put a couple of holes into the aquifer, which are the mine adits, and test for pressure, quality, and quantity.
Contrary to popular opinion, ANY plan regarding the opening of sealed mine works by a private firm requires extensive regulatory approval thru MSHA, DRMS, EPA, BLM, USFS, USFW in this particular case, and likely county approvals too. IF any NEPA was done, those regulatory agencies would have had to review, require changes as necessary, and provide written approval. A process that takes one to several years with WEG and others litigating every step.
We will learn in the next several weeks how this went down at the Gold King.

I have been pondering the due diligence too. I wonder how many holes were drilled to determine water levels, at what spacing intervals, and how the holes related to known geologic structure. Pure speculation leads me to think that a collapse deeper in the tunnels had blocked flow and wasn't captured by the groundwater characterization. My guess is that this collapse gave way while work was being performed.
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Old 08-10-2015   #45
Jenks, Oklahoma
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Wavester said "However I predict some EPA heads to roll on this one."

I would be willing to bet no one in the EPA bureaucracy get fired over this. In the current administration, look at what is going on in the VA, IRS, Secretary of State office, previous Justice Department and I am sure there are others that are either telling lies or blowing tax payer money. Plenty of people doing bad things and getting away with it. Zero accountability in Washington DC in my opinion.
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Old 08-10-2015   #46
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Technology Partner, Littleton, Colorado
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Hmmmm well....

If the Republicans had been in office, everyone would want their heads physically chopped off. But since this is the Oblama administration, I am more than quite sure there will be nothing done about it at all. F-ing sick of this POS EPA. They need to be all sacked and restructured and de-fanged. They are useless tools who make arbitrary rules and since when are these twatters experts on mines? I believe that lies within the purvey of USGS and Reclamation.
And the Lord said, let there be whitewater. So on Friday, the 13th day of the month....
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Old 08-10-2015   #47
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Lakewood, Colorado
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Originally Posted by Wavester View Post
There's a big push by republicans to close down the EPA, they will use this major screw up to make their case. You hate to see ammo given to a group who consistently fight against clean water and air.
However I predict some EPA heads to roll on this one.
Front page today: 'They're not going to get away with this': Anger mounts at EPA over mining spill | Fox News

True Fair and Balanced Fox Reporting, Not saying CNN or MSNBC are any better but proves the point quoted so well.

Andy H's post was amazing (nothing new there). Looking at aerial pictures (google maps) you can see the Iron Oxide running off all those mountains. As much as I am not a fan of government overreach that area NEEDS Superfund status.

I see another thread on MB asking what the buzz is for and this thread is the truest example in my mind. We (the buzz) learned about this disaster before the plume even hit the Animas thanks to the OP. The has been one of the best threads I have read on any forum and hopefully this "mistake" will help raise the awareness needed to clean up our rivers.
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Old 08-10-2015   #48
Louisville, Colorado
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Great article.

When our river turned orange — High Country News
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Old 08-10-2015   #49
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Durango, Colorado
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This is the government agency in charge of Mine reclamation in Colorado.

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Old 08-10-2015   #50
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: Dawn
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The HCN article posted by catwoman is a good summary of the history of wrangling between State and Federal authorities as to a solution for the Silverton area.

Obviously the EPA screwed up, but they did not cause this pollution in the first case, and using this as an impetus for further "de-fanging" them will only lead to worse problems in the future.

Second, for those jumping on the Fox News "kill the EPA" bandwagon, keep in mind that there are many "good samaritans" out there that would love to purchase and clean up abandoned mine sites on their own dollar, but the current federal laws would not allow this without a ridiculous amounts of permits and approvals, making it economically unfeasible. When the idea of a "good samaritan" law streamlining these types of operations has been proposed, Republicans/anti-EPA folks in Congress have been eager to use it as a way to completely gut the Clean Water Act, so the law has never been actually proposed.

Doesn't it seem ironic that the party of "personal responsibility" is ok with operators creating this kind of pollution and then simply walking away and leaving the American taxpayers to clean up the mess? Many of our business and corporate laws in this country are designed to allow people to escape liability for these actions. I guess personal responsibility and corporate responsibility are two different things...

I don't work for the EPA, and I don't have a personal stake in this; I just hate seeing tragedies like this used for short-sighted political victories that do nothing to address the real problem.

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