Animas River catastrophe a call to action on mine pollution

Date: 
Sat, 08/08/2015
Photo courtesy NBC News
 
Aug. 7, 2015
 
Contact: Steve Kandell, skandell@tu.org, (970) 946-5801
Ty Churchwell, tchurchwell@tu.org
Jason Willis, jwillis@tu.org, (719) 221-0411
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
 
Trout Unlimited, stakeholders call for solution in wake of Animas River mine blowout
 
(DURANGO)—Trout Unlimited today called for urgent action to clean up the scourge of abandoned hardrock mines, in the wake of a catastrophic spill of some 3 million gallons of toxic abandoned mine runoff into a tributary of the Animas River above Durango, Colorado. 
 
An EPA crew working at the site inadvertently caused the spill, sending an orange plume containing toxic heavy metals coursing down the Animas through Durango on Thursday and moving toward the New Mexico state line. The spill could threaten the health of valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat in the Animas basin. State wildlife officials are currently testing the fishery to gauge impacts. 
 
“This toxic spill into the Animas is a shocking incident that underscores how vulnerable our rivers, streams and fisheries are to abandoned hardrock mine pollution,” said Steve Kandell, director of TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “Trout Unlimited will be monitoring the situation in coming days to assess the impact to our waters and world-class trout fishery in the Animas River. Needless to say, the health of our local community and recreation-based economy depends heavily on water quality. This is a wake-up call to Coloradans and the nation on the need to find solutions to abandoned mines.”
 
There are an estimated 500,000 abandoned hardrock mines--23,000 in Colorado alone--affecting some 40 percent of headwaters in the West. Hundreds of these mine sites dot the San Juan Mountains area, many oozing a mixture of toxic heavy metals, and low pH that devastate aquatic life.
 
While the EPA caused this disastrous spill, and bears responsibility for the cleanup, the problem is much larger in scope than one mine, and calls for a more comprehensive solution. 
 
For years, Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups have been working voluntarily to clean up these mine sites. TU is actively working with industry, agriculture, elected officials, the Animas River Stakeholders Group and others to find a policy solution that provides more incentives and support for cleaning up these toxic mine sites. This solution needs to reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic event of this magnitude from happening again.  
 
To learn more about the abandoned mine problem and how to take action, go to www.sanjuancleanwater.org.
 
“Abandoned mines are a cancer threatening the health of rivers and streams in southwest Colorado and many other areas of the West,” said Ty Churchwell, Colorado backcountry coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “If we do nothing, we’re inviting more catastrophes like the Animas spill. It’s time for action.”
 

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and follow our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.

 

 

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