The EPA has prioritized the Colorado Superfund site after years of water pollution
The Bonita Peak Mining District in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton, Colo., has been targeted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for intense and immediate action. The mining district, which was declared a Superfund site Sept. 2016, has been marked as a priority after years of water pollution and water quality issues.
The mining network, comprised of more than 180 abandoned mines, has steadily been leaking acid-laced discharge into the Animas River for years, however, the situation was further agitated in 2015 by a large spill. The Gold King Mine Spill totalling 3 million gal of toxic water was accidentally triggered by an EPA crew Aug. 5, 2015.
According to the Denver Post, not only did the spill turn the Animas River mustard-yellow, but it flowed into the San Juan River in New Mexico and through Navajo lands in Utah, making its way to the Colorado River and bringing water pollution with it. This massive incident stretching across three states lead the Bonita Peak Mining District cleanup to high-priority status.
The cleanup faces challenges as the EPA searches for a long-term solution to the mining district’s pollution problems. One option is building concrete bulkhead plugs to stop leaks in their tracks. The issue with this solution is that the complex network of mines run through the mountains and could potentially erupt leaks anywhere; it would be challenging to pinpoint key locations to plug. Another option would be building long-term water treatment plants to catch and clean water coming out of the mines.