Ray Dileo/Silverton Standard & the Miner
The different color of water — and rocks — where Cement Creek joins the Animas River in Silverton can be explained by dissolved metals content at different pH levels. Cement Creek, right, is laden with dissolved metals in low pH. The red-colored rocks at right indicate iron coming out of solution at a pH of about 3.5. The white rocks visible just downstream in the Animas indicate aluminum dropping out of solution at a pH of around 5.0. A few miles further downstream, as the Animas becomes less acidic, copper drops out at a pH of 6.5, but there is not enough to color the rocks. Zinc remains in the water in dissolved form, toxic to aquatic life. The above photo was taken May 23, 2013, during high runoff.
By Mark Esper
San Juan County commissioners have expressed concern that the Animas River Stakeholders Group is not making enough progress in addressing the mine waste that is contaminating Cement Creek.
And a former BLM representative to the stakeholders group has been circulating a petition urging state and federal officials to “undertake more effective action in restoring the health of the Animas River.”
“How long is this going to go on?” asked San Juan County Commissioner Scott Fetchenhier at a board meeting last month. “The levels (of heavy metals) are going back up and it is affecting fish and what the invertebrates they feed on. How long do you allow this to continue before you say enough is enough? We need a solution.”
County Board Chairman Ernie Kuhlman worried that all he is seeing is “more studies and more studies” as the “quality of water is coming down on Cement Creek.”
And County Commissioner Pete McKay said “it’s getting harder to explain when asked what we’re doing.”
Peter Butler of Durango, a co-coordinator of the stakeholders group, said he shares the frustration.
“I think we are all disappointed in the pace of coming up with a solution for Cement Creek,” Butler said .
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