November 1, 2015--Stakeholders focus on Animas (Durango Herald)

Not wanting to let attention waiver on the need to improve water quality in the Animas River watershed, key stakeholders on Sunday held an informational open house at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. “If there is a silver lining, it’s that now there is all this awareness concerning the health of the river,” said Ann Oliver of the Animas Watershed Partnership. Oliver’s concentration has been monitoring the lower Animas, near the Colorado-New Mexico border. There, she told interested participants that the water is less affected by acid mine drainage. Instead, high levels of E. coli and other potentially dangerous nutrients pollute the river. “It’s not as visible an issue,” she said. “It doesn’t color the water. It’s not coming from a specific point source. So it’s hard to say, ‘Let’s fix this.’ But it’s an issue we need to keep working on.” Priscilla Sherman has been in Durango full-time for eight years, but has lived in and around the area since 1972. She was well-aware of mine contamination before the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine blowout. “I used to hike all around Silverton, and for years wondered what the heck was coming out,” she said. “I’ve been very interested in the health and future of the Animas River, and I’ve become more knowledgeable with real facts. I’m really happy to see there continues to be a movement to be proactive in the cleanup.” A major step in that direction is the push from the San Juan Clean Water Coalition to provide stronger legal protection for local groups that look to address mine drainage, known as the good Samaritan law. “The question now is what to do post-spill,” said Ty Churchwell, a campaign coordinator for the coalition and coordinator for Trout Unlimited. He added that a good Samaritan law would offer an alternative to a Superfund listing. However, Kristine Johnson, a member of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, took her Sunday afternoon to seek answers why stakeholders are opposed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous cleanup program. “I’d like to know who are all the members (of the Animas River Stakeholders Group) and why they’re so reluctant to do Superfund,” Johnson said. “I realized two years ago the Stakeholders’ mission was to stave off Superfund, and it’s very unclear why.” While discussions over the EPA’s listing have continued, many invested in the health of the Animas River have considered at length other alternatives to Superfund, which some regard as risky in terms of federal funding and the attached stigma. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.