Silverton Schedules Superfund Vote for Monday

Photo: City of Silverton (GH)
Silverton, Colorado is a small town deep in the San Juan Mountains.

After hitting a roadblock last month, Silverton town leaders say they're now ready to vote on Superfund status.

A vote is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. The move comes more than six months after the Environmental Protection Agency triggered a spill at the Gold King Mine, which fouled the Animas River and affected downstream users in three western states.

The EPA spill brought attention to dozens of abandoned mines around Silverton. A key issue of concern is the tainted water laced with heavy metals that's leaking from several nearby mines.

Town leaders now see Superfund status as the best option for cleaning up toxic water leaking from the mines. Back in 2012, town leaders had raised concerns about using the National Priorities Listing to clean up mines in the area.

"The consequences of the Gold King incident has thrust Superfund upon us. Recognizing that, and recognizing the concerns of the community, we've asked for more than what is generally part of the Superfund process," said County Administrator Willy Tookey. "Part of that is having a seat at table through the entire decision making process."

Tookey said a letter of agreement eases some of the earlier concerns. Town leaders know that the Superfund site won't be named "Silverton", but rather Bonita Peak Mining District Site. But the letter stops short of designating what the boundaries will be for Superfund designation.

If town leaders give Superfund status the OK next Monday, they'll send a formal letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper. The governor has indicated support of Superfund status, and would then have to make an official proposal to the EPA by Feb. 29.