To Superfund or not to Superfund is the question asked around Silverton, the originating site of the catastrophic EPA-caused wastewater spill into the Animas River last week. Superfund stands for just another vulgar ‘S’ word in Silverton and Durango, Colorado.
Area locals fought the Superfund designation years ago. Sentiment has not changed according to The Denver Post, as residents and business people feel the Superfund label will threaten their livelihood and keep visitors away from their scenic San Juan Mountain area.
Last week’s spill did just that, with businesses closing and visitors prohibited from enjoying what they came for, particularly Animas river sports such as kayaking, rafting, swimming and fishing.
It’s worse than that. On EPA’s say-so, the Animas River has been declared back to “pre-event” conditions, the event being the EPA spilling one million gallons — make that 3 million gallons — of putrid mine wastewater. At the same time, EPA has not reported water analyses or testing results proving the ‘pre-event condition.’ This is the same agency that caused the spill. Locals rightly view the EPS’s declaration with suspicion, especially when no evidence of safety has been forthcoming with EPA being mute on polluting the Southwestern waters.
What’s in the water? Seventeen thousand well owners still do not know whether their water is safe for drinking. Visitors have gone home, unable to enjoy the Animas waters. Residents wonder whether the yellow sediment that remains on the river bottom would do well to be dredged or left where it is. EPA is still testing, or so they say.
While locals wait for word from the EPA, the agency has proved more of a polluter than a protector. There’s wonder in the air – and in the water – whether the EPA does its work too little and too late to save the people and their surrounds from the havoc the agency so easily creates, especially when EPA’s Gina McCarthy was more sympathetic than serious about causing the spill. Sending the area to Superfunds is feared to bring on more of the same.
This explains the area’s resistance to the EPA, its operations, its assurances, its testing, even its motivations. The mines have been inactive for decades approaching a century. People drank the water, fished, swam, rafted, and enjoyed its refreshing bounty with the safety that mountain water has always had – certainly during that century after the mines closed. Locals wonder why in the world they would want the EPA to come back with Superfunds to endanger the area further.