Some problems never go away.
Included in the “Way Back!” section of the current Silverton Standard & the Miner, 115 years ago this week the town of Durango was gearing up to sue Silverton and its miners for polluting the Animas River, a source for drinking water and irrigation.
According to the Aug. 16, 1902, edition of the Standard, Durango’s city councilors ordered their attorney to commence the lawsuit on its upstream neighbors “for pollution of the streams that drain the river and the river itself.”
The Durango Herald also noted the futility of such an attempt without shutting down the region’s golden goose: the mines and the mills.
“The Herald contends that the suit has been ordered without any apparent reason other than to shoot at random in the hopes of hitting something, thereby implying that somebody is out with the big mitt,” the Silverton Standard reported.
Indeed, Durango’s threats never panned out. Instead, that same year the city buckled, deciding to pull its water from the Florida River after realizing that if the mines were to close so would the largest economic driver of the region.
But, it should be noted, Durango spared Silverton from any threats of legal action after the Gold King Mine spill. Instead, the states of New Mexico and Utah, as well as the Navajo Nation have all filed lawsuits related to mine pollution near the headwaters of the Animas River.