Colorado ski company to pay after accidentally dumping hazardous snowmaking water into creeks

Vail Mountain will pay $275,000 to Colorado for accidentally releasing hazardous water from its snowmaking system into Mill and Gore creeks in 2021, killing fish and damaging about 1.5 miles of water.

The majority of the settlement money — $249,000 — will be used for a restoration project in the Gore Creek basin. The remaining $26,000 will be paid to the Water Quality Improvement Fund.

“While an unfortunate accident, this incident harmed aquatic resources in Gore Creek — one of Colorado’s prized trout fisheries in Eagle County,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement announcing the settlement Wednesday. “This settlement compensates the community for those injuries, providing funds that will go directly back to restoring natural resources on portions of Gore Creek downstream of the release.”

The 2-million-gallon discharge from the snowmaking system turned the creeks a blue-gray color in September 2021 and killed at least 120 fish, as well as algae and bugs that support the river’s health, according to The Vail Daily.

The snowmaking water contained chlorine and an algaecide, according to a report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The algaecide is toxic to fish but not toxic to humans when diluted in water.

“Vail Mountain partnered with State agencies throughout this process, which included immediate measures to prevent future unintended discharges of potable water,” Vail Mountain spokesman John Plack said in a statement. “As a part of our commitment to our natural environment, we fully cooperated with State agencies and reached an amicable resolution with the State that will fund restoration and improvement projects to waterways, including the Gore Creek Basin. We take our commitment to the environment seriously, and we are dedicated to protecting the forests and waterways that surround our resort operation.”

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