High up in near the headwaters of the Snake River, in some of the county's prettiest country, minerals from mines and naturally crumbling rocks are brewing up a toxic cocktail that kills bugs, fish and algae for miles downstream. For years, teams of scientists have been studying the stream and the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine to try and improve water quality, but addressing the primary sources of acid mine drainage remains an elusive goal.
Currently, a group of researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is experimenting with traceable dyes to pinpoint the path of the pollution. The work could help establish the best options for cleaning up Peru Creek and the Snake River. Options include diverting clean water flowing into the mine, moving piles of waste rock away from the water and, ultimately, direct treatment of polluted water flowing out of the mine.