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In 2001 when Aaron Brill was gearing up to open his extreme skiing mecca of Silverton Mountain, gold was selling for $250 an ounce and the upper Animas River was meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aquatic life standards. Now gold is pushing $2,000 an ounce and three of four trout species no longer can live in the upper Animas because of acid drainage from abandoned gold mines north of Silverton.
Sharyn Cunningham and her family bought five acres in Cañon City’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in 1994, and for eight years they used a drinking water well contaminated by the nearby Cotter uranium mill.