• FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2015 file photo, water flows through a series of retention ponds built to contain and filter out heavy metals and chemicals from the Gold King mine chemical accident, in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the mine, outside Silverton, Colo. The mine that spilled 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in three Western states has been designated a Superfund site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's action Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, clears the way for a multimillion-dollar federal cleanup of the Gold King Mine and 47 other nearby mining-related sites. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2015 file photo, water flows through a series of retention ponds built to contain and filter out heavy metals and chemicals from the Gold King mine chemical accident, in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the mine, ... outside Silverton, Colo. The mine that spilled 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in three Western states has been designated a Superfund site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's action Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, clears the way for a multimillion-dollar federal cleanup of the Gold King Mine and 47 other nearby mining-related sites. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File) (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2015, file photo, water flows through a series of sediment retention ponds built to reduce heavy metal and chemical contaminants from the Gold King Mine wastewater accident, in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the mine, outside Silverton, Colo. The mine that spilled 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in three Western states has been designated a Superfund site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's action Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, clears the way for a multimillion-dollar federal cleanup of the Gold King Mine and 47 other nearby mining-related sites. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2015, file photo, water flows through a series of sediment retention ponds built to reduce heavy metal and chemical contaminants from the Gold King Mine wastewater accident, in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the ... mine, outside Silverton, Colo. The mine that spilled 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in three Western states has been designated a Superfund site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's action Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, clears the way for a multimillion-dollar federal cleanup of the Gold King Mine and 47 other nearby mining-related sites. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File) (The Associated Press)

Colorado town on verge big changes amid Superfund cleanup

Markets Associated Press

A historic Colorado mountain town is on the threshold of major change after the federal government announced it will embark on an ambitious cleanup campaign at nearby abandoned mines.

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The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday designated an area north of Silverton as a Superfund site, clearing the way for a multimillion-dollar cleanup that could last years.

Some residents resisted a Superfund designation, worried it would hurt the vital tourism industry.

But when the EPA accidentally triggered a 3-million-gallon wastewater spill from the Gold King Mine in August 2015, Silverton and surrounding San Juan County got behind the Superfund listing.

Mark Esper, editor of the Silverton Standard newspaper, says the turnaround was stunning.

Silverton Town Administrator Bill Gardner calls it a benchmark for the town and downstream communities.