Leakage From Vail Mountain, CO Snowmaking Test Could be Responsible for Deaths of 120 Fish

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dead trout,
Dead fish. Credit: Geoff Miller

Accidental leakage from a storage tank used by Vail Mountain, CO, in its snowmaking operation could be responsible for the death of more than 120 fish, Vail Daily reports.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials were at the scene yesterday to collect water samples and found 85 mottled sculpin, 17 brown trout, 16 rainbow trout, one brook trout, and one cuttbow all dead. Approximately 1,500-feet of stream was affected with a blue-gray color, and as well as the fish, macroinvertebrates and algae were also killed.

It appears Vail Mountain was flushing the system and testing its snowguns on Friday when some of the isolation valves were accidentally left open. Once Vail’s system was drained, the snowmaking equipment started pulling water from the storage tanks, which wouldn’t have happened if the isolation valves were closed. The system, which was left running over the weekend, released more than 2-million-gallons of water.

“My understanding is the Vail Resorts snowmaking system operates primarily off of raw water, so it was a mistake that the valves that connected to the potable water system were left open whenever they flushed their system, so when they went in to do routine preseason maintenance and flush the system again with raw water, somebody did that late in the day on Friday and then went home not knowing that it would keep flowing all weekend with all this potable water.”

– Town of Vail water quality education coordinator Peter Wadden told Vail Daily

The results of the water samples taken will show what contaminants were in either the raw water from Vail’s snowmaking reservoir or the potable water from the storage tank that flowed into the creek.

Staff at Vail Mountain reported the incident to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Monday.

gore creek, vail, colorado,
Gore Creek, Vail, CO.

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