The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued Vail Resorts a notice of violation and a cease and desist order following accidental leakage from snowmaking equipment at Vail Mountain that killed more than 120 fish, reports Vail Daily.
Following the leak in September 2021, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials collected water samples and found 85 mottled sculpins, 17 brown trout, 16 rainbow trout, one brook trout, and one cuttbow dead. Approximately 1,500-feet of the stream were affected with a blue-gray color, and as well as the fish, macroinvertebrates and algae were also killed.
Vail Mountain was flushing the system and testing its snowguns on a Friday when it’s thought 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 had been 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
Staff at Vail Mountain reported the incident to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as soon as it was discovered the following Monday.
According to the notice, the spill was a ‘discharge of pollutants’ for which Vail Resorts does not have permits and goes on to recommend the ‘required corrective action.’ Vail Resorts are still waiting for the final Colorado Parks and Wildlife report on the cause of the fish kill in Mill Creek at the time of the discharge.
The company has 30-days to respond.