This report presents hydrologic, water-quality, and biologic toxicity data collected during the annual spring thaw of 2002 in the upper Animas River watershed near Silverton, Colorado. The spring-thaw runoff is a concern because elevated concentrations of iron oxyhydroxides can contain sorbed trace metals that are potentially toxic to aquatic life. Water chemistry of streams draining the San Juan Mountains is affected by natural acid drainage and weathering of hydrothermal altered volcanic rocks and by more than a century of mining activities. The timing of the spring-thaw sampling effort was determined by reviewing historical climate and stream-flow hydrographs and current weather conditions. Twenty-one water-quality samples were collected between 11:00 AM March 27, 2002 and 6:00 PM March 30, 2002 to characterize water chemistry at the A-72 gage on the upper Animas River below Silverton. Analyses of unfiltered water at the A-72 gage showed a relation between turbidity and total-recoverable iron concentrations, and showed diurnal patterns. Copper and lead concentrations were related to iron concentrations, indicating that these elements are probably sorbed to colloidal iron material. Calcium, strontium, and sulfate concentrations showed overall decreasing trends due to dilution, but the loads of those constituents increased over the sampling period. Nine water-quality samples were collected near the confluence of Mineral Creek with the Animas River, the confluence of Cement Creek with the Animas River, and on the upper Animas River above the confluence with Cement Creek (three samples at each site). A total of six bulk water-toxicity samples were collected before, during, and after the spring thaw from the Animas River at the A-72 gage site. Toxicity tests conducted with the bulk water samples on amphipods did not show strong differences in toxicity among the three sampling periods; however, toxicity of river water to fathead minnows showed a decreasing trend during the course of the study.
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Water quality and aquatic toxicity data of 2002 spring thaw conditions in the upper Animas River watershed, Silverton, Colorado