EPA Triggers Yet Another Mine Spill – Hits Colorado Waterway
The Town of Crested Butte has been notified by the EPA of a spill estimated at 2,000 gallons or less of water and gray-colored sediment from a holding pond at the Standard Mine.
According to the EPA, a contractor had been dewatering the pond containing un-mineralized sediment from drilling operations and water from the lower mine adit. The contents had been treated to a neutral PH of 7. The treated water from the sediment pond was being discharged into Elk Creek as part of a planned maintenance activity. A vacuum truck siphoning clear water from the surface of the pond accidentally dipped into gray-colored sediment leading to the accidental discharge of sediment and gray-colored water into Elk Creek. The discharged material contained a mixture of PH-neutral rock slurry and water from the mine.
Based upon the size and content of the spilled material as understood from the EPA, the flow levels downstream, and the 10 million gallon storage reservoir at the Town’s treatment plant, the Town Department of Public Works has determined that any impact to the Town’s drinking water would be negligible. The Town has also hired an independent contractor to perform additional testing to ensure that there is no negative impact to the Town watershed or drinking water.
Work on the holding pond is now complete.
The Town is communicating and working closely with the EPA on this issue. The EPA has additionally contacted the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Gunnison County and the Coal Creek Watershed Alliance. The Town is also in contact with these agencies.
According to Congressman Scott Tipton:
WASHINGTON—Congressman Scott Tipton’s (R-CO) office is reaching out to local and federal officials upon reports that a small spill occurred at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) cleanup site at the Standard Mine near Crested Butte. Tipton’s office has yet to be contacted by the EPA on the spill, which according to the town of Crested Butte, occurred yesterday.
“We have heard early reports that there has been a spill of over 2000 gallons of water at the site of the Standard Mine cleanup project near Crested Butte,” said Tipton. “We are reaching out to the town of Crested Butte and both the regional and Washington EPA offices to gather more information about the spill and how it happened. While initial reports are that the water was not contaminated, another spill caused by the actions of the EPA calls further into question this agency’s ability to adequately execute these types of projects. It is troubling and frustrating that the spill occurred yesterday and once again the EPA did not notify our office.”
The EPA claimed full responsibility for the Gold King Mine blowout that released millions of gallons of contaminated water into the Animas River in Southwest Colorado in August. The EPA has yet to provide a full accounting of its actions leading to and following the disaster leaving many questions still unanswered. House and Senate investigations into the spill are ongoing.
Last week Tipton testified in the testified in the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on the harmful impacts of the Animas River Disaster on small businesses—especially those in the agriculture and tourism sectors—in Southwest Colorado. At the hearing Tipton advocated for Good Samaritan legislation.
Tipton is currently working with community leaders and stakeholders, as well as with Colorado’s U.S. Senators, toward a Good Samaritan legislative solution that stands the best chance of passing through Congress and truly addresses contamination in abandoned or inactive mines. The bill would remove existing hurdles that discourage Good Samaritan groups from cleaning up abandoned mines and providing our communities and environment with a valuable service. Tipton introduced Good Samaritan legislation in the 113th Congress.
“We should seek solutions that put the power and funding to address these problems in the hands of the folks on the ground who have been working to solve them for years,” Tipton said at the hearing. “The Good Samaritan approach that we are working on is one such way we can do that.”
(Headline Image: University of Colorado)