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Udall visits Summit County to tout new mine cleanup rules

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Pollution from an abandoned mine turned the Blue River bright orange in April 2006. Bob Berwyn photo.

Public event planned Jan. 18 near Breckenridge

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Around the West, there are thousands of abandoned mines polluting streams and killing fish, and many volunteer cleanup efforts have been stymied by strict Clean Water Act liability provisions.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) for years has been working with the EPA to try and make it easier for Good Samaritan groups to tackle remediation projects without taking on responsibility for future pollution. Those efforts showed results in December, when the EPA issued new guidance specifying that Good Samaritans are generally not responsible for obtaining a Clean Water Act permit during or after a successful cleanup conducted according to a Good Samaritan agreement with EPA. Read the memo here.

Udall will be in Summit County Friday (Jan. 18) along with EPA Regional Administrator Jim Martin to discuss the new policy and the public is invited to attend the event, set for 11 a.m. at the Iron Springs Mill off Boreas Pass Road.

The site was the source of a 2006 spill that turned the Blue River bright orange for several hours after a polluted water surged from the old mining site. Despite the risk of another such surge of pollution, remediation has been pursued at the site. Check out a video of the Blue River running bright orange, and read this Summit Daily story to learn more.

Breckenridge and Summit County will help the public access the event by running a shuttle from the Stephen C. West Ice Arena starting at 10:30 a.m.

There are more than 7,000 abandoned mine sites in Colorado, many of them leaching toxic heavy metals into streams to the detriment of aquatic life. Udall said the new EPA guidance could ease cleanup projects at the Pennsylvania Mine site along Peru Creek, in Summit County, as well as at the Tiger Mine, along the Arkansas near Leadville, in the Animas River Basin near Silverton and along Willow Creek, near Creede.

Udall said that, under the new guidance, volunteer groups can feel comfortable pursuing cleanups and partnerships with the EPA, knowing theyw on’t be responsible for pollution when they get done.

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