Hasty excavation without adequate technical info led to disastrous Gold King mine blowout in Colorado
By Bob Berwyn
Federal and state environmental engineers, along with their contractors, misjudged conditions inside the Gold King Mine before they unleashed a toxic flood of water into Cement Creek down the Animas and into the Colorado in early August.
The technical details about the spill were released this week by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which did an independent review of the accident. Most importantly, the workers underestimated the water level inside the mine. That error “resulted in development of a plan to open the mine in a manner that appeared to guard against blowout, but instead led directly to the failure,” the Bureau of Reclamation wrote in the report. Continue reading “Report says Animas River spill could have been avoided”→
FRISCO — Responding to congressional requests for an investigation into the Gold King Mine spill that fouled hundreds of miles of the Animas and San Juan rivers with toxic pollutants, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General this week announced that it will launch a full review of the disaster.
On Aug. 5, workers at the mine near Silverton triggered the release, sending about 3 million gallons of water laden with arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury surging downstream.
According to the official notice on the investigation, the OIG’s Office of Program Evaluation, Office of Audit, and Office of Investigations will all be involved.
And as pledged by EPA chief Gina McCarthy, there will also be an outside review, led by the U.S. Department of the Interior, aimed at assessing the factors that led to the Gold King Mine spill. According to the EPA, the results will be released to the public within 60 days.
In a prepared statement, the EPA said the goal of the independent review is to provide EPA with an analysis of the incident that took place at Gold King Mine, including the contributing causes.
Both investigations will help inform ongoing and planned site assessments, investigations, and construction or removal projects.
The new law proposed by Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton would give Good Samaritan groups additional binding legal safeguards they need to remediate the sites and clean up tainted streams. There are more than 7,000 abandoned hard rock mine sites located in Colorado and thousands more throughout the West.
EPA removal action aims to reduce acid mine drainage at polluted site
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — After years of study, state and federal mine reclamation experts say they’re ready to try and reduce the amount of tainted water oozing out of the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, in Summit County, Colorado.
The old mining site high in the Peru Creek drainage above Keystone has been identified as a key source of toxic heavy metals that impair water quality for miles downstream. Concentrations of lead, cadmium, managanese and especially zinc exceed standards set to protect aquatic life in the stream.
The mine operated between 1879 and 1908, and intermittently through the 1940s, producing gold, silver, lead, copper and zinc. As water and oxygen interact with the highly mineralized rocks, so-called acid mine drainage forms, loading the stream with dissolved heavy metals. Continue reading “Colorado: Pennsylvania Mine cleanup set to begin”→
Agencies ready to tackle acid mine drainage at abandoned Pennsylvania Mine
By Bob Berwyn
*Extensive Summit Voice coverage of the Pennsylvania Mine is online here.
SUMMIT COUNTY — Nearly a century after miners finished digging millions of dollars worth of silver, lead and zinc out of the Pennsylvania Mine, heavy machinery will once again rumble through the high alpine Peru Creek Valley.
But instead of burrowing deep into the ground to find precious metals, the workers this time will be trying to clean up the big mess left behind when the mine was abandoned. For decades, water coursing through the mine shafts has been dissolving minerals, resulting in acid mine drainage that pollutes Peru Creek and the Snake River. Concentrations of some metals, especially zinc, are high enough to kill trout.