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”→
Last week, engineers and environmental experts took a big step toward trying to staunch that flow by blocking one of the mine tunnels. If all goes well, the new bulkhead could reduce the direct discharge from the mine by about two-thirds, said Jeff Graves, a remediation expert with the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.
Graves explained that the new plug should force the water back into its natural underground pathways, trickling and percolating down through layers of rock and earth, and not as prone to the oxidation that’s key in the formation of acid mine drainage. Essentially, the work will restore the groundwater flow to more natural, pre-mining conditions, he said. Continue reading “Environment: Bulkhead a big step in Peru Creek cleanup”→
FRISCO — With recent increases in levels of toxic metals in Peru Creek, the ongoing remediation work at the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, near Keystone, Colo., takes on an even greater importance in the context of water quality in the Blue River Basin and the Upper Colorado.
The mine, which produced huge amounts of silver 100 years ago, has been pinpointed as one of the main sources of acid mine drainage. Water seeping through the rocky ground trickles into the old mine workings, picks up contaminants along the way, then percolates back into Peru Creek near the head of the beautiful alpine valley.
During the last couple of summers, scientists and engineers have been working to reduce the pollution, and this coming week (July 30) there will be a public field trip to the site, led by Jeff Graves of the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, as well as other members of the Snake River Task Force. Continue reading “Environment: Ongoing cleanup tackles toxic Peru Creek”→
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.
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.
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.
Good Samaritan groups to get better protection from Clean Water Act liability
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — New guidance from top EPA officials could speed remediation of abandoned Colorado mine sites by clarifying the terms of cleanup agreements between the federal agency and Good Samaritan groups.
The memo from EPA national headquarters to the agency’s regional offices extends the legal liability protections in cleanup agreements and specifies 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.