EPA seeks comment on proposed repository for mine waste in southwest Colorado

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment on a proposed plan for a site-wide repository that would manage mine waste in the Bonita Peak Mining District in southwest Colorado. The mining district was designated a Superfund site in 2016 following the Gold King Mine spill the previous year.

The Bonita Peak Mining District includes both historic and ongoing releases from mine operations in the Mineral Creek, Cement Creek and Upper Animas drainages. The three drainages converge with the Animas River near Silverton.

The town of Silverton is visible in December 2014 from U.S. Highway 550 in Colorado. Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say the Silver Wing Mine near Silverton spilled wastewater into the Animas River earlier this week.

According to the EPA, a site-wide repository will help with proper long-term disposal of mine wastes and is needed to contain the sludge from the interim water treatment plant. Currently sludge from the water treatment plant is stored at the adjacent Gladstone site, however that will likely reach its capacity in the next couple of years.

The interim water treatment plant intercepts water discharged from the Gold King Mine and treats it. This prevents 992 pounds of contaminants from reaching the Animas River each day. That process leads to 4,600 to 6,000 cubic yards of heavy metal laden sludge that requires disposal.

Cement Creek, right, merges with the Animas River Aug. 10, 2015, in Silverton, Colo., in the aftermath of the Gold King Mine  spill.

The repository could be located at the Mayflower Mill tailings impoundments, which are centrally located in the mining district and easily accessible. The site is also an already contaminated site and has the capacity to store many years’ worth of additional mine waste.

Public comments are accepted through Aug. 27 by calling Katherine Jenkins at 303-312-6351 or emailing jenkins.katherine@epa.gov. A public meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 11. It will be hosted virtually and will include a presentation about the proposed plan and focused feasibility study.

More information can be found at www.epa.gov/superfund/bonita-peak.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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