February 14, 2008--Lake County fears blowout of tunnel water (Denver Post)

Lake County commissioners have declared a local state of emergency around an old mine drainage tunnel that is trapping an estimated 1 billion gallons of contaminated water inside a mountain. The commissioners worry rising water levels inside a mountain in north Leadville, combined with its increasing pressure, could cause water to blow out from a drainage tunnel. Commissioners say an uncontrolled blowout could kill more than 100 Leadville residents and contaminate the Arkansas River from Leadville to the Mississippi River. Water samples taken from inside and at the base of the mountain show unsafe levels of zinc and cadmium, according to Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen. The water became trapped inside the mountain when parts of a drainage tunnel collapsed. It is not known when the collapse occurred, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency says it has been working toward a solution to the tunnel blockage since 2001. The Bureau of Reclamation owns the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. The area manager of the federal bureau, Mike Collins, denies there is an immediate threat to residents living near the drainage tunnel. However, a November letter written to the Bureau of Reclamation from the EPA states: "We are concerned that an uncontrolled, potentially-catastrophic release of water to the Arkansas River from (the tunnel) is likely at some point. Not only endangering human life, the sudden release of water, rock, sediment, and heavy metals to the Arkansas River would be an environmental disaster." 

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