October 18, 2015--EPA: Colorado mine spill water treatment system proving effective (Denver Post)

A newly-installed temporary wastewater treatment system at the Gold King Mine site is already proving very effective, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday. "The system is now operating 24 hours a day," the EPA said in a statement to The Denver Post. "It is treating flows from 200 to 800 (gallons per minute), which includes all the flow from the mine, plus water that has been stored in ponds prior to start-up." The EPA on Friday began water treatment operations at the site above Silverton, where the agency on Aug. 5 spilled 3 million gallons of contaminants. The temporary system, erected by Alexco Environmental Group Inc., is expected to operate throughout the winter and is capable of working in minus-20-degree temperatures. It will remove about 85 percent of "metals of concern," according to the EPA, and discharged water will have a pH ranging from 6 to 9. Neutral water has a pH of 7. The EPA says the new system will only address contaminants still flowing from the Gold King. While it will make some improvement to Cement Creek, the agency says the system is "not intended to be a solution to the broader problem of a discharging mine in the Upper Animas." The EPA says it is compiling data with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Bureau of Land Management and local stakeholders regarding long-term solutions. "Mines in the area have been releasing contaminated mine wastewater into the environment for decades, and addressing the situation is a complicated problem," the EPA said in a letter last week to Congress. "The Red and Bonita Mine, for example, continues to discharge at 350 (gallons per minute) directly into Cement Creek." Monica Sheets, remediation program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, has been working in the Silverton area to gauge how the community wants to move forward. One of the options, she said Monday, is a controversial Superfund priority listing. "Right now we're really in the exploration phase," she said. "I think that there are many people in favor of it and I think there are some in traditional opposition." State officials say no clean-up decision is set in stone and that many options are being explored. Sheets says she is simply working to find out what the community wants. "People are anxious to have long-term remediation decisions," she said. To view the full article visit the Denver Post.