September 26, 2015--Questions arise over contractor selection at Gold King Mine (Durango Herald)

Questions are being raised after the Environmental Protection Agency announced that the same contractor who played a role in the Gold King Mine spill will oversee the contract for a new water-treatment system. St. Louis-based Environmental Restoration LLC handled the request for proposal for the contract, which resulted in an announcement Wednesday that subcontractor Alexco Environmental Group Inc. will build the temporary treatment plant, to be located in Gladstone. The facility will be operational by Oct. 14 and operate during the coming winter. The contract provides for 42 weeks of treatment. The system comes after the EPA, working with Environmental Restoration, caused an estimated 3 million gallons of orange mining sludge to pour into the Animas River on Aug. 5. The team ran into problems during excavation while beginning restoration of the inactive Gold King Mine near Silverton. Water-quality samples tested for initial spikes in heavy metals, some of which could have been toxic to humans. Water quality in the Animas quickly returned to “pre-event” conditions, though polluted water continues to flow from the mine at about 550 gallons per minute. Without the plant, officials have had to rely on a series of settling ponds to capture the dirty water before being discharged to Cement Creek, which runs into the Animas. The treatment system comes with a $1.78-million price tag. The plant will cost $20,000 per week to operate, with another $53,200 for demobilization and bonding, also set aside in the contract.. The EPA said it will pay for the system from Superfund dollars, money set aside to clean up blighted areas that could be toxic to humans. Gold King still has not officially been listed as a Superfund site. Given Environmental Restoration’s participation in the error that caused the spill in the first place, both Democrat and Republican policy-makers have concerns with continuing the contract and allowing the company to oversee the subcontract for the treatment system. To view the full article and report visit the Durango Herald.