August 20, 2015--Attorneys general hear account of Gold King Mine spill (Durango Herald)

Situated nearly 11,400 feet above sea level deep in the San Juan National Forest, the long-abandoned Gold King Mine is now surrounded by a flurry of activity from various state and federal agencies working to contain and treat wastewater leaking as a result of a catastrophic spill earlier this month just outside the small mountain town of Silverton. Below the mine’s opening, the 3 million gallons of contaminated water that broke through a natural barrier has left the mountainside ravaged with downed trees, mass erosion and an orange tinge that has become the signature image of the spill. The spill came Aug. 5 when a crew contracted to work with the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally breached a barrier.
Even today, Cement Creek – a tributary flowing to the Animas River – rushes with the tainted sludge that contains a number of heavy metals. On Wednesday, attorneys general Cynthia Coffman of Colorado and Sean Reyes of Utah visited the mine for the first time since the incident, searching for a better understanding of events that led to the spill and to see firsthand the EPA’s plan for the cleanup. “It helps to understand the complexity of the situation that we’re dealing with,” Coffman said. “This is not simple, and I think people need to understand there is not a quick fix with this. We’re in it for the long haul.” Allen Sorenson, a geoengineer with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, said the EPA has three primary goals it seeks to accomplish before winter: Fix the narrow and rocky county road that leads to the mine for easier access, stabilize the mine’s opening, and set up a viable water-treatment system that includes retention ponds that will last until next spring. To view the full article and report visit the Durango Herald.