#AnimasRiver: Bonita Peak Mining District superfund site?

A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon August 10, 2015 -- photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin
A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon August 10, 2015 — photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin

From the Associated Press via the The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Republican Rep. Scott Tipton said Thursday a Superfund cleanup would be overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which caused an August mine spill that prompted the cleanup.

Tipton says it would be better to fund the effort another way. He didn’t offer specifics.

The EPA on Wednesday proposed adding the Gold King Mine and other sites to the Superfund list. Officials in Silverton and San Juan County and Gov. John Hickenlooper have endorsed it.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A cluster of 48 mining sites near Silverton, including the Gold King Mine, is expected eventually to find a spot on the National Priorities List of the nation’s worst disasters threatening public health and the environment.

But the EPA’s process requires this first step, followed by a period for comments. There’s no guarantee listed sites would receive funding for cleanup.

“I’m excited. This shows our work negotiating with the EPA is paying off,” Silverton town administrator Bill Gardner said. “It shows they are true to their word that there’s going to be a commitment from them, and that we are going to move forward quicker rather than slower.”


“The agency will follow the same process at the Bonita Peak Mining District as for all other proposed NPL sites,” spokeswoman Christie St. Clair said.

The priorities list serves as a basis for enforcement actions against potentially responsible polluters and for securing cleanup funds. For 35 years, the Superfund program has run on the principle that polluters should pay for cleanups, defraying costs to taxpayers. EPA officials hunt for parties legally responsible for contaminating a site and try to compel them to cover cleanup costs.

“The process is moving forward,” said Peter Butler, coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, which since 1994 has worked to stop contamination from hundreds of leaking inactive mines.

“Hopefully, actual metal reductions to the river happen sooner rather than later,” Butler said…

Gov. John Hickenlooper in February backed up southwestern Colorado residents in requesting EPA action to address the Gold King and other inactive mines contaminating headwaters of the Animas River — water that flows into New Mexico, tribal nations, Utah and eventually the Grand Canyon toward California.

“We are pleased the EPA proposed adding the Bonita Peak Mining District to the National Priorities List (NPL). This is a crucial next step in making the region eligible for necessary resources and comprehensive cleanup efforts under EPA’s Superfund program, but our work is not done,” Hickenlooper said Wednesday morning.

“We are working with the EPA to ensure that adequate funding for this site is provided, including immediate interim measures and options to mitigate any further water quality deterioration. We are also working to ensure state and local officials continue to have an active role and that there is robust and significant community involvement,” he said.

“Lastly, we continue to support efforts by our congressional delegation to reach consensus around ‘Good Samaritan’ legislation, which is one of the most significant tools at our disposal to allow for voluntary cleanups of draining and abandoned mines.”

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