EPA says it will build temporary treatment plant for mine

SILVERTON, Colo. (AP) – The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it will set up a temporary treatment plant for wastewater flowing from the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado after 3 million gallons surged out of the mine in August, tainting rivers in three states.

The EPA said it needs the plant because it will be unsafe to operate the settling ponds that are now in use when winter temperatures fall below zero.

The EPA released documents last week saying it was considering the plant.

The $1.8 million facility is expected to start operating by Oct. 14 and run for up to 42 weeks. The EPA said it will cost $20,000 a week to operate.

The plant would be portable, but EPA spokeswoman Christie St. Clair said she couldn’t immediately provide details.

St. Clair said the EPA will decide whether to set up a longer-term treatment plant after a more detailed evaluation of other leaking mines in the area. Underground water commonly seeps into inactive mines that perforate the mountainsides, and it often overflows from the mine openings.

An EPA-led cleanup crew inadvertently triggered the Gold King Mine blowout Aug. 5 when heavy equipment breached a debris dam holding back wastewater containing heavy metals. The water flowed into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, including the Southern Ute Reservation and the Navajo Nation.

Utilities and farmers shut down drinking water intakes and irrigation canals. The EPA has said the water quality has returned pre-spill levels, but some officials have concerns about pollution lingering in sediment and have expressed doubts about the EPA’s statements.

The EPA said water was flowing from the mine before the blowout and continued afterward.

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