EPA seeks public comments on Gold King Mine project

Horizontal well to be drilled at entrance

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comments on a project designed to prevent another blowout at the Gold King Mine. Enlarge photo

Durango Herald file

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comments on a project designed to prevent another blowout at the Gold King Mine.

If you have an opinion on the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to prevent another blowout at the Gold King Mine, now is your chance to comment.

The EPA on Tuesday announced that proposed actions at the mine, about 10 miles north of Silverton, were up for public review and comment in a plan called the “Gold King Mine Integrated Discharge Controls Removal Action.”

The work is part of the EPA’s recently declared Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site, a cleanup project of 48 mining-related sites throughout San Juan County in the Animas River watershed.

This particular project seeks to reduce the potential of an unplanned discharge, otherwise known as a blowout, from the Gold King Mine.

An EPA-contracted crew in August 2015, while working on a remediation project, caused a mine blowout at the Gold King. The spill sent 3 million gallons of mine wastewater laced with heavy metals down the Animas and San Juan rivers.

Since the spill, the EPA has stabilized the entrance of the Gold King with steel bracing and concrete reinforcement.

However, in this most recent plan, it appears the EPA has already started the project for which it is now seeking public comment.

According to the EPA’s announcement on Tuesday, it asks the public to review and comment on a plan that calls for drilling a horizontal well within the entrance of the Gold King Mine.

However, a September “Bonita Peak Mining District Update” the EPA sent out earlier this month said the agency has already started drilling the well and expects to be finished by mid-September.

EPA representatives did not respond to a request for comment on this matter Wednesday. On Thursday, EPA provided the following response in an email:

“For these types of removal actions, we are required to make the administrative record available to the public within 60 days of on-site removal activity. At that time, we also provide at least 30-days for the public to comment on the administrative record.”

Other work includes installing a flow-control structure within the mine entrance and building a berm outside the historic Level 7 mine entrance (the site of the 2015 blowout).

Go online to http://bit.ly/2wo0KU1 to view the entire document and learn how to comment.

This story has been updated to include a response from the EPA.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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