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Bill to allow quick response to mine spills passes Colorado House

Funds would be available in emergencies
The Gold King Mine-exposed adit, which is about 10 feet wide and 15 feet high. The contaminated water flowed from the adit on Aug. 5, 2015.

DENVER – The Colorado House on Thursday gave final approval to a measure that would allow a quick response to emergency mine spills, such as Gold King.

The bill would authorize the use of emergency funds anytime hazardous circumstances exist at a legacy mine site.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety is currently allowed to use the funds only if the site is subject to the division’s regulatory authority.

“This is an important step to ensure we can take care of hazardous conditions at mining sites and protect our environment and public safety,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose.

Legacy sites are hard-rock mining operations that were abandoned prior to July 1, 1976.

The bill follows the devastating Aug. 5 Gold King Mine spill, in which an estimated 3 million gallons of orange mining sludge poured into the Animas River.

The Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged fault in the incident, which occurred during excavation work at the mine north of Silverton.

The EPA was hoping to begin restoration work, but instead caused a blowout that leaked toxic heavy metals, including lead, aluminum and copper. The agency is working on a Superfund designation, which would inject federal dollars into permanent restoration efforts at about 50 mining-related sites near Silverton. It also is working on water monitoring plans.

At least 23,000 inactive mines have been identified in Colorado, many of which pose threats to public health and environment.

The legislation passed Thursday would allow for cleanups at sites that are not listed as a Superfund site.

It passed the House, 63-2, and now heads to the Senate for consideration.


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