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Interior Department to investigate Gold King Mine accident

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that the Department of Interior will do an independent review of the Gold King Mine blowout.

According to a news release, the Interior Department will work to assess what caused the release of three million gallons of metals-contaminated wastewater Aug. 5 from the mine near Silverton. The wastewater spilled into Cement Creek, which is a tributary to the Animas River. The sludge polluted the Animas for several days as it moved downstream to its confluence with the San Juan River.

The EPA, using a contractor, was working on the abandoned mine when it hit an earthen wall that had water and debris built up behind it. The rush of contaminants caused the Animas River to be closed for eight days and affected thousands of users in several communities in Southwest Colorado, northern New Mexico and southeastern Utah.

The investigation began Tuesday. The news release also said details of the review by the Interior Department will be released as they become available, with full results anticipated to be made available to both the EPA and the public within 60 days.

“In addition to the independent review, EPA is conducting its own internal technical examination of the incident. Both reviews will help inform ongoing and planned site assessments, investigations and construction or removal projects,” the release said.

In other news about the Gold King Mine, the Silverton San Juan Incident Management Team announced Tuesday that it is repairing road damage in the area where the wastewater was released.

“Natural, earthen materials may enter Cement Creek, causing some discoloration,” the team said in a news release. “This discoloration is not from mine waste. Care is being taken to reduce the amount of material that may enter the waters of Cement Creek. These repairs are needed so that road traffic can safely reach the mines located above the damage.”

The release also said San Juan County has been receiving daily rain from the monsoonal weather patterns typical of this time of year. The higher flows may stir up sediment, but stream flows are normal.

Call the Joint Information Center at (970) 812-3351 with any questions about current stream flow.

abutler@durangoherald.com

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