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La Plata County to consider comments on Superfund

EPA also set to begin sampling water in early June
The Animas River was closed for eight days after the Aug. 5, 2015, Gold King Mine spill, which sent 3 million gallons of acidic wastewater downstream. On June 1, La Plata County commissioners will discuss sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency supporting the creation of a Superfund cleanup designation for mines in the Silverton area.

La Plata County commissioners will discuss submitting a letter to the

June 6 is the deadline to submit comments on the Superfund proposal for the Bonita Peak Mining District near Silverton, though EPA officials said Wednesday the federal agency may extend the date a week.

The EPA Superfund team told county and Durango leaders in a Wednesday meeting that the first round of data gathering in the Superfund area will begin in about two weeks.

Sampling will start with sediment and surface water, with soil and waste rock sampling to come later this year.

Kristin Brown of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety said the state agency intends to collect detailed geological data on the mine workings and digitize it.

“We’ll suggest sampling locations at seeps and springs,” Brown said. Based on that data, the agency will be able to make recommendations on drilling sites to get more information on the mine pool.

Rebecca Thomas, the EPA-appointed Superfund site manager, said she does not anticipate the EPA team of 10 to 15 people will put a strain on housing in Silverton during the town’s peak tourist season.

“To improve water quality in the Animas, we have to understand what’s happening with the water underground,” Thomas said. “We plan to do some drilling to get a better idea of it. When we characterize that water, its quality and quantity, we can look at alternatives to treat it. If we need enhanced drainage and more treatment plants, or more bulkheads, we don’t know yet.”

The EPA, which is responsible for a breach at the Gold King Mine portal last August that polluted regional watersheds with 3 million gallons of acid mine waste, has met monthly with city and county officials to provide updates on the Superfund process.

Bonita Peak Mining District was listed on the Federal Register in April to be considered for the National Priorities List.

Starting as early as next month, the EPA plans to distribute a monthly newsletter to keep communities in the loop.

At the June 1 meeting, the county board will vote on a letter to the federal entity expressing support for Superfund and address concerns about human health risks and impacts to the downstream community.

The meeting will begin at 8:15 a.m. at the county Administrative Building, 1101 East Second Ave. Public input will be taken.

jpace@durangoherald.com.

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