Monday, April 24, 2017

Embattled EPA pitches 40 “quick fixes” to slow poisoning of water at inactive Colorado mines

The EPA’s promised big cleanup of toxic mines is beginning with baby steps — quick fixes to fish-killing leaks improvised outside the Superfund process — amid worries that work on one of the West’s worst water problems will stall. EPA crews in southwestern Colorado swiftly stopped an acidic, 15 gallons-a-minute flow from the defunct Brooklyn Mine, drainage that for decades has injected heavy arsenic, cadmium, lead, manganese and zinc into Animas River headwaters. That’s a tiny portion of the overall 3,750 gallons-a-minute contaminating the Animas, but is typical of the trickling from thousands of mines that slowly kills Western streams — even as clean water increasingly is coveted. “It took half a day. All we did was redirect the adit flow so that it didn’t cross waste rock,” EPA Superfund project manager Rebecca Thomas said. This quick-fix approach reflects regional EPA officials fighting to prevent paralysis in the area where an EPA-led crew caused the Gold King disaster in 2015, a mistake that dramatized the problem of acid mine drainage by turning the Animas mustard-yellow. Now EPA cleanup specialists face the practical reality that the nation’s ailing Superfund program for rectifying environmental disasters may not be able to deliver. Federal cleanups of toxic mining Superfund sites typically take decades due to bureaucracy and scarce funds...more

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