Restoration: Should there be a ‘Good Samaritan’ exemption to the Clean Water Act?

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

But as bad as the damage is, community watershed groups, mining companies and even state agencies contend they cannot embark on cleanups for fear of incurring legal liability. Under the Clean Water Act, parties who get involved at abandoned mines and accidentally make matters worse — even over the short term — could be vulnerable to federal prosecution for polluting waterways without a permit.

Obama administration officials two years ago promised to break gridlock on this issue, spurring a legislative fix to enable “good Samaritan” cleanups and devoting “significant resources” for watershed restoration. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week acknowledged there is still gridlock and that more must be done to deal with tens of thousands of leaking abandoned mines nationwide…

State records show:

• Colorado’s 7,300 abandoned mine sites contain about 17,000 point sources of pollution, such as open mine shafts and tunnels.

• At least 150 abandoned mines “significantly affect” surface water directly. Storm and snowmelt water running over slag heaps at another 300 abandoned mines measurably harms surface and groundwater.

• The abandoned mines are scattered widely — including Jamestown west of Boulder and the headwaters of the Mancos River in the southwestern corner of the state.

More water pollution coverage here.

More Good Samaritan exemption coverage here.

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