From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):
The Gold King Mine Spill has exposed a bigger problem whose solution seems incredibly complex. Hundreds of abandoned mines in southwestern Colorado have leached tainted water into nearby streams for decades. The EPA has been trying to get a handle on the issue for years. That’s why the agency had crews working at Gold King Mine last August.
It’s emblematic of a much larger problem that exists across the Western United States. One GAO report estimates 33,000 hard rock abandoned mines are causing environmental problems. And one year after the Gold King Mine spill, many experts say the country is no closer to a solution.
The proposed Bonita Peak Mining District contains 48 mining-related sites in the region. But local officials said it wasn’t easy getting on board with the Superfund idea.
“There was a lot of sleepless nights,” said Willy Tookey, San Juan County administrator. For more than a decade, the government here shied away from Superfund status.
The two biggest concerns for local leaders was that a listing would cause a drop in property values and a drop tourism.
Tookey said intense negotiations with the EPA over this past year led to new confidence. And assurances.
“Because of the circumstances I think we were able to get these answers that we weren’t able to before,” he said.
The EPA expects to make a final decision on whether Superfund status will be approved this fall. From that point, it could take years for the agency to approve a work plan and funding.