Denver: Long slog ahead for Platte to Park Hill stormwater project

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin) Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).
Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

From Westword (Alan Prendergast):

The city of Denver’s $300 million stormwater diversion project has already generated significant community resistance, from complaints over the sharp hike in stormwater fees needed to finance the plan to protests over the impacts the construction will have on north Denver neighborhoods and the City Park Golf Course to heated debates over who truly benefits from the project.

But as more details of the plan become public, opponents of the Platte to Park Hill Stormwater Systems are increasingly focusing on a little-discussed aspect of the project: the decision to direct storm runoff to the South Platte River through a heavily polluted Superfund site, a process that some fear could expose the river and nearby neighborhoods to a toxic brew of contaminants from arsenic-laced groundwater and a long-buried landfill.

“This is authentically nuts,” says civil engineer Adrian Brown, who’s raised questions with city engineers about the viability of the storm runoff outfall design. “If this thing fails, it’s just going to deposit the whole landfill into the river.”

Public works officials say the project is safe and will actually improve river quality. They have touted Platte to Park Hill (or “P2PH”) as a necessary fix for long-festering drainage problems in the northeast part of the city — water that flows north and west from Fairmount Cemetery through the Montclair, Park Hill, Cole and Whittier neighborhoods to Elyria, Swansea, Globeville and ultimately the South Platte River. Officials have stressed that some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods will benefit from the improvements, which include a fifteen-block channel along East 39th Avenue, an expanded outfall area at Globeville Landing Park, and a thirty-acre detention “pond” at the golf course, which won’t fill up except in the worst storms.

#AnimasRiver: @EPA wants to continue operations at [Cement Creek] water-treatment plant — The Durango Herald

The EPA's wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 -- photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio
The EPA’s wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 — photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it would prefer to continue operations at the temporary water-treatment plant that handles discharges out of the Gold King Mine while the agency continues to evaluate long-term options.

Before the EPA makes that decision final, a public comment period that began Monday will run to Dec. 14.

“As EPA understands more about the hydrology of the area, and how various sources of contamination are affecting water quality, the Agency will consider any number of options, including potential expansion of the IWTP, to address the contamination,” Chris Wardell, of U.S. EPA Region 8, said in a news release.

The second option considered in the report released Monday was to mothball the $1.5 million water-treatment plant, which was built two months after an EPA contracted crew on Aug. 5, 2015, breached the portal of the Gold King Mine, releasing 3 million gallons of mine waste down the Animas River.

The treatment plant’s high cost of operation, as well as the need to deal with the lime-heavy metal sludge by-product, led officials tasked with improving water quality in the Animas River watershed to find other options.

As of last week, the average flow rate into the treatment plant was 712 gallons per minute, and it costs about $16,000 per week to operate.

If EPA, after reviewing public comments, formally decides to continue operations, the agency will move the plant from “emergency removal action” funding to “Non-Time Critical Removal Action,” which falls under the proper Superfund process.

This fall, the EPA officially declared 48-mining sites around Silverton as the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site.

Cement Creek aerial photo -- Jonathan Thompson via Twitter
Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

#AnimasRiver: Navajo Nation to court, Sunnyside a key contributor #GoldKingMine

On April 7,  2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear. Eric Baker
On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

From The Farmington Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

In a lawsuit filed earlier this year in U.S. District Court of New Mexico, the tribe named Sunnyside Gold Corp. as a responsible party for the spill on Aug. 5, 2015.

The lawsuit also names the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Restoration LLC, Harrison Western Corp., Gold King Mines Corp., Kinross Gold Corp., Kinross Gold USA Inc. and John Does 1-10.

Sunnyside filed a motion on Oct. 17 to dismiss its involvement in the lawsuit, and the tribe filed its response on Monday.

In the tribe’s response to Sunnyside’s motion, it called the company a “key contributor” to the toxic water buildup at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo.

The buildup led to a blowout, triggering the release of more than 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

“It knew that its actions in bulk heading its mine would shift the flow of contaminated water to other mines in the Upper Animas Watershed and pose a substantial threat of a future blowout into downstream communities,” the response states…

Sunnyside argued the state of Colorado should be named in the lawsuit since the mine and associated activities at the mine site are within the state.

In the tribe’s response, it stated the federal court can provide “complete relief” for damages incurred as a result of the spill among the defendants already named in the lawsuit. It adds that Colorado’s role as a mine regulator is of “no consequence” because the tribe is not challenging how the state regulates mining nor is it asking for an injunction only the state could provide.

Sunnyside also argued for a dismissal using a section of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, which is commonly known as the Superfund Act.

The section Sunnyside cited states that no federal court has jurisdiction to review any challenges when remedial action is taking place at a Superfund site.

In response, the tribe argues Sunnyside cannot use that section of the Superfund Act because the Bonita Peak Mining District, which includes the Gold King Mine, was designated a Superfund site only after the mine spill.

The EPA declared the area a Superfund site in September.

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)
The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

Clear Creek: New water treatment under construction on the North Fork

Photo from Paul Winkle (CPW) slide show at the South Platte Forum October 26, 2016.
Photo from Paul Winkle (CPW) slide show at the South Platte Forum October 26, 2016.

From 9News.com (Next with Kyle Clark):

There’s another orange, rusty flow of water coming from our Colorado mountains, this one on the North Fork of Clear Creek near Black Hawk.

A viewer sent Next a question about this, asking what was going on.

We found out that environmentalists know about it, and have known for a few years.

It happens when rocks, which have been buried for years in Colorado’s mines, reach ground water. These rocks have likely never been exposed to oxygen because of that. Once rocks touch groundwater, iron is oxidized and acid is formed. The oxidized iron turns the water orange, but the acid is the concern. Acid dissolves necessary metals in the water, and can kill off wildlife in a stream.

The substance dilutes once reaching the main stem of Clear Creek, but there is not currently wildlife living in that fork.

The water treatment plant being built will take care of all that by treating the water with lyme, which will neutralize the acid in the water. The plant opens in January.

The good news is we won’t have a repeat of the Animas River incident from 2015.

“The two point sources that are contributing to this right now have been open and they are just openly leaking into the stream continuously, and so there’s not that build up like we saw with the Animas River,” said Elizabeth Traudt, from the Colorado School of Mines. “Instead, since these have been continuously leaking, that’s why this stretch of the stream has been continuously orange and continuously contaminated.”

That’s right. The water has been orange for a while.

#AnimasRiver: #NewMexico urges folks with losses from the #GoldKingMine spill to file claims

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)
The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

From The Albuquerque Journal (Ollie Reed Jr.):

“Too many local families are losing money because they lost their crops,” San Juan County Commissioner Margaret McDaniel said. “They are afraid to water their crops. There are some wells along here people are afraid to drink from.”

Kirtland Mayor Mark Duncan said some farmers could not sell hay they had raised because potential buyers feared it might have been poisoned by mine-spill contaminated water used to irrigate the crop.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas presided over the news conference, which also included other state officials and elected municipal and county officials in northwest New Mexico. The Journal took part via conference phone call.

Balderas said the state is committed to a long-standing litigation strategy ensuring that the people of New Mexico are fully compensated for the mine spill that dumped 3 million gallons of water laced with heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, into a Colorado creek on Aug. 5, 2015. That creek flowed into the Animas River, which took the tainted water into New Mexico and into the San Juan River near Farmington and through the Navajo Nation.

A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon August 10, 2015 -- photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin
A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon August 10, 2015 — photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin

#AnimasRiver: Sunnyside wants out of Navajo Nation lawsuit — The Durango Herald

Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.
Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

From The Durango Herald:

Sunnyside Gold Corp. filed a motion last week to be dismissed from its inclusion in a lawsuit brought by the Navajo Nation for the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill.

“We are hopeful that the case against Sunnyside will be promptly dismissed, as we see no basis for us even being named in this litigation,” spokesman Larry Perino wrote in an email to The Durango Herald.

In August, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit that included Sunnyside, the Environmental Protection Agency and its contractor, Environmental Restoration LLC, for the mine spill, which sent 3 million gallons of wastewater down the Animas and San Juan rivers.

The lawsuit also named Kinross Gold Corp. (Sunnyside’s parent company), Gold King Mine Corp. (the entity that owns the Gold King mine) as well as Harrison Western Corp., and John Does 1 to 10.

The reasons Sunnyside asked the U.S. Federal Court in New Mexico to dismiss its inclusion are manifold: the company was not involved on the work last summer, the New Mexico court lacks jurisdiction and the bulkheading of the American Tunnel was done at the direction of the state of Colorado.

Sunnyside argued that for those reasons, the state Colorado should have been also named in the lawsuit.

“In essence, the point of Navajo Nation’s lawsuit is to hold Sunnyside liable for following the directives of Colorado and for intending to store water in Colorado,” the motion says. “The fact that an accident at the Gold King Mine – of which Sunnyside had no part – carried water into New Mexico is irrelevant for a personal jurisdiction analysis.”

In July, Sunnyside filed a similar motion to dismiss concerning the state of New Mexico’s lawsuit for impacts to that state regarding the spill.

Questions have been raised whether the bulkheading of Sunnyside’s American Tunnel has caused mine waste to back up and discharge out adjacent mines, namely the Gold King and Red & Bonita.

The EPA has said it will conduct further evaluations this summer to better understand the network of mines in the complicated drainage.

The Navajo Nation has 60-days to respond to the motion to dismiss, though it has asked the courts for an extension of that deadline.

#AnimasRiver: Motion to dismiss filed in #GoldKingMine spill lawsuit

General view of the Sunnyside Mine, southwestern Colorado photo via the Denver Public Library
General view of the Sunnyside Mine, southwestern Colorado photo via the Denver Public Library

From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

A defendant in the Navajo Nation’s Gold King Mine spill lawsuit has filed a motion to dismiss its involvement in the case.

In the motion filed last week, the Sunnyside Gold Corp. claims the company had no involvement in the Aug. 5, 2015, spill that released more than 3 million gallons of toxic-laden wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

On Aug. 16, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye announced the tribe had filed a lawsuit against Sunnyside, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Restoration LLC, Harrison Western Corp., Gold King Mines Corp., Kinross Gold Corp., Kinross Gold USA Inc. and John Does 1-10.

Sunnyside, which is based in Silverton, Colo., owns and operates several mining properties, according to a company overview listed on the Bloomberg website.

The company states in its motion that claims against it must be dismissed for several reasons, including that the U.S. District Court of New Mexico lacks jurisdiction in the matter. The court lacks jurisdiction because only the alleged injury occurred in New Mexico, and none of the activities related to the mine happened in the state, according to the motion.

“In this case, there is no suggestion that Sunnyside’s activities were ever directed at New Mexico. All of Sunnyside’s conduct and activities, everything it did or did not do relevant to this case, occurred in Colorado. Nothing Sunnyside did was in or aimed at New Mexico,” the motion states.

Sunnyside argues the state of Colorado must be a party to the lawsuit because the mine and associated work was done within the state.

According to the motion, the company claims bulkheads installed at the mine were completed through specific directives issued by the state of Colorado and by a consent decree approved by a Colorado district court judge in May 1996.

Any fault associated with the installation of bulkheads must include Colorado, the motion states.

Another reason the motion asks to dismiss Sunnyside is due to a section of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, which established the Superfund program, that deprives the court’s jurisdiction over the tribe’s abatement claims.

On Sept. 9, the EPA designated the Bonita Peak Mining District, where the Gold King Mine is located, a Superfund site.

Because the area has received the Superfund designation, any abatement activities would be determined by the EPA, and the tribe is not entitled to punitive damages from Sunnyside, according to the motion.

On April 7,  2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear. Eric Baker
On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker