A Colorado mine that spewed 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in three Western states was designated a Superfund site Wednesday, clearing the way for a multimillion-dollar federal cleanup.
Silverton and San Juan County leaders endorsed the National Priorities listing because they hope it will set a clear path toward resolving the environmental problems for the area. Upper Cement Creek, which many of the mines drain into, hasn’t supported fish life for years.
The EPA called the move “an important step” in getting the resources necessary to further study and clean up the area and downstream communities. The state Department of Public Health and Environment said they are “committed to working closely” with the EPA through the process.
“Listing the Bonita Peak Mining District is critical to addressing historic mining impacts in San Juan County and our downstream communities,” said Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs for CDPHE.
Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican who represents Colorado’s Western Slope, offered muted praise of the EPA’s listing.
“In the past year, my team and I have worked to hold the EPA accountable,” Tipton said in a statement. “I am hopeful that with this designation, the EPA will continue to collaborate with local, tribal, and state officials and work to protect the local economy, maximizing local employment opportunities where possible and providing adequate funding to ensure the cleanup begins as quickly as possible.”
Officials say it could take years, or even decades to complete the clean up.
Bertha R. Massie