Mine near Crested Butte makes Superfund list | SummitDaily.com

Mine near Crested Butte makes Superfund list

CRESTED BUTTE ” A 19th century mine leaking toxins into a creek that eventually feeds into this town’s drinking supply is Colorado’s newest Superfund site.

The Standard Mine, which dates to 1874, covers about 10 acres in the mountains in the Gunnison National Forest in western Colorado. The mine, a crumbling collection of structures and a dam for the wastewater, has been idle since 1966.

Steve Glazer of the High Country Citizens’ Alliance welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision last week to add the mine to the state’s other 22 Superfund sites, among the nation’s worst toxic messes.

“Within six to eight years, we hope to have the Standard Mine cleaned up and expect a refurbished aquatic ecosystem and protection of the drinking water supply,” Glazer said.

Water leaking from the Standard Mine’s old shafts and wastewater pond is laced with metals such as cadmium, zinc, lead and copper.

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The water flows into nearby Elk Creek, where all aquatic life has been wiped out, and then feeds into Coal Creek, the drinking water supply for Crested Butte.

The town’s water meets federal drinking water standards, but environmental regulators fear the aging wastewater pond could fail.

Although the mine is now on the Superfund list and targeted for cleanup, it’s unclear who will pay for the work and how quickly it will get done. The public will cover the tab if the EPA can’t pin the blame on a responsible party, which is likely because of the mine’s age.

Funding is also an issue because Congress has declined to renew a special tax on industry that helped pay for cleanups. Work on the Summitville Superfund site, a gold mine near Del Norte, has slowed because of a lack of money.

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