Udall urges federal agencies to work with state on mine tunnel | SummitDaily.com

Udall urges federal agencies to work with state on mine tunnel


DENVER – Congressman Mark Udall asked federal officials Tuesday to resolve their disagreements over who has authority to remove up to one billion gallons of water trapped in a Leadville drainage tunnel.The Eldorado Springs Democrat said there had been enough “finger pointing” by federal officials and it was time to find a long-term solution to the clogged Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel.”Let’s move ahead and solve this thing,” Udall told Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson during a hearing Tuesday.Lake County officials declared a state of emergency for fear that growing water pressure in the tunnel could cause a catastrophic blowout and flood the town.The tunnel drains contaminated water from abandoned mine shafts. A collapse inside the tunnel was first detected in 1995, allowing water to back up in hundreds of shafts.During the hearing, Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn asked Johnson whether he was aware of the what could happen if a billion gallons of water contaminated with metals were to burst into the town of Leadville.”I am very aware, believe me,” Johnson said. “I think all I can say is we are moving as quickly as we can.”Udall said he wanted clarification at the hearing on who had the authority – the Environmental Protection Agency or the Bureau of Reclamation – to drain and treat the water from the tunnel, which is part of an EPA Superfund site. Udall, a Democrat who is campaigning to replace retiring Republican U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, said some of the water could be pumped to an exiting well the EPA owns nearby.Longer term, Udall said he was told the Bureau of Reclamation does not have authority over the Superfund site. He said he and Lamborn are working on legislation that would allow federal officials to build another well and pump with a pipeline to a Bureau of Reclamation treatment facility.”I’m satisfied,” Udall said about the hearing. “At the same time, Congressman Lamborn and I know there’s more work to do.”