EPA names Gold King Mine a Superfund site

EPA names Gold King Mine a Superfund site
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Federal regulators have designated the Gold King Mine, the source of a major waste spill in Colorado last year, a Superfund site. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday listed Colorado’s Bonita Peak Mining District, which includes the Gold King Mine, on its list of contaminated areas potentially due for federally-funded clean-up efforts. 

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The Bonita Peak District covers historic — and, the EPA says, continuously leaking — mining areas in the drainage basins of the Upper Animas River, Mineral Creek and Cement Creek. All three waterways converge into the Animas River near Silverton, Colo.

Last year, a team of EPA contractors released 3 million gallons of toxic mine waste into the Animas River, turing it yellow for days and kicking off an expensive and ongoing clean-up and quality monitoring effort. Colorado in March asked the EPA to include the site and the area around it in the Superfund program, which utilizes EPA resources to clean-up and restore contaminated areas around the country. 

The Gold King spill is the highest-profile incident in the Bonita Peak District, but the EPA said the region has other problems as well, including “decades” of acid mine drainage. 

Colorado has identified heavy metal issues in the Animas River since 1998, the agency said, and 32 sites in Bonita Peak produce up to 5.4 million gallons of mining waste a day. 

“Listing the Bonita Peak Mining District on the National Priorities List is an important step that enables EPA to secure the necessary resources to investigate and address contamination concerns of San Juan and La Plata Counties, as well as other downstream communities in New Mexico, Utah, and the Navajo Nation,” said Shaun McGrath, the EPA Regional Administrator. 

“We look forward to continuing our efforts with the State of Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S Forest Service, Tribal governments, and our community partners to address the impacts of acid mine drainage on the Animas River."

The EPA put nine other sites around the country on its Superfund list Wednesday, the agency announced. It proposed eight other potential additions, including the New York village of Hoosick Falls, which is suffering through a drinking water contamination crisis.