October 17, 2015--Gold King water treatment to begin (Durango Herald)

The dustings of snow on top of the San Juan Mountains only signify the urgency to which the Environmental Protection Agency looks to stabilize the discharge of acid mine drainage at the Gold King Mine before winter sets in. On Friday, EPA officials expect to finally turn on operations at a temporary treatment facility that will last the winter. The retention ponds built in the immediate aftermath of the Aug. 5 blowout were located in an avalanche zone and were never intended to operate beyond a few weeks. The treatment facility, in an area 10 miles north of Silverton, will begin to take in acid mine drainage from the Gold King Mine, which is discharging about 500 to 600 gallons of the mine wastewater per minute. A 4,800-foot pipe from the portal of the Gold King Mine will direct the drainage down a steep slope into the treatment system. The water is then treated with lime to raise the pH and systemized to separate heavy metals. Lime treatment is the most effective system for handling acid mine drainage, but it is also regarded as a costly one, which leaves behind solid waste that operators are tasked with handling. “The solid disposal is always a challenge,” said Steve Way, on-scene coordinator for the EPA. “That’s why treatment with lime addition is something any corporation, any agency wants to avoid if they can. It’s an expensive treatment process.” Way said the EPA is still weighing its options on how to manage the solid waste, but it’s likely the material will be stored on site. He estimated that the facility will generate about 2,500 cubic yards over the next 10 to 12 months. The water released from the facility over winter into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River, will reduce the metals of concern – namely zinc, copper and cadmium – 90 to 95 percent, at minimum, Way said. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.