October 7, 2016--EPA probes toxic Colorado mine tunnels, investigates possible harm to human health (Denver Post)

Sloshing knee-deep through acid orange muck in a dark mining tunnel, an EPA crew wearing air monitors and headlamps peered at a massive concrete plug, one of 13 installed in these cored-out mountains above Silverton. They are wrestling with the Environmental Protection Agency’s riskiest problem as post-Gold King disaster cleanup begins: whether to try to contain toxic mine drainage inside the mountains, or funnel it out and clean it perpetually at huge expense. Colorado and federal authorities want to resolve the issue as soon as possible because today’s untreated flow into Animas headwaters — averaging 3,750 gallons a minute — may be hurting not only the environment but human health, officials said recently. All it would take inside this abandoned Red and Bonita Mine tunnel is a turn of the blue screw on that bulkhead plug to stop hundreds of gallons of the sulfuric acid from leaking. But if the EPA crew does turn that screw, shutting a valve, the blockage could cause new toxic blowouts from other mountainside tunnels, veins, faults and fissures. So, for now, the feds are letting Animas River mines drain, tolerating the massive toxic discharge that equates to more than a dozen Gold King disasters every week. “We don’t want to discount the Gold King spill, but it is good to keep it in perspective,” said EPA project chief Rebecca Thomas, who’s managing cleanup at the now-stabilized Gold King Mine and 47 other mining sites above Silverton. “Think about the millions of gallons draining each day. It’s something we should be paying attention to as a society – because of the impact on water quality,” Thomas said. To view the full article visit the Denver Post.