Site investigations and some cleanup work at 10 polluted mining complexes in four states were suspended because of conditions similar to those that led to a massive wastewater blowout from an inactive Colorado gold mine, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said.
The sites include three in California, four in Colorado, two in Montana and one in Missouri, according to details obtained by The Associated Press following repeated requests for the information.
They have the potential for contaminated water to build up inside mine workings, EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus said. That would set the stage for a possible spill such as last month’s near Silverton, Colorado, where an EPA team triggered a 3 million gallon blowout of toxic sludge while doing excavation work on the inactive Gold King Mine.
The accident fouled rivers in three states and attracted harsh criticism of the EPA for not being prepared despite prior warnings that such a spill could happen…
Cleanup efforts on some of the mines have been going on for years yet remain unfinished, underscoring the complexity of a long-running attempt to address an estimated 500,000 abandoned mines across the U.S. Work on others was in the early stages.
In a report to Congress delivered Friday, the Government Accountability Office said federal agencies identified thousands of contaminated mine sites in recent years — even as their attempts to assess what harm is being done to people and the environment have lagged.
Further investigations were needed to gauge the danger posed by the 10 mining complexes under the suspension before work could safely resume…
That includes categorizing their level of hazard. For those deemed a “probable hazard,” the EPA plans to keep the work stoppage in place until emergency plans are drawn up to deal with any accident…
The Aug. 12 stop-work order from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy did not apply to sites where halting operations would pose a threat to people or increase the potential for harm to the environment, according to internal EPA documents.
Also exempted were portions of the 10 stopped projects where construction already was completed, such as treatment systems for contaminated water that pours continually from many abandoned mine shafts.
RTFA for a bit more detail on the additional sites, location, etc.. As well as the updated, upgraded emergency procedures added by the EPA’s cleanup contractor.