Lake County lifts state of emergency over mine tunnel |

Lake County lifts state of emergency over mine tunnel

Kay Doan
Leadville, CO Colorado

LEADVILLE, Colorado ” Lake County, Colorado officials have lifted a state of emergency in place since last February prompted by fears that a stopped-up mine-drainage tunnel could burst and inundate residential areas.

The resolution passed Monday marked the end of a tenuous time for Lake County, filled with controversy and often uncertainty. It comes after a relief well was installed at the tunnel, a new pipeline was constructed and water has been pumped to a nearby treatment plant.

Last winter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to the county commissioners indicating that cave-ins and blockages in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel had penned up a large volume of water, raising concern for a potentially catastrophic incident that would endanger human life and cause an environmental disaster.

Within a week of receiving that correspondence, Lake County called a state of emergency.

In the wake of that move, local officials hosted a series of overflowing public hearings with angst-ridden residents and even conducted a mock evacuation drill to drive home the fears.

While politicians from town officials to state legislators to members of the congressional delegation rallied around Leadville’s cause, many state and federal officials privately suggested that the county had overreacted to a relatively low threat that has existed since the initial cave-ins at the tunnel several years ago.

The three commissioners, however, have stood by their decision.

In the months since, federal legislation has passed that assigns responsibility to the federal Bureau of Reclamation for the mitigation.

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