Leadville: Will Reclamation take responsibility? | VailDaily.com

Leadville: Will Reclamation take responsibility?

Katie Redding
Vail CO, Colorado

LEADVILLE, Colorado ” The Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel (LMDT) stakeholders spoke to a crowd of people Tuesday so large that they had to be moved to the 6th Street Gym.

There, representatives reiterated previous commitments to work on the issues with the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel ” but stopped short of making any new promises.

Meanwhile, the City of Leadville was told by Travelers’ Insurance that its liability insurance will be rescinded as of April 1. Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott is concerned about the fact that he was never warned about the Declaration of a State of Emergency. Real estate agents are fielding calls from worried buyers and sellers. And residents at the Village at Lake Fork are very nervous: at Tuesday’s meeting, a resident invited officials to come sleep in her house for one night.

“They’re living in panic right now,” said her translator.

Bureau of Reclamation officials did their best to calm fears, reiterating Reclamation’s commitment to treating water from the mine pool on a “short-term, interim basis.” However, according to Donald Moomaw, Reclamation has no responsibility for reducing water going into the mine pool by pumping the Canterbury Tunnel or the Gaw Shaft.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Remedial Programs Manager Jeff Deckler insisted that Reclamation needs to take responsibility for the mine pool.

“We think the bureau has traditionally viewed their responsibility as being the tunnel or the treatment plant. We would like to see that expanded so they’re responsible for managing the pool,” he explained.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promised to begin pumping the Gaw Shaft within the next few days, in order to reduce groundwater. It also reiterated a commitment to install pumps in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel and convey water to the LMDT Treatment Plant as soon as possible. Superfund Remedial Program Director Bill Murray said that his boss was in Washington this week to procure funding for the pump system.

Near the end of the meeting, Mike Wireman, an EPA Groundwater Expert who performed a study on the LMDT in 2005-2006, was asked about the risk of a major event with the tunnel.

“In my professional judgment I would not characterize the risk as high, but I would not characterize it as low either. Keep in mind, you can’t get in this tunnel. Everything we’ve done, we’ve done remotely,” he responded.

In the end, Wireman suggested that parties start to put some plans in place. Pumping the tunnel and eventually building a plug for it would likely be a two-season effort, he said.

“[Pumping the water] is the only fix that will ever work,” said Wireman.

But LMDT Treatment Plant manager Brad Littlepage, who pointedly spoke “as a citizen on my own time,” was impatient with all the talking.

“Isn’t it time to take care of this issue now?” he asked. “The citizens here want to hear pumping.”

Katie Redding is the reporter for The Leadville Chronicle. She can be reached at kredding@leadvillechronicle.com.

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