- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

DENVER (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency said it could be a month or two before crews pump water from a crumbling tunnel where officials fear more than 1 billion gallons of trapped water could cause a catastrophic flood in a historic mining town.

EPA officials are scrambling to find a contractor and more than $4.5 million to pay for the project, said Stan Christensen, remedial project manager for the federal agency.

Lake County officials declared a state of emergency for fear that melt from record snowfall could add to growing pressure in the tunnel and cause a blowout and flood the town of Leadville, about 85 miles southwest of Denver.

A speaker system that would broadcast evacuation notices has been installed near a mobile-home park that has 300 residents near the tunnel’s portal.

The partially collapsed Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel drains contaminated water from abandoned mines that date back to the 1800s.

Federal and state agencies had been working on a plan to drain the tunnel since at least 2003.

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