- Associated Press - Sunday, October 19, 2014

DILLON, Colo. (AP) - State and local officials are marking a milestone for Summit County’s environmental cleanup efforts by plugging part of the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine east of Keystone, tackling one of Summit County’s biggest environmental headaches.

On Friday, County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier was one of several federal, state and local officials promoting Summit’s mining cleanup efforts.

The mine, considered the worst in the state, spews toxic heavy metal concentrates and acidifies water flowing into the Peru Creek, a tributary of the Snake River which feeds Dillon Reservoir.

Peru Creek lacks fish, insects and other aquatic life. The Snake River has life, but it’s sparse and found only in the lower reaches.

This past week, the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety finished installing one of two bulkheads, massive plugs of concrete and steel built about 500 feet inside the mine, the Summit Daily reported Saturday (https://tinyurl.com/ptpa9xo).

According to project manager Jeff Graves, once both bulkheads are installed, toxic burps of chemicals and blowouts will be a thing of the past.

“That won’t happen again. It can’t,” he said.

The bulkheads are designed to prevent water from flowing through the mine. Experts say water will back up inside, reducing the amount of oxygen the metals and sulfides are exposed to, which should improve water quality.

Though the more than $3 million project still has far to go, reclamation efforts seem to have had positive impacts already. Last year, the Peru Creek turned reddish-orange seven or eight times. That hasn’t happened this year.

In addition to the bulkheads, new drainage ditches channel water away from waste-rock piles. Those piles have been capped. Limestone has also been added to raise the pH of the water, which could help filter out metals into settlement ponds.


Information from: Summit Daily News, https://www.summitdaily.com/

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