- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) - State officials plan to put in a second plug at a leaking mine opening in central Idaho to prevent the potential release of millions of gallons of toxic waste near the resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

About 200 million gallons of toxic mine drainage is pooled behind a plug installed in 2003 at Triumph Mine, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality told the Idaho Mountain Express (https://bit.ly/1OoZwzD).

Idaho officials say the 2015 Gold King Mine disaster in Colorado where 3 million gallons of toxic mine waste escaped into the Animas River is something they want to prevent in Idaho. “The recent events at the Gold King help to illustrate the concerns with the Triumph Mine,” Idaho Department of Environmental Quality officials said in a statement distributed at a meeting Tuesday in Hailey.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last decade was preparing to designate the area a Superfund site because of the severity of the problems that the federal agency estimated would cost hundreds of millions to fix.

But locals objected to Superfund designation because of the stigma and property value decreases. So Idaho is doing remediation work with supervision from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The estimated cost of the project is $16 million.

Initially, Idaho entered into an agreement with a mining company to clean up the site. But the mining company went bankrupt, leaving Idaho to deal with leaking from the 2003 plug.

Work is scheduled to begin in the next several weeks.

“Ultimately, we would like to completely eliminate the flow of water,” DEQ Mine Waste Program Specialist Don Carpenter said. “If we can’t do that, then we want to improve the quality of water that flows out.”

The Triumph Mine operated from 1852 to 1957 and produced ore rich in silver, zinc and lead.

Wells dug above the tunnel are used to measure the depth of the water in the mine backed up behind plug.

“The good news is that water behind the plug has stabilized well below other mine-shaft openings,” DEQ Mine Waste Program Manager Robert Hanson said.


Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, https://www.mtexpress.com

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