Mark Udall joined Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, EPA Regional Administrator James Martin and local leaders today at the Iron Springs Mill site near Breckenridge to highlight the senator's successful effort to help "Good Samaritans" clean up abandoned mine sites throughout Colorado and the West.
"Mine sites like the Iron Springs Mill near Breckenridge threaten Colorado's water, environment and our quality of life. That's why I fought for this new policy, which gives certainty to Good Samaritans and will unleash the power of private parties to help protect our streams, waterways and drinking supplies," Udall said. "Colorado and the West are home to 7,000 abandoned hard rock mine sites. We still have a lot of work to do, but I am proud that my efforts will help local groups and volunteers keep our great state the best place to live, work and raise a family."
"Abandoned mines are a menace to the environment and public health throughout Colorado and especially in the high country, where our streams and waterways supply water to the rest of the state," Gibbs said. "Here in Summit County and Colorado's high country, we appreciate pragmatic leadership. Even with gridlock in Washington, Sen. Udall secured additional protections for Good Samaritans by proactively working with the EPA to find an administrative solution. It might seem small, but Sen. Udall's efforts will help us keep Summit County and our precious water pristine."
The new policy, which Udall and the EPA rolled out in December 2012, clarifies that Good Samaritan agreements with EPA can include extended time periods for monitoring or other activities, thereby extending the legal liability protections contained in the agreement. The policy also clarifies that Good Samaritans are generally not responsible for obtaining a Clean Water Act permit during or after a successful cleanup conducted according to a Good Samaritan agreement with EPA.
The policy, the latest development in Udall's longtime effort to address abandoned mine sites throughout Colorado and the West, will help third parties remediate places like the Iron Springs Mill site.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been sampling the water in Illinios Gulch, a waterway near the Iron Springs Mill site, and has detected elevated levels of zinc and cadmium. Illinois Gulch flows into the Blue River and, ultimately, Dillon Reservoir. The results of the state's samples will provide a baseline for measuring post project water quality changes. The state has not collected or assessed data regarding macro invertebrates or aquatic life, but the zinc and cadmium levels in Illinois Gulch have been measured at levels toxic to aquatic life.
Udall, who serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has been one of the leading voices in Congress on cleaning up and remediating abandoned mine sites since he joined Congress in 1999. The EPA's new policy stems from Udall's work over the past two years to find a way to give Good Samaritans additional protections as they continue their important work.
Udall also recently visited a mine site in San Juan County to hear about how additional legal certainty for Good Samaritans would help local groups remediate mines.