Cleanup efforts mark milestone in Colorado

October 20, 2014

Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety workers finished installing one of two bulkheads in the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine in Summit County, CO. The installation of the bulkheads are part of a massive plan in the county to clean up mines that have seeping contaminated water for years.

The Summit Daily reported that the bulkhead was installed about 152 m (500 ft) inside the mine.

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.

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.
 

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