Monday, February 18, 2008

leadville in danger of flooding

Old mining buildings and shafts are pictured east of Leadville in this May 2005 file photo. (AP | ED ANDRIESKI)

article at the denver post.

during a period of 30 years, over 1 billion gallons of water has been accumulating in an abandoned mine tunnel near the town of leadville, co after a collapse to the drainage tunnel. the water has gradually begin to transform at a chemical level to be more acidic, containing heavy metals like zinc, and cadmium. not only presenting an immediate environmental emergency, the building pressure in the mine has been found to be so great, there is a risk of a blowout of the drainage tunnel.

the proposed solution is to pump out the water from the mine through an existing shaft into a pipeline leading to a treatment facility, which afterwards could be deemed safe enough to release into the arkansas river. from the looks of this recent article, it appears that the treatment part is being overlooked...

A white pipe spews un-treated mine- tunnel water into a gulch, from where it flows into the Arkansas River. ( Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post )

colorado governor bill ritter has declared a state of emergency to president bush, and the EPA, FEMA and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are working with the locals to help prevent a catastrophe. but evidently not all of them are getting along...

one cannot help but think of the potential hazards and the lasting damage to the eco-system this could cause to the towns downstream from leadville as well.

"Such a release," Ritter wrote, "could result in the loss of life, cause untold human misery, threaten the drinking-water supplies for a half-million people, impact farmers and ranchers and leave the river and the recreation economy it also supports degraded for decades."

the current projected cost it will take for just the town to address the issue is $5 million, and that is assuming everything goes as planned. for those who like to read all the fine print, here is a PDF from the lake county tunnel report.


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