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Study: Treatment plant effective
From Silverton Standard, the place where you can write!
Posted on November 17 2016, 11:57am by Mark Esper in Local News category


A study produced for the EPA shows the interim water treatment plant at Gladstone is cost-effective in knocking metals out of the Gold King Mine discharge it is treating.

Below, a profile of Bonita Peak shows the Sunnyside Mine workings in green, along with the American Tunnel, running below the Gold King, illustrated in gold.



The interim water treatment plant constructed at Gladstone following the Aug. 5, 2015 Gold King Mine is “cost effective” in reducing heavy metals leaking from the Gold King Mine.

At least that’s the conclusion of a study conducted by an EPA consultant.

CDM Federal Programs Corp. of Denver noted continued operations will cost more than $7.3 million over the next five years — nearly $1.5 million a year — but the plant is knocking hundreds of pounds of heavy metals out of Cement Creek each day it operates.

The report concluded that despite the high cost, continued operation of the plant “represents a reasonable value for the money to be spent.”

The plant is treating a flow from the Gold King running from 300 to more than 900 gallons per minute.

The study also found that concentrations of “contaminants of potential ecological concern” had dropped on their own since the Aug. 15, 2015 spill.

“This suggests that the higher effluent concentrations occurred during the first few months when the operation of the interim water treatment plant was being adjusted,” the study found.

The EPA’s recommended action is to continue operations of the IWTP, as currently configured, while the agency evaluates longer-term options to address water quality issues as part of the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site remedial action. 

But publication of the study on Monday, Nov. 14, triggered a 30-day public comment period in case anyone questions the decision.

“Before making a final decision regarding continued operations of the IWTP, EPA will consider all comments received during the public comment period,” the agency said in a press release.

The report noted that the EPA has spent more than $26 million on its emergency response to the Gold King Mine spill, in addition to nearly $3 million in water quality research in the basin.

But the report also notes that the clock is ticking on the need to find a repository for the massive amounts of sludge accumulating at the facility.

“Sufficient storage capacity for sludge exists at the Gladstone IWTP through mid-2017, when capacity … would be exhausted,” the study found.

For purposes of cost analysis, the study assumed a repository for the sludge would be found within 12 miles of the plant.

Construction of the treatment plant in the aftermath of the Gold King spill was done under emergency removal authority in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Liability Act. 

Such authority is limited to 12 months and $2 million unless it is determined that “continued response action is otherwise appropriate and consistent with the remedial action to be taken.”

Bonita Peak Superfund manager Rebecca Thomas described the treatment plant decision “more of an administrative step than anything. We’re transferring the plant from (the EPA’s) emergency response program to the remedial program.”

Thomas says the EPA “would like to look at potential expansion of the plant and maybe it makes sense to treat water coming out of the Red & Bonita or the Mogul or American Tunnel.”

“So if we want this treatment plant to continue operating should we be commenting on this?” asked Anthony Edwards of Silverton.

“Yes,” Thomas said.

And Thomas said the EPA figures it has enough space for sludge storage at Gladstone through the winter.

“Right now we’re looking at three locations in the mining district that might be prospective repositories,” Thomas said.

“We’ve got to make a choice by spring,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to that that wrapped up.”


Copies of the 212-page engineering evaluation and cost analysis are available at:

Silverton Library
1117 Reese Street, Silverton, CO 81433

Durango Public Library

1900 East Third Avenue, Durango, CO 81301

EPA Superfund Records Center
To request copies of administrative record documents, please call:

(303) 312-7273 or
(800) 227-8917 ext. 312-7273 (toll free Region 8 only)


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