Bill gives Leadville tunnel cleanup work to Bureau of Reclamation |

Bill gives Leadville tunnel cleanup work to Bureau of Reclamation

Ivan Moreno
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Colorado congressmen Doug Lamborn and Mark Udall introduced legislation Thursday that makes a single federal agency responsible for removing up to 1 billion gallons of contaminated water trapped in a Leadville drainage tunnel.

The legislation comes two weeks after Lake County officials declared a state of emergency, saying water pressure in the tunnel could cause a blowout and flood the town.

Lamborn, a Republican, and Udall, a Democrat, say their bill gives the Bureau of Reclamation the power to remove and treat the contaminated water.

That would untangle a jurisdictional knot. The Bureau of Reclamation has said it has the authority to treat only the water coming out of the tunnel, because the water inside is part of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.

“Interestingly enough, we not only have a physical blockage with the tunnel, we have a legal blockage,” Udall said. “This bill clarifies that.”

The tunnel drains water from hundreds of abandoned mine shafts. A collapse inside the tunnel, detected in 1995, caused the water to back up inside the shafts.

Lamborn said the bill will speed the removal of the water and prevent a “potential environmental disaster in the making.”

Udall has said some of the water could be pumped to a nearby well the EPA owns. But longer-term, Udall and Lamborn want Reclamation to build another well and transfer the water to its treatment facility.

Lamborn and Udall said they hope Sens. Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard will sponsor the bill in the Senate.

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