EPA creates new office in Colorado for hardrock mine cleanup efforts | AspenTimes.com

EPA creates new office in Colorado for hardrock mine cleanup efforts

The Associated Press
FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2015 file photo, Dan Bender of the La Plata County Sheriff's Office takes a water sample from the Animas River near Durango, Colo., after the accidental release of an estimated 3 million gallons of waste from the Gold King Mine. The EPA said Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 that fish and other aquatic life didn't suffer severe or long-lasting damage from the spill. The EPA says part of the Animas River in Colorado closest to the spill were already so polluted by decades of waste spilling from inactive mines that the most vulnerable fish, insects and other aquatic life were already gone. (Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP)
AP | The Durango Herald

COLORADO SPRINGS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it is dedicating a new office in Colorado to coordinate all federal hardrock mine cleanup efforts west of the Mississippi River.

The Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains will steer and streamline projects to remediate acidic drainage, erosion, and other surface and groundwater contamination at the mining sites, the EPA’s associate deputy administrator, Doug Benevento, told a Wednesday news conference in Colorado Springs, The Gazette reported.

It will work with states and tribes impacted by the sites, as well as other federal agencies, and be based at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, alongside other EPA satellite offices. Acting Director Shahid Mahmud heads the office, which will be staffed with between five and nine people.

In an opinion column on the new office, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler cited the idea of re-mining tailings piles and reopening abandoned mines even as cleanup is ongoing. “Such efforts support the Trump administration’s priority of domestic critical mineral development while addressing some of the country’s most serious environmental cleanup needs,” Wheeler said.

Creating such a small office to deal with hardrock mine cleanup throughout the West is problematic, said Jeremy Nichols, a program director with WildEarth Guardians, an environmental advocacy group.