Up to $25 million of President Barak Obama's $5.5 billion U.S. Recovery Act stimulus package is earmarked for cleaning up the Summitville Mine Superfund site in Colorado.
The last mining operator, Summitville Consolidated Mining, mined the site for gold from July 1986 through October 1991. By December 1992, Summitville's parent company, Galactic Resources, filed for bankruptcy, forcing the State of Colorado to ask for help from the U.S. EPA.
Heavy winter snows overwhelmed the gold mine's wastewater recovery system, sending heavy metals into the Alamosa watershed. By December 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Colorado reached a settlement with Robert Friedland, the former CEO of Galactic Resources. Friedland agreed to pay $27.75 million. One of the individuals who helped broker the deal is the current U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
After two decades of environmental remediation and $200 million in clean up expenditures, the site is still considered a major source of pollution.
Salazar says the federal funds to be used for construction of a 1,600 gallons-per-minute wastewater treatment plant will help restore the Alamosa River and close a difficult chapter in Colorado's history. The plant will remove contaminants from the mine drainage before the water leaves the Summitville minesite and enters into the Colorado River.
In a news release, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said, when the water treatment plant become operational, all cleanup work at the Summitville Mine site will be complete.
Ritter added, These funds will serve the dual purpose of accelerating the cleanup of a hazardous waste site in Colorado while also creating jobs and strengthening the southwest Colorado economy. The funds should be made available within a matter of weeks and construction could begin as early as this summer.