Call for comments on Eagle Mine Superfund site cleanup plan

The future of the Eagle Mine Superfund site – and its downstream neighbors in Eagle County – is at a critical juncture.

 

Please see our comment guide for more information.

 

Nine years after adopting less stringent water quality standards for the area of the Eagle River most affected by the Eagle Mine, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have finally released a proposed cleanup plan to meet those standards and support a brown trout fishery.

 

Unfortunately, this plan underestimates the necessary reduction in metals loading to the river and will likely be inadequate to reliably meet water quality standards and protect human health in perpetuity.

 

As committed environmental stewards, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority support any action or measure that will reduce the metals loading to the Eagle River. The proposed plan is a step in the right direction and should be implemented without delay. However, there can and should be additional measures taken to remediate the metals loading at the source of the contamination.

 

District and authority analyses of the contaminant sources and metals loading illustrate that additional cleanup measures beyond the plan’s preferred alternative are needed to protect our water supply in the long term.

 

Moreover, the district and authority are concerned about the sustainability of the proposed plan’s collect-and-treat method, as it requires rigorous inspection and maintenance protocols for the infrastructure used to collect and transport the contaminated water for treatment. Such protocols, which would need to continue indefinitely, are especially questionable in light of past spills and incidents at the Eagle Mine, some of which directly resulted from deferred maintenance. The district and authority recommend that the agencies require removal of acid-generating waste rock piles, which would permanently eliminate a large source of the metals, which, over time, could reduce the need for collection and the potential for spills from those systems.

 

As the primary water supply providers and wastewater treatment operators downstream of the Eagle Mine, the district and authority have been strong advocates for cleanup of the Eagle Mine since the EPA designated it a superfund site in 1986. Though there have been significant improvements to water quality in the Eagle River since mine cleanup measures began, additional long-term measures are desperately needed.

 

We strongly encourage the EPA and CDPHE to require additional controls to protect our watershed in perpetuity. In addition, the plan should include specific contingency measures that would be implemented if the proposed cleanup measures do not result in full compliance with water quality standards. The district and authority will submit formal comments denoting this position. We urge our citizens and partners in the local community to join us in this endeavor, because we all have a stake in the health of the river. This proposed plan may be our last chance to positively influence Eagle Mine cleanup protocols and protect the Eagle River, which is literally and figuratively the center of our unique mountain community.

 

Comments on the proposed plan are due to the and by Sept. 10, 2017.

 

Please see our comment guide for more information.