EPA Finds Space To Store Gold King Mine Sludge

Photo: Gold King Mine Wastewater Treatment Facility Near Silverton
The EPA's wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found a place to store sludge from a treatment plant cleaning up wastewater from the now infamous Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado, near Silverton.

The Durango Herald reported a landowner agreed to let the EPA store the sludge at an existing mine waste pile a few miles from the plant. The plant was running out of room for sludge.

As the Herald writes:

The water treatment plant adds lime to the mine wastewater to raise the pH of the water so that dissolved metals become solid and can settle in settling ponds – a highly effective process.

The process, however, generates a lot of sludge. EPA has said an estimated 4,600 cubic yards of sludge is generated a year.

The storage site negates the need to haul the waste more than 70 miles to a landfill south of Durango, which would have taken the sludge over two mountain passes and through town.

The plant was installed in 2015 after the EPA inadvertently triggered a 3-million-gallon spill of wastewater from the Gold King Mine. The spill sent a yellow-orange plume of toxic heavy metals into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and on Native American lands.

Wastewater still flows from the mine.

The EPA designated the area a Superfund site in 2016 but hasn't announced long-term cleanup plans.