Legislation would aid cleanup of abandoned mines

Good Samaritans will be allowed to clean up Colorado’s abandoned mines without some federal liability under legislation introduced by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

S. 1777 would free good Samaritans from exposure to penalties under the Clean Water Act, Udall said Wednesday.

Liability under the Clean Water Act has been “a major impediment to getting those sites cleaned up,” Udall said.

Previous efforts to allow abandoned-mine cleanup by good Samaritans has run aground because of worries about lifting environmental regulations for any reason, Udall said.

He’s hoping that by dealing only with the Clean Water Act, he can win the support of an array of environmental organizations, Udall said.

“Adding other laws into the mix has hampered consensus in the past,” he said.

The legislation envisions organizations obtaining permits that would allow cleanup and would expire when the work was complete, he said.

“I’m dying to turn those groups loose” to clean up abandoned mines that have contaminated streams and rivers, he said.

Colorado’s mining history left the state with a legacy of abandoned and inactive mines that abound with environmental and safety hazards, such as acidic water draining from old tunnels and heavy metals leaching into streams, killing fish and tainting water supplies.

Open vertical mine shafts, open pits, waste-rock piles and dilapidated structures all pose safety threats, he said.


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