"Risk of Lawsuits Preventing Cleanup of Abandoned Mines in Colorado"

Is the threat of lawsuits discouraging cleanup of abandoned mine drainage that impairs many U.S. waterways? That seems to be the case under an interpretation of existing water pollution law.

"MONTEZUMA -- Colorado mining authorities have dug through a mountainside and reopened the dark granite shaft of an abandoned mine that turned deadly -- trying to find options for dealing with one of the West's worst environmental problems.

The Pennsylvania Mine, perched above timberline, discharges an acidic orange stream moving 181 pounds per day of toxic metals into Peru Creek and the Snake River, which flow into Denver Water's Dillon Reservoir.

The poisoning of the watershed has gone on for more than 60 years.

Yet state officials say the risk of lawsuits prevents cleanup of this mine and thousands of other abandoned mines that have impaired 1,300 miles of Colorado streams and, according to federal estimates, the headwaters of 40 percent of Western rivers. ...

The EPA's current interpretation of the Clean Water Act says 'good Samaritans' and state governments embarking on projects to reduce the contamination of watersheds could be held liable for costs of full-scale cleanups costing millions of dollars a year to treat toxic water forever. This has prevented partial cleanups that, while not stopping all pollution, could improve water downstream."

Bruce Finley reports for the Denver Post September 9, 2012.

Source: Denver Post, 09/10/2012