DENVER – An interim water-treatment plant in Gladstone is operational in an effort by federal regulators to stabilize contaminated leakage at the Gold King Mine.
The $1.5-million portable treatment facility, located in an area 10 miles north of Silverton, was built by an Environmental Protection Agency-contracted team after a similar team inadvertently released an estimated 3 million gallons of mining sludge into the Animas River on Aug. 5.
Operating 24 hours a day, the facility is treating flows from 200 to 800 gallons per minute, according to an EPA spokeswoman. At issue are heavy metals, including zinc, copper and cadmium. Treatment includes all the flow from the mine, as well as water that has been stored in ponds.
“Modifying the flow range has allowed plant engineers to adjust the instrumentation to a range of influent flow rates,” the EPA spokeswoman said. “Start-up adjustments and equipment testing will likely continue for another week. Based on field testing, treatment effectiveness appears to be very good so far.”
Operations are expected to last at least through the winter. The system is designed to handle up to 1,200 gallons per minute. The contract provides for 42 weeks of treatment, with the option to start or stop treatment as needed.
Water continues to flow from Gold King at approximately 550 gallons per minute. Without the plant, officials have had to rely on a series of settling ponds to capture the dirty water before being discharged to Cement Creek. But with winter coming, officials said the treatment plant is the best option.
EPA officials estimate the plant will cost $16,000 per week to operate.
The EPA has spent more than $14 million so far on its response to the Gold King Mine spill, and costs are adding up to more than $100,000 per day, according to a report by The Silverton Standard.