Officials Map Out Plan To Ease Leadville Mine Water Threat

Federal, state and county officials met in Leadville Tuesday to head off a potentially catastrophic flood from a crumbling mine tunnel where more than a billion gallons of toxic water is trapped.

The partially collapsed tunnel drains contaminated water from abandoned mines that date back to the 1800s.

Lake County officials declared a state of emergency last week for fear that growing pressure from water in the tunnel could cause a blowout and flood the town.

Those most concerned are the residents of Village of East Fork mobile home park. The community has about 200 residents with many of them located just a few hundred feet of the drainage tunnel.

At a meeting held in the Sixth Street Gym, more than 100 people showed up from the community demanding answers and action from federal officials. The Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Bureau of Reclamation, said they plan to drill a shaft into the tunnel and pump water through a new pipeline to a water-treatment plant.

The long-term goal is to essentially clear out the backed-up tunnel. The short-term plan is to decrease water to a safe level and eliminate the threat of a blowout.

EPA said the well would cost about $1.5 million and would take four to six weeks to complete.

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