WHY THE PROJECTS?
In recent years, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has prioritized addressing non-point source pollution from heavy metals in Colorado’s rivers. UWP’s remediation projects at three legacy mine sites in the Upper Uncompahgre Watershed address metals loading and acidic mine drainage to streams that do not meet beneficial uses for aquatic life, recreation, water supply and/or agriculture. Consequently they are on EPA’s Clean Water Act’s 303(d) list of impaired waters. Loading from abandoned mines and natural processes results in overall poor water quality in the Upper Uncompahgre Watershed (headwaters to Ridgway Reservoir).
Michael Breen Mine: Drainage from a collapsed mine adit discharged across a waste rock pile leaching metals which were a non-point source pollutant to the Uncompahgre River flowing just below the abandoned mine site and Engineer Pass Road. This portion of the Upper Uncompahgre River is listed on the Clean Water Acts 303(d) list of impaired waters for cadmium, copper, zinc and manganese and on Colorado’s Monitoring and Evaluation list for lead. This portion of the Uncompahgre does not support aquatic life.
Vernon Mine: This site contains two draining mine adits that discharge through waste rock piles before flowing into Gray Copper Gulch. The waste rock is in the gulch and as a result leaches significant amounts of copper into the stream. Gray Copper Gulch is on the 303(d) list for copper and on Colorado’s Monitoring and Evaluation list for iron and low pH. The poor water quality does not support aquatic life.
Atlas Mill: The abandoned mill is off Camp Bird road and above Sneffels Creek. Mine tailings from legacy operations had been deposited in the Sneffels Creek floodplain. Erosion of the tailings and runoff during spring snowmelt contribute heavy metals to the stream which is on the 303(d) list for cadmium and zinc and does not support aquatic life.
Read the full five-page report: UWP mine projects update 10-2-15