Exploring Summitville Part 2


DEL NORTE- Rio Grande County is still not finished with the issue of the Summitville Mine. Rio Grande County Commissioner, John Noffsker noted that the county is in the process of exploring possible options for the future use of the site.

Since 1992, the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) have conducted several interim projects to reduce contamination and lessen the amount of acid mine drainage coming from the site, according to the EPA website.

These projects have included revegetation, removing waste rock piles, filling mine pits and underground mine entrances, and expanding water runoff holding ponds.  Further efforts towards a remedy included the construction of a  water treatment plant along with an upgrade of the Wightman Fork Diversion and select site ditches. Other components included the management of mine pool water, and continued site maintenance. Also, geotechnical, groundwater, surface water, sediment, and aquatic life monitoring were implemented. Construction took place between 1995 and 2013. Site monitoring is ongoing.

Rio Grande County currently owns the property. Noffsker was quick to point out that millions of dollars have already been invested towards cleanup efforts.

The historical assets of the area are also being taken into consideration. While many of the original buildings have been demolished because of reclamation, there are a few that are still standing.

However, it remains to be seen what can be done to preserve them, or if they can be saved. Because there is a public access road that travels through the area, an interpretive site and restrooms have been installed to increase tourism interest. 

Another possibility that is under consideration is to hire a contractor to salvage usable minerals in the area. However, the county is aware that this option may not be ideal because a significant amount of resources have already been put into bringing the site to where it is today. “We don’t want to undo what’s already been done,” said Noffsker.

Tours of the site are planned for Aug. 23 and 24. The county hopes to raise awareness of the efforts at Summitville. The hope is that a productive and safe long-term solution can be found.

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