Update given on Coal Creek water quality and mining safety

Peanut Mine project a gem…

Making the water in Coal Creek cleaner and working on making abandoned mines in the area safer were the topics of a Crested Butte council work session last Monday. Coal Creek Watershed Coalition coordinator Anthony Poponi gave an update to the Crested Butte Town Council showing how levels of metals in the creek were still affecting Coal Creek’s water quality.



“Having the town’s water treatment plant up there obviously helps keep the water coming through there drinkable,” he said, referring to the Crested Butte water treatment plant. Another plant is also located in the watershed. That one is owned and operated by mining company U.S. Energy and treats mine discharge before it is released into Coal Creek.
“The creek is still not a great habitat to support sensitive wildlife like certain aquatic insects or trout,” Poponi said.
Poponi explained that an ecological fen fed by groundwater in the watershed is unique. “It is more than 8,000 years old and supports some unique life,” he said. “The problem is that it kicks out some metals in the water.” He noted that the peat in the fen captures a lot of the minerals.
The coalition hopes to help get rid of 65 abandoned batteries at the old Forest Queen mine this summer, according to Poponi. They are also conducting a study on roadway dust management practices along Kebler Pass Road.
They will look at the effects of magnesium chloride—used extensively by the county in the summer months to help keep down dust—on the road. The coalition also hopes to help homeowners promote water efficiency and energy conservation in the home and yard with so-called “Home Kits.”
For more information on the coalition, go to www.coalcreek.org.
The Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety also made a presentation to the council. Senior environmental protection specialist Steve Renner said the office was working hard to make abandoned mines in the area safer. The Peanut Mine renovation project was highlighted as a gem of a project across the country. In fact, a video featuring some of the major players in the renovation, including board members of the Crested Butte Land Trust, which purchased the property, has been produced and the project won a national award.
Renner and his crew also handle smaller projects to help seal up abandoned mines and educate the public about the dangers of exploring old mine sites. Renner said he and his crew have worked well with local entities like the Crested Butte Land Trust. “We are in fact working with the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition to get rid of those batteries at the old Forest Queen mine. In the immediate future, we are looking to start work on the Smith Hill project and also looking at mining impacts in Redwell Basin.”
For more insight and a look at locations of abandoned mines in the area, go to the website mining.state.co.us.

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