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One Step Closer to Protecting Colorado Water, Remediating Our Mining Legacy

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In Cement Creek, Colorado, metal-rich groundwater flows into the natural springs. Photo credit: Briant Kimball, USGS.

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
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Dear Fellow Coloradan,

10/14/09: Introduced Senate Bill

Introduces Senate Bill

7/8/11: Visited Site in Creede

VIDEO: Visit to Creede

2/10/12: Requested a Solution from EPA

Letter to EPA Administrator Jackson

2/14/12: Took Polluted Mines Issue to Senate

VIDEO: Taking Good Sam to the Senate Floor

4/28/12: Visited Sites in San Juan County

VIDEO: Visit to San Juan County

12/12/12: Worked with EPA to Finalize Resolution

EPA Policy for Good Samaritans

First Step: New Policy

New EPA Policy

Our great state - and much of Colorado's history - began with a mining boom.  However, this heritage, literally the state's foundation, left behind 7,000 abandoned mine sites and the toxic runoff they often create.  These sites, the legacy of past decades of irresponsible mining, today threaten the foundation of much of our outdoor economy and what makes our state great: our land and water.

Last week, with your invaluable support, I secured a major victory for Colorado and the West when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined me in unveiling a new policy that unleashes the power of private groups and individuals, so-called Good Samaritans, to help clean mines and protect our precious water.  This new policy gives Good Samaritans additional assurances they need to help us clean up these mine sites and protect our precious waterways from toxic mine runoff.

I have visited multiple abandoned mine sites in places like Creede and San Juan County, and seen firsthand the threats abandoned mines pose to nearby communities and the families who live there. In addition to the physical hazards of dilapidated structures and open mine shafts, the toxic soup of heavy metals, like arsenic, lead and mercury, coming from some of these sites flows into our watersheds, impairing drinking water and killing aquatic and plant life for miles downstream.

Until last week, Good Samaritans couldn't help remediate many of these mine sites because of the serious legal liability they would face, which forced many of them to stand by and watch their streams and communities suffer due to this pollution.

Because I kept pushing, Good Samaritans now can get to work with a commitment from EPA that helps lift such liability and soothes their legal worries.

This new policy will help groups like Trout Unlimited, the Animas River Stakeholders Group and the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee protect our streams, waterways and drinking supplies, and the quality of life our families enjoy in Colorado.

There is still more work to be done, but I am confident that we will continue to make progress. To the right is a visual history of my work on this issue.

Warm regards,

Mark Udall

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