Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jefferson County Dam Draws Scrutiny after EPA Colorado Mine Spill

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jefferson County Dam Draws Scrutiny after EPA Colorado Mine Spill

Article excerpt

A failing Jefferson County dam keeping lead-tainted sediment from flowing further into the Big River is among 10 sites drawing extra scrutiny in the wake of last month's Colorado gold mine blowout.

The Environmental Protection Agency suspended site investigations and work at the sites after deeming the conditions were similar to those at a closed Colorado gold mine where an EPA team triggered a 3 million gallon release of contaminated water, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

It's unclear if work will slow at the Jefferson County site because of the extra scrutiny from EPA headquarters, which the AP described as a "suspension" of site investigations and work.

EPA's regional office, however, said Monday the project was already on hold while it worked out a plan and an interagency agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stabilize the dam. While EPA headquarters has the final say, EPA Region 7 spokesman Chris Whitley said the regional office doesn't "anticipate" the new interest from headquarters will slow a fix to the Big River dam.

"Basically, what the communication meant was to do something we had already done, which was pause," he said. "But certainly we will keep headquarters in the loop on this ."

The site in Missouri was identified by the Associated Press as part of the Southwest Jefferson County Mining Superfund site, a sprawling cleanup to remove contamination left over from the area's lead mining activities that began in the early 1800s. However, the news agency gave no details about the specific problem at the Superfund site.

The EPA has already cleaned 550 residential properties, with more being tested, and it plans to clean up lead tailing piles, mine sites and groundwater in the county in a project expected to last 10 to 15 years longer.

The EPA's interest following the Colorado incident is centered on a dam in Rockford Beach Park near Byrnes Mill, 30 miles southwest of St. Louis.

"The dam is holding in silt and sediment that does have lead contamination in it," Whitley said. "That's been there for a long time."

But Whitley said the situation in Rockford Beach Park is different than the blowout in Colorado, where toxic sludge turned rivers bright yellow and threatened drinking water supplies. …

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