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EPA awards contract for Leadville pumping; updates schedule

Release Date: 04/15/2008
Contact Information: Sonya Pennock, 303-312-6600,

Contract awarded to Layne Christensen Company; completion date may be extended to mid-June

(Denver, Colo. -- April 15, 2008) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the pumping and treatment of water from the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel in the historic Leadville Mining District will begin by mid-June.

In February, EPA promised to do two things to alleviate concerns about a potential catastrophic failure of the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel:

    • Install a pump in the Gaw Shaft to pump water from the mine workings.
    • Construct a relief well into the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel to pump water directly from the tunnel and transport it via pipeline to the Bureau of Reclamation’s water treatment plant.

On February 27, EPA began pumping water from the Gaw Shaft. To date, 28 million gallons of water have been pumped from underground mine workings in the Leadville Mining District.

EPA initially planned to complete drilling the well and pumping the water in the tunnel by mid-May. EPA has contracted with Layne Christensen Company to drill the well. While the contractor will begin working immediately, EPA now estimates that it will take longer than originally anticipated to complete the well. This is because of the limited availability of large drilling rigs and the need to secure the custom-made equipment necessary to drill the well. This schedule change will alter the original estimated mid-May completion date for the well and pipeline—potentially extending it to mid-June if all else goes according to plan.

“While EPA will continue to work diligently to find ways to accelerate the schedule for the completion of the relief well, our primary concern is getting this job done properly," said Robert E. Roberts, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 8. "That means securing the best equipment and engineering skills to construct the well, pump the water backed up in the tunnel, and transport it for safe treatment.”

In the past six weeks EPA has made considerable progress towards removing and treating water from the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. Significant actions to date include:

    • Securing access from property owners
    • Constructing a road to the site of the new relief well
    • Constructing the drill pad
    • Contracting with Lake County Roads and Bridges Department to keep two miles of county roads clear
    • Procuring pipe for the pipeline
    • Clearing 3600 feet of pipeline route from the well site to the water treatment plant at the portal of the tunnel and excavating 2000 feet of the trench for the pipeline

For more information on the Leadville, Colorado, Mine Drainage Response: