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EPA Administrator visits McClelland Mine to advance Good Samaritan watershed cleanup efforts

Release Date: 07/06/2006
Contact Information: Richard Mylott (303) 312-6654;

(Denver, Colo. -- 07/06/2006) In a tour today at the McClelland Mine site in Dumont, Colo., Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson highlighted the need to increase the pace of mine cleanups throughout the Rocky Mountain West. He joined representatives from Colorado's congressional delegation, the governor's office, federal, state and local officials as well as representatives from various industry and environmental groups.

      Event participants focused on the environmental problems caused by acid rock drainage and heavy metals and the need for "Good Samaritan" legislation to enable volunteer projects that would help revitalize mine-impacted communities and improve water quality.

      Legislation currently being considered in Congress, the Good Samaritan Clean Watershed Act, aims to remove legal roadblocks to cleaning up more than half a million abandoned hardrock mines that litter the American landscape. Introduced on behalf of the Bush Administration, the act would remove potential liability for volunteer organizations willing to restore watersheds affected by acid drainage from the mines. The bill is one of several before Congress, many sponsored and supported by members of Colorado's congressional delegation, that would encourage voluntary cleanup actions at mine sites.

      "Environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility, and President Bush and EPA are equipping America's eager army of citizen conservationists with the essential tools to protect our shared environment," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Through the Good Samaritan legislation, President Bush is clearing legal roadblocks to restore America's watersheds."
      The event included a site tour and remarks at the McClelland Mine and drain, a former mine and mill site near Dumont, Colo. that is currently discharging heavy metals into Clear Creek. The site is an example of one of many abandoned mine sites in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West where beneficial cleanup actions have been prevented by liability concerns associated with the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws.

      "Good Samaritan relief will give local governments, watershed groups and businesses the ability to tackle some of the most problematic mine-related issues in their communities," said EPA Regional Administrator Robert E. Roberts. "The legislation will immediately open doors to cleanup projects that will revitalize mine-scarred lands and waters across Western states."

      Last August, as part of the President's Conference on Cooperative Conservation, EPA announced the Good Samaritan Initiative to encourage voluntary efforts to reduce pollution from abandoned hardrock mining sites. A "Good Samaritan" is a person or organization that neither caused the contamination nor is legally responsible for the cleanup.

      Inactive or abandoned mines can pose serious public safety and environmental hazards. Acid drainage from such mines, most of which are located in the western United States, damages watersheds and degrades water quality.

      Many of the mines are on private land, and the parties responsible for the pollution and cleanup no longer exist. Although Good Samaritans have been willing to adopt these orphaned mines, despite the environmental benefits, lingering legal obstacles have blocked efforts by citizen volunteers not responsible for the pollution to clean up abandoned mine sites. Under current law, anyone cleaning up an abandoned mine site could become liable for the entire cleanup and any runoff from the site.

      The Good Samaritan Clean Watershed Act maintains strong environmental safeguards. It establishes a streamlined permit process that outlines who is eligible for a permit, the sites for which permits may be issued, and what must be included in the permit. The process also provides local citizens and communities with an opportunity to provide input on any Good Samaritan project.

      The applicant is required to provide a plan to clean up the site that details a schedule, financial resources, and how to dispose of any waste. The plan must ensure that the project improves the environment.

      More information on the Good Samaritan Clean Watershed Act: