The unpermitted Red Arrow gold milling site on Grand Avenue remains on the local radar, but the federal government shutdown appears to have stalled remediation efforts.
"Town staff and elected officials want to express to the Mancos community that we take the issue of the Red Arrow unpermitted gold amalgamation (milling) site west of town very seriously and understand citizen concerns regarding potential environmental and health impacts from this operation," said Town Administrator Andrea Phillips.
In a news release issued on Friday, Oct. 11, Phillips said town officials continue working closely with officials from the state Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Montezuma County, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the offices of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and State Sen. Ellen Roberts to achieve a safe and speedy remedy to the situation.
Last month at a public informational meeting, DRMS director Loretta Pineda promised to notify town officials within two weeks when the EPA testing would be conducted. Phillips said she does not know when the EPA will conduct subsequent sampling and testing of the milling operation.
"It really depends on the EPA being backed up," Phillips said. "We are working through the proper agencies to assure the public that we are following this and doing all we can."
At the Sept. 30 meeting, Pineda said EPA officials had been stretched thin because of flooding last month in parts of the Front Range. The subsequent federal government shutdown also slashed the agencies workforce by more than 90 percent, according to Bennet's office.
"When I hear more from the DRMS or EPA, we will let the town know," Phillips said.
Red Arrow Gold Mine operator Craig Luikko was issued a cease-and-desist order over the summer, and emergency response efforts to sample the site were conducted. Sampling of the site revealed higher than acceptable levels of arsenic in the naturally occurring form of arsenal pyrite in tailings piles outside the building and mercury, which was used by the operator in extracting gold from the ore, inside the building. The milling site has been placed in lock down.
Phillips said state experts believe the risk of contamination in humans from the site is very low, but she added that further testing by qualified experts is required to fully assess risks.
"Partners are committed to working together to remove contaminated tailings piles and surrounding soils and to do further soil and water testing as soon as resources are available to do so," Phillips said.
The Red Arrow mine, which is a permitted operation nine miles northeast of Mancos, is currently in receivership; therefore, remediation of the interior of the mill building depends on resolution of legal and financial settlement between these parties.
For more information, visit www.mancoscolorado.com/RedArrow.htm.