May 2, 2023 — The Bureau of Reclamation has announced a $56 million investment from the President’s Investing in America agenda for the construction of a replacement Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Treatment Plant. Originally built in 1991, the plant removes heavy metals from contaminated water caused by mining operations in the Leadville area. It has since reached its service life, and this investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will ensure the plant continues to protect water supply
The Department of the Interior recently announced a nearly $585 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for infrastructure repairs on water delivery systems. Funds will support 83 projects across all five Reclamation regions, including the Leadville Mine treatment plant.
Since 1991, the treatment plant has operated to remove lead, zinc, manganese, iron, and other heavy metals from contaminated water that flows from the 2-mile-long Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. The plant sends 650 million gallons per year of treated, clean water to the headwaters of the Arkansas River in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
“The replacement of the treatment plant represents one of the key priorities that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is intended to accomplish, protecting our water supplies for people and the natural environment,” said Jeff Rieker, Eastern Colorado Area Office Manager. “This funding will allow us to replace aging infrastructure that is critical for continued protection of the water resources of the Arkansas River, benefitting both the river itself, as well as the people who rely on it for a wide range of activities and uses.”
At present, the treatment plant has surpassed its expected service life of roughly 30 years. Over the next several years, Reclamation will construct a new treatment plant that incorporates knowledge gained over the past three decades, focuses on safety and improves the plant’s visual impact.
“The new plant will provide a longer service life and continue Reclamation’s commitment to community safety and producing clean water for the Arkansas River,” said Plant Supervisor, Jenelle Stefanic. “There will also be more maneuverability within the floor plan and additional safety features such as fall protection and noise reduction technology.”
Remains of Matchless Mine. Leadville, Lake County, Colorado. LBM1948, July 1997, via Wikimedia Commons.