3 years after Colorado mine spill, victims awaiting payment (copy)

In this August 2015 file photo, Dan Bender, with the La Plata County Sheriff's Office, takes a water sample from the Animas River near Durango after the accidental released of an estimated 3 million gallons of waste from the Gold King Mine by a crew led by the Environmental Protection Agency.


EPA will drill into Colorado mine for cleanup investigation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to drill a test well into an inactive mine tunnel in southwestern Colorado to get information for a Superfund cleanup, the agency said.

The EPA said it will drill into the American Tunnel next month to measure water levels and investigate how the passage is connected to other shafts.

The agency is looking for ways to stop or treat contaminated water pouring into rivers from old mine sites in the Bonita Peak Superfund area north of Silverton.

The agency designated the Superfund site after it inadvertently triggered a spill while doing excavation work at the inactive Gold King Mine in August 2015. The spill released 3 million gallons of wastewater, polluting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The Gold King is part of the Superfund cleanup.

The EPA said it would follow strict safety guidelines when drilling the test well into the American Tunnel.

The agency also said it has modified an order to Sunnyside Gold Corp. to pay for some of the cleanup investigation, but no details of the changes were released.

Sunnyside owns property in the area, and the EPA wants the company to help pay for the cleanup. Sunnyside says it's not responsible for the pollution and shouldn't have to pay.

Sunnyside reclamation director Kevin Roach said the company is reviewing the revised order.



Polis: BLM likely to choose Denver over Grand Junction

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says the Bureau of Land Management is more likely to move its headquarters to Denver than to Grand Junction.

The Democratic governor says he's "cautiously optimistic" the federal agency will relocate to Colorado from Washington, D.C., instead of the other western states.

He says his administration supports Grand Junction's bid, but the city doesn't have enough flights out.

Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Robin Brown says the governor's comments are disappointing, but Grand Junction remains the "best location because every single thing within the BLM's mission happens in Mesa County and not Denver."

The city has doubled its lodging tax to support more air routes, and it has offered to fund a daily flight to Washington.

The Denver area already hosts a major center for federal activities in Lakewood.



Job Corps center in western Colorado to undergo changes

A U.S. Forest Service job training center for rural youth in western Colorado will be taken over by a private contractor, and its employees have been told they can either retire or apply for new jobs.

The federal government has informed the Collbran Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center that its 46 employees will lose their jobs at an undetermined date.

The vocational center has trained and helped find work for rural youth for more than 50 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, also is closing some of its other 25 job-training centers nationwide, drawing protests from members of Congress, including Colorado's delegation.

Lawmakers say it's a bad idea to close the centers, especially in the West, where trainees often help the Forest Service fight wildfires.

The U.S. Department of Labor says the closures will allow officials to concentrate Job Corps resources at "better performing centers" and to serve more youth.

The Collbran Center is the only one in Colorado. Its director, Evonne Stites, said the center likely will be privatized — and that she and fellow staff have been told they can either retire or interview for new positions with an unnamed contractor. Stites has worked at the center for two decades.

"We know that Collbran Job Corps will continue," Stites said. "We don't know exactly what it will look like."

"After a difficult year of natural disasters and with hurricane and wildfire season quickly approaching, now is precisely the wrong time to be reducing capacity at CCCs (Civilian Conservation Centers)," more than 50 federal lawmakers said in a recent protest letter to the agriculture and labor departments.

The job centers employ 1,100 people, operate in 17 national forests and grasslands across 16 states and provide training to more than 3,000 youths, according to a news release. Many students come from low-income communities in rural areas.

Collbran students spend thousands of hours every year fighting wildfires, Stites said.

"They are provided an education and they can also earn their GED," she said. "They are taught their importance in making the world a better place."



Chemical-weapons destruction plant halted by seep from tank

An Army facility here temporarily stopped destroying obsolete chemical weapons because of liquid hazardous waste seeping from a storage tank.

Officials said the liquid is a byproduct of the destruction process at the Pueblo Chemical Depot and contains no chemical weapons. They say less than 8 ounces seeped out.

The seepage was discovered May 15. The cause is under investigation.

At press time, destruction was expected to resume in mid-June.

The depot is eradicating a stockpile of 780,000 shells containing 2,500 U.S. tons of mustard agent.

Since 2016, the plant has eliminated 132,000 shells and 774 U.S. tons of mustard.

Mustard blisters skin, scars eyes and inflames airways. The U.S. is destroying it under a treaty banning chemical weapons.



Town bans underage sale of herbal supplement kratom

Castle Rock has banned the sale of the herbal supplement kratom to anyone under the age of 18.

The town council approved an ordinance that imposes a $300 fine on anyone caught selling the substance to minors.

The town late last year imposed a six-month moratorium on the licensing of any new kratom shops while new rules were established.

Kratom, which is derived from the leaves of a tree that grows in southeast Asia, often is used in the form of an extract or a pill.

Many see it as a safe, natural alternative to opioid painkillers. But the Food and Drug Administration says it exposes users to the risks of addiction, abuse and dependence.



Officials mull demolishing then rebuilding Columbine High

Jefferson County Schools authorities are gauging support for demolishing Columbine High School and rebuilding it nearby.

In a letter, Jeffco Schools Superintendent Jason Glass says the school building has remained "a source of inspiration" for people with a dark interest in the 1999 shooting that killed 12 students and a teacher.

In April, a Florida teenager who authorities say was obsessed with the shooting and may have been planning an attack in Colorado just ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead in an apparent suicide.

The district also released an online survey to assess community support for a ballot measure earmarking $60 million to $70 million for a Columbine construction project.

Preliminary ideas include preserving the library built after the 1999 shooting and incorporating it into a new school building.

Glass says the number of people trying to enter the school or trespassing on its grounds reached record levels this year as the community marked the 20th anniversary of the massacre.


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