Mine Waste Spill

In this Aug. 12, 2015, photo, water flows through a series of retention ponds built to contain and filter out heavy metals and chemicals from the Gold King Mine.

The Denver-based company cleaning up a southwest Colorado Superfund site is refusing to expand its work addressing water quality in the Las Animas River.

Moreover, the company said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a hypocrite, given the way it's handled its responsibilities in the region.

Sunnyside Gold Corp. is in charge of the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site, about four dozen abandoned mines that received a federal declaration in 2016, as a result of the 3 million gallon Gold King Mine spill the year before. 

In a letter to the EPA Tuesday, Kevin Roach, Sunnyside's director of reclamation operations, said the company has no liability in the Silverton Caldera, a volcanic chamber where mining work began in 1872, despite additional work the EPA ordered last month.

Roach wrote that the company has met its regulatory responsibilities to improve the river's water quality.

He said that "in stark contrast," the EPA has done a poor job, given its fault with the cleanup for the 2015 Gold King Mine spill, which released 3 million gallons of mining waste into local drainage and the Animas River near Silverton.

Roach reiterated his contention the EPA has a conflict of interest cleaning up a spill it could have prevented with proper maintenance and is now in charge of cleaning up.

"Enough is enough: EPA has a clear conflict of interest and has wrongfully targeted SGC," Roach said.

The Bonita Peak Mining District includes the Gold King Mine among 46 abandoned sites and two study areas under the Superfund declaration.

Sunnyside has clashed with the EPA repeatedly, saying the company is being targeted to clean up mines it never owned or operated.

The Sunnyside Mine, the largest on the site at 12,320 feet in elevation, closed in 1991. Sunnyside Gold Corp. ran the mine from 1985 to 1991. The mine began yielding gold in 1873. 

An EPA spokesperson said the agency could not respond on short notice Tuesday afternoon, after Colorado Politics obtained a copy of the letter dated Tuesday.

Roach said that because Sunnyside can demonstrate it has met its regulatory requirements to improve water quality in the Animas River, the company "declines to undertake the work illegally ordered in EPA’s Modified Statement of Work."

You can view EPA's topographic maps of the area by clicking here.

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