Feds, State Investigating Possible Mine Discharge in Boulder County’s Left Hand Creek

October 24, 2018 GMT

A potential mine discharge and fish kill in the upper portions of Boulder County’s Left Hand Creek linked to an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site is being investigated by federal and state officials, it was announced today.

Superfund project managers for both EPA and the state health department were notified Monday of discolored water and dead fish in Left Hand Creek downstream from the Captain Jack Mill Superfund site, according to a news release.

The EPA and the state health department are investigating to determine if the fish kill is related to cleanup activities at the site. The number of fish killed is unknown at this time but is estimated to be in the low 100s.

Officials stated that the Left Hand Water District, which has a drinking water intake approximately 15 miles downstream, has been notified, as well as the Boulder County Health Department and the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management. Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff already had been notified by a local resident.

Sean Torres, who lives in the 14000 block of Lefthand Canyon Drive, told the Camera he has been noticing that Left Hand Creek had been turning orange, in recent weeks.

“I thought maybe it was the leaves decomposing, but I followed it all the way up the river and they have a retention pond, a settling pond there, and you can see it just pouring out of the settling pond and you can just see it, it’s completely dead,” Torres said.

“The moss is all dead, and it’s working its way down the river by Lickskillet Road and Lefthand Canyon Drive, and there are dead fish there, as well,” Torres said.

The Left Hand Water District tests both raw and treated water on a continuous basis. As a cautionary measure, the district shut off the intake from Left Hand Creek when it was notified of the problem. The intake has since been reopened, following test results that met water quality standards, a news release stated.

The water quality impacts observed in Left Hand Creek were above the confluence with James Creek, which likely further diluted any potential contaminants before reaching the Left Hand Water District intake or downstream waters, officials said.

The state health department and EPA have been addressing contamination associated with historic mining operations at the Captain Jack Mill Superfund site since 1986. It was added to the Superfund National Priorties List Sept. 29, 2003.

This story is developing.

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, brennanc@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan