St. Loius Tunnel, Rico, Colorado

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Relief Well Design and Construction

In 2015 a debris plug, consisting of collapsed soil and mine timbers ar the entrance to the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado broke free, releasing three million gallons of contaminated water into the Animas River. The water, containing high levels of arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals, flowed downstream through Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, resulting in millions of dollars of natural resource damage.

A similar risk had developed at another nearby historic mine, the St. Louis Tunnel (SLT). Mine water had backed up behind a debris plug that had formed over the years at the mine entrance. To avert a catastrophic release of water and the associated environmental disaster, sophisticated, critically placed pressure relief wells were designed and installed to control the water level and pressure in the mine tunnel. Unstable ground conditions and geometry of the angles needed to intercept the mine tunnel made this an extremely difficult project to complete. Failure of the attempt could have resulted in the very catastrophe that the wells were intended to mitigate. As a member of the design and construction oversight team, Anderson was successful in completing the wells and reducing pressure in the tunnel, thus, averting the environmental disaster that befell the Gold King Mine.

St. Louis Tunnel near Rico, CO.

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