Colorado State University and Colorado School of Mines have been chosen to lead a new research center that will focus on developing new or improved methods and technologies for cleaning up environmental problems associated with mine wastes, especially in the Rocky Mountains.
The Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center for Remediation of Mine Waste Sites will receive a $3.8 million federal grant to begin operating in December. It is one of five new Hazardous Substance Research Centers supported through various universities throughout the United States and by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Charles Shackelford, professor of civil engineering at Colorado State, will serve as the center’s director. Sandy Woods, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at Colorado State and Don Macalady, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Geochemistry at Colorado School of Mines, are associate directors of the center, which covers a six-state region including Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota.
"This is the first time that Colorado State University and Colorado School of Mines has worked together on a scale this large," Shackelford said. "It’s a great fit because both universities have renowned experts in engineering and science with valuable experience in mine waste and remediation projects."
The new center has a daunting and critical task ahead. Approximately 51,700 AMLs, or abandoned mine lands, exist in EPA region 8, and about 60 percent of the 45 Superfund sites in the region, representing the most severely contaminated sites, are associated with AMLs. In addition to the threat to human health and the environment, the potential economic impacts of this contamination include degraded water quality, reduced property values, increased water treatment costs to downstream users and an adverse affect on tourism due to visual consequences.
"The importance of the center and partnership between the universities to Colorado and the region cannot be emphasized enough," Shackelford said. "We also will be leading a significant outreach effort to begin to help communities tackle these environmental problems."
Colorado State and the School of Mines’ research through the center includes basic and applied projects addressing contaminants that migrate through the ground, sediments such as old tailings that are leached by rainwater into the environment, efficient and cost-effective ways to clean up pollution and biological indicators of pollution.
Each university has about a dozen faculty members from a variety of disciplines in the consortium, and another dozen faculty members are scattered at other U.S. and Canadian institutes.
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced the consortium’s selection of Colorado State and Colorado School of Mines in Washington D.C. on Nov. 20.
For more information about the Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center for Remediation of Mine Waste Sites, contact Shackelford at (970) 491-5051.