Restoration: Should the Pennsylvania Mine in the Peru Creek Basin become a superfund site?

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Reclamation experts with the federal agency’s regional office say a Superfund designation could be the best way to get the money needed for a comprehensive cleanup, but some local officials aren’t sure they want the environmental stigma of a Superfund site in their backyard — or a massive industrial water treatment facility and a major service road in the Peru Creek backcountry, which has been the focus of long-term open space preservation efforts…

But focusing resources through the Superfund program could be the best, and maybe the only option to do some sort of meaningful remediation in the tainted basin, especially as some of the latest studies show continued degradation of water quality. “In certain months, the peak concentrations for metals have been increasing … They’re creeping up and we don’t know why,” said U.S. Geological Survey researcher Andrew Todd. “Right now, it’s just looking at dots on a plot,” he said…

Most of the metals pollution in the Snake comes from Peru Creek, both from abandoned mines in the basin, as well as from natural sources, as water trickles over highly mineralized rocks. Concentrations are so high that Peru Creek is biologically barren, with no fish or aquatic insects in the tainted water. Even several miles downstream at Keystone, the concentrations of metals exceed state and federal limits set to protect aquatic life. The pollution in Peru Creek is so intense that there’s probably little chance of establishing a self-sustaining fishery directly in that tributary. Even with a cleanup at the Pennsylvania Mine, many other sources of pollution, including natural ones, remain. “I think even with a cleanup, you’d have a biologically dead situation up there,” said Steve Swanson, head of the Blue River Watershed Group…

But at least some of the experts are convinced that they could design and build a functional treatment system that would reduce metals loading downstream, with the ultimate goal of establishing some sort of self-sustaining fishery in the reach from Keystone downstream to Dillon Reservoir.

More Peru Creek Basin coverage here and here.

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