Whit Gibbons: ‘Why do we need the Environmental Protection Agency?’

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From the Tuscaloosa News (Whit Gibbons). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Want to have cancer-causing, bird-killing DDT sprayed in your neighborhood? How about having high levels of brain- damaging mercury dumped into your favorite fishing spot? What about paper mill wastes clogging up rivers and fouling the air people breathe?

These health hazards were once commonplace in communities throughout our country. That they are no longer the hazards they once were is due in no small part to the Environmental Protection Agency, which protects us from these and other environmental abuses. Without EPA oversight, the United States would be a much less healthy place to live.

Those who believe we do not need federal regulation of activities that can turn the country into a toxic waste dump are likely unaware of the far-reaching environmental and human health consequences of such actions. They may also not want to accept the fact that some individuals and many corporations will put profit ahead of all other considerations–including the health and well-being of the general populace.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

Leadville: Public celebration for the delisting of Operable Unit 9 from the California Gulch Superfund Site, December 9

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From the Leadville Herald-Democrat:

Residents of Leadville and Lake County are invited to celebrate the fact that, after almost 30 years, most are no longer living in a Superfund site. Specifically the celebration is for the deletion of Operable Unit 9 from the California Gulch Superfund Site; OU9 encompasses the downtown area and West Park. The event will be Friday, Dec. 9, from noon to 2 p.m. at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, 120 W. 9th St. It is being held by the city of Leadville, Lake County, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency. Information will be presented on the history of the Superfund site, the OU9 remedy, and current and future cleanup progress. Light refreshments will be served.

More California Gulch coverage here and here.

USGS: Hydrogeologic Setting and Simulation of Groundwater Flow near the Canterbury and Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnels, Leadville, Colorado

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Geological Survey (Wellman, T.P./Paschke, S.S./Minsley, Burke/Dupree, J.A.):

The Leadville mining district is historically one of the most heavily mined regions in the world producing large quantities of gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, and manganese since the 1860s. A multidisciplinary investigation was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, to characterize large-scale groundwater flow in a 13 square-kilometer region encompassing the Canterbury Tunnel and the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel near Leadville, Colorado. The primary objective of the investigation was to evaluate whether a substantial hydraulic connection is present between the Canterbury Tunnel and Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel for current (2008) hydrologic conditions.

Altitude in the Leadville area ranges from about 3,018 m (9,900 ft) along the Arkansas River valley to about 4,270 m (14,000 ft) along the Continental Divide east of Leadville, and the high altitude of the area results in a moderate subpolar climate. Winter precipitation as snow was about three times greater than summer precipitation as rain, and in general, both winter and summer precipitation were greatest at higher altitudes. Winter and summer precipitation have increased since 2002 coinciding with the observed water-level rise near the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel that began in 2003. The weather patterns and hydrology exhibit strong seasonality with an annual cycle of cold winters with large snowfall, followed by spring snowmelt, runoff, and recharge (high-flow) conditions, and then base-flow (low-flow) conditions in the fall prior to the next winter. Groundwater occurs in the Paleozoic and Precambrian fractured-rock aquifers and in a Quaternary alluvial aquifer along the East Fork Arkansas River, and groundwater levels also exhibit seasonal, although delayed, patterns in response to the annual hydrologic cycle.

A three-dimensional digital representation of the extensively faulted bedrock was developed and a geophysical direct-current resistivity field survey was performed to evaluate the geologic structure of the study area. The results show that the Canterbury Tunnel is located in a downthrown structural block that is not in direct physical connection with the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. The presence of this structural discontinuity implies there is no direct groundwater pathway between the tunnels along a laterally continuous bedrock unit.

Water-quality results for pH and major-ion concentrations near the Canterbury Tunnel showed that acid mine drainage has not affected groundwater quality. Stable-isotope ratios of hydrogen and oxygen in water indicate that snowmelt is the primary source of groundwater recharge. On the basis of chlorofluorocarbon and tritium concentrations and mixing ratios for groundwater samples, young groundwater (groundwater recharged after 1953) was indicated at well locations upgradient from and in a fault block separate from the Canterbury Tunnel. Samples from sites downgradient from the Canterbury Tunnel were mixtures of young and old (pre-1953) groundwater and likely represent snowmelt recharge mixed with older regional groundwater that discharges from the bedrock units to the Arkansas River valley. Discharge from the Canterbury Tunnel contained the greatest percentage of old (pre-1953) groundwater with a mixture of about 25 percent young water and about 75 percent old water.

A calibrated three-dimensional groundwater model representing high-flow conditions was used to evaluate large-scale flow characteristics of the groundwater and to assess whether a substantial hydraulic connection was present between the Canterbury Tunnel and Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. As simulated, the faults restrict local flow in many areas, but the fracture-damage zones adjacent to the faults allow groundwater to move along faults. Water-budget results indicate that groundwater flow across the lateral edges of the model controlled the majority of flow in and out of the aquifer (79 percent and 63 percent of the total water budget, respectively). The largest contributions to the water budget were groundwater entering from the upper reaches of the watershed and the hydrologic interaction of the groundwater with the East Fork Arkansas River. Potentiometric surface maps of the simulated model results were generated for depths of 50, 100, and 250 m. The surfaces revealed a positive trend in hydraulic head with land-surface altitude and evidence of increased control on fluid movement by the fault network structure at progressively greater depths in the aquifer.

Results of advective particle-tracking simulations indicate that the sets of simulated flow paths for the Canterbury Tunnel and the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel were mutually exclusive of one another, which also suggested that no major hydraulic connection was present between the tunnels. Particle-tracking simulations also revealed that although the fault network generally restricted groundwater movement locally, hydrologic conditions were such that groundwater did cross the fault network at many locations. This cross-fault movement indicates that the fault network controls regional groundwater flow to some degree but is not a complete barrier to flow. The cumulative distributions of adjusted age results for the watershed indicate that approximately 30 percent of the flow pathways transmit groundwater that was younger than 68 years old (post-1941) and that about 70 percent of the flow pathways transmit old groundwater. The particle-tracking results are consistent with the apparent ages and mixing ratios developed from the chlorofluorocarbon and tritium results. The model simulations also indicate that approximately 50 percent of the groundwater flowing through the study area was less than 200 years old and about 50 percent of the groundwater flowing through the study area is old water stored in low-permeability geologic units and fault blocks. As a final examination of model response, the conductance parameters of the Canterbury Tunnel and Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel were manually adjusted from the calibrated values to determine if altering the flow discharge in one tunnel affects the hydraulic behavior in the other tunnel. The examination showed no substantial hydraulic connection.

The multidisciplinary investigation yielded an improved understanding of groundwater characteristics near the Canterbury Tunnel and the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. Movement of groundwater between the Canterbury Tunnel and Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel that was central to this investigation could not be evaluated with strong certainty owing to the structural complexity of the region, study simplifications, and the absence of observation data within the upper sections of the Canterbury Tunnel and between the Canterbury Tunnel and the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. There was, however, collaborative agreement between all of the analyses performed during this investigation that a substantial hydraulic connection did not exist between the Canterbury Tunnel and the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel under natural flow conditions near the time of this investigation.

Here’s the link to the full report.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Leadville to celebrate 150 years of mining

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

The April 1860 discovery of gold in California Gulch by Leadvillite Abe Lee set this town on its mining path filled with plenty of colorful characters and their rags-to-riches stories. The 150th anniversary celebration of mining in Leadville is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. April 24 at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, 120 W. Ninth St. The event will begin with tours of the museum and a wine tasting. A three-course gourmet dinner will follow at 7 p.m…A silent auction and Victorian dance featuring the music of the Shadow Mountain Sting Band will follow starting at 9 p.m. Victorian or miners’ attire is encouraged. Cost is $80 per person or $150 per couple or $20 per person for dance-only tickets. Reservations for the event are requested by Monday by calling 1-719-486-1229.

ASARCO parent Grupo Mexico ponies up $1.79 billion for mining cleanup

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From the Environmental News Service:

ASARCO LLC is a mining, smelting, and refining company based in Tucson, Arizona that mines and processes primarily copper. Parent corporation Grupo Mexico is providing the $1.79 billion to resolve the ASARCO’s environmental liabilities from operations that contaminated land, water and wildlife resources on federal, state, tribal and private land in 19 states. “Through this historic settlement, the American public is compensated for the damage and loss of natural resources resulting from ASARCO’s past mining, smelting and refining operations,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “Were it not for this agreement, these injured resources would either remain impaired for future generations or require taxpayer expenditures to achieve environmental restoration.” The money from environmental settlements in the bankruptcy will be used to pay for past and future costs incurred by federal and state agencies at the more than 80 sites contaminated by mining operations in 19 states, said federal officials…

The contaminated Superfund sites are in Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

More superfund coverage here.

California Gulch: ASARCO dough due December 9

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From the Leadville Herald Democrat (Ann E. Wibbenmeyer):

The state of Colorado will be getting $42 million of the $1.7 billion settlement. A smelter site in Denver near the intersection of interstates 25 and 70 known as Globeville, will be getting $16 million. Twenty-two million of the settlement money will be shared between the California Gulch Superfund Site and four other sites such as the Summitville Mine Superfund Site and a site near Vasquez Boulevard and Interstate 70. The exact amount to be used in Leadville is unknown.

More California Gulch coverage here and here.

EPA faking the look of mine tailings with shotcrete at California Gulch

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From the Leadville Herald Democrat (Ann E. Wibbenmeyer):

The reaction to the work was positive, with comments about how authentic the piles still looked. There was some discussion about the wood used for the new cribbing wall, and whether it should have been treated to look old. According to Kerry Guy, project manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the wood was not treated at all. In this way, the boards will begin to look weathered sooner than with a treatment. The treatment on the surface of the wood could be done at a later time, he said, if that is what the community wants…

The work was done on the Denver City mine piles, which is owned by Leadville Silver and Gold. Bob Elder, local mining engineer, is the only remaining board member of this company and gave the EPA permission to use the piles [for the pilot study]…

Around the back of the Denver City piles, to the left, is the area that was covered with shotcrete. This is concrete shot onto the piles in varying shades to more closely resemble the rocks left on top of mining piles. Half of this was lined and the other half shot without a liner, to test the need for a liner to reduce the amount of acid mine drainage water into the Arkansas River.

More California Gulch/Yak Tunnel coverage here and here.