Environment: Bulkhead a big step in Peru Creek cleanup

October 20, 2014

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

All-out remediation effort targets acid mine drainage near Keystone Ski Area

Remediation work in progress at the Pennsylvania Mine site in Summit County, Colorado. Photo via Snake River Watershed Task Force.

Remediation work in progress at the Pennsylvania Mine site in Summit County, Colorado. Photo via Snake River Watershed Task Force.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For decades, the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine high has been oozing heavy metals — zinc, manganese, cadmium, lead and and arsenic — into the waters of Peru Creek, a small tributary of the Snake River near Keystone, Colorado. The site has been the focus of intensive study during the past 15 years with the goal of improving water quality downstream.

Last week, engineers and environmental experts took a big step toward trying to staunch that flow by blocking one of the mine tunnels. If all goes well, the new bulkhead could reduce the direct discharge from the mine by about two-thirds, said Jeff Graves, a remediation expert with the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining…

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Summit County: The Pennsylvania Mine gets plugged

October 20, 2014
Acid mine drainage Pennsylvania Mine via the Summit County Citizens Voice

Acid mine drainage Pennsylvania Mine via the Summit County Citizens Voice

From the Summit Daily News (Ben Trollinger):

On Friday, Oct. 17, Stiegelmeier was one of several federal, state and local officials marking a milestone for the centerpiece of the county’s current mining cleanup efforts — plugging the Pennsylvania Mine.

About 8 miles east of Keystone, the abandoned mine is Summit County’s biggest mess. The mine, considered the worst in the state, spews toxic heavy metal concentrates and acidifies water flowing into the Peru Creek, a tributary of the Snake River, which feeds Dillon Reservoir. Peru Creek is without fish, insects or other aquatic life. The Snake River has life, but it’s sparse and found only in the lower reaches. In 2007, a burp of acidic water from the abandoned mine killed fish all the way to Keystone, county officials said.

This past week, the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety finished installing one of two bulkheads, massive plugs of concrete and steel built about 500 feet inside the mine.

According to project manager Jeff Graves, once both bulkheads are installed, toxic burps and blowouts will be a thing of the past.

“That won’t happen again — it can’t,” he said.

The bulkheads prevent water from flowing through the mine. Water will back up inside, reducing the amount of oxygen the metals and sulfides are exposed to, which should improve water quality.

POSITIVE IMPACTS

Though the more than $3 million project still has far to go, reclamation efforts seem to have had positive impacts already. Last year, the Peru Creek turned reddish-orange seven or eight times. That hasn’t happened once this year.

In addition to the bulkheads, new drainage ditches channel water away from waste-rock piles. Those piles have been capped. Eventually, they’ll be revegetated. Limestone has also been strategically added to raise the pH of the water, which could help filter out metals into settlement ponds.

Organizations involved in the project include: the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Safety, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Forest Service, Summit County Open Space and Trails, Northwest Council of Governments, the Snake River Watershed Task Force, the Blue River Watershed Group and the Keystone Center.

More Peru Creek Basin coverage here and here.


CWCB ponies up $275,000 for Ten Mile Creek restoration

September 26, 2014
Ten Mile Creek via ColoradoFishing.net

Ten Mile Creek via ColoradoFishing.net

From the Summit Daily News (Ali Langley):

In the summer of 2013, the group of partners put heavy machinery in the creek and began the project, which is expected to take four summers and cost about $800,000.

Due to a lack of initial funding, the project was broken into two parts and shortened from a goal of 3,200 feet of creek restoration to about 2,750 feet.

Project partners completed phase one of the project last week. So far, they’ve restored about 1,600 feet of stream channel and 3.15 acres of riparian, wetland and floodplain habitat.

On Sept. 12 the partners received a $275,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for phase two.

Thanks to that grant funding, Anderson said, the project has almost reached its fundraising goal and work will continue.

The state water conservation board has provided most of the money for the project. Climax contributed $80,000 to the first phase and $50,000 to the second, Copper Mountain paid for the Forest Service environmental assessment and some materials, and the National Forest Foundation and CDOT are pitching in.

This summer, the group planted around 3,000 shrubs, Anderson said. The town of Frisco provided 2,200 willow clippings from a site near Whole Foods, which a Forest Service crew clipped in the early spring and volunteers with the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District planted in June. Then another 800 shrubs came from a nursery.

The revegetation has seen an 80 percent success rate so far with the willow transplants, said Jim Shaw, board treasurer of the Blue River Watershed Group, which he credits to “a wonderfully wet summer.”

That wet summer created some hurdles though. Runoff season lasted longer than usual, and high flows eroded the creek for two weeks, damaging the revegetated area in two places.

The heavy runoff gave some insight into how the creek will flood in future years, Shaw said, so last week the partners fixed up some of the damaged spots but they will probably keep one part the way it is now.

Next summer, the partners will start phase two and work toward restoring another 1,200 feet of the creek downstream toward the Conoco gas station.

When the project is finished, the creek will have improved habitat for fish, birds and other creatures. For the humans spending time in and around the Tenmile, that means better wildlife watching, fishing and kayaking.

“Having natural ecosystems that function at their potential, be they streams or lakes or forests,” Anderson said, “all these things, they’re important to the quality of life in Summit County.”

More Blue River watershed coverage here.


USGS: Analysis of Water Quality in the Blue River Watershed, Colorado, 1984 through 2007

August 26, 2014
Blue River

Blue River

Here’s the release from the United States Geological Service (Nancy J. Bauch, Lisa D. Miller, and Sharon Yacob):

Water quality of streams, reservoirs, and groundwater in the Blue River watershed in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado has been affected by local geologic conditions, historical hard-rock metal mining, and recent urban development. With these considerations, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Summit Water Quality Committee, conducted a study to compile historical water-quality data and assess water-quality conditions in the watershed. To assess water-quality conditions, stream data were primarily analyzed from October 1995 through December 2006, groundwater data from May 1996 through September 2004, and reservoir data from May 1984 through November 2007. Stream data for the Snake River, upper Blue River, and Tenmile Creek subwatersheds upstream from Dillon Reservoir and the lower Blue River watershed downstream from Dillon Reservoir were analyzed separately. (The complete abstract is provided in the report)

Click here to read the report.

More USGS coverage here.


Summit County buys mining claims near Montezuma to protect land — Summit Daily News

August 25, 2014

Snake River

Snake River


From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley/Joe Moylan) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

During the silver mining boom of the 1870s, with a population of just 71, Sts. John was for a short time Summit County’s largest town.

The Summit County Open Space and Trails Department recently bought the abandoned townsite and nearby mining claims for $425,000 from the Tolen family, which owned land in the area since the 1950s.

The purchase, finalized July 28, conserves about 90 acres in the Snake River Basin above the town of Montezuma as public open space. The 18 separate parcels have significant wildlife value, according to the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, the U.S. Forest Service and the Snake River Master Plan.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Tolen family for working closely with the Summit County Open Space program to preserve the heritage of Sts. John and this exquisite landscape for the enjoyment of Summit County citizens and visitors alike,” said Brian Lorch, the program’s director. “This is one of the most important and significant acquisitions the program has made in recent years.”

The county acquired the properties using the Summit County Open Space fund, approved by voters in 2008. Breckenridge Ski Resort contributed $25,000 toward the purchase as part of a deal with environmental groups worried about the impacts of the recent Peak 6 development.

With the acquisition, the county will protect a large portion of the Snake River Basin backcountry and preserve a piece of Summit County history. Lorch said the Sts. John properties are highly valued for their intact historic resources, popularity for outdoor recreation and high-quality wetlands and wildlife habitat…

The Summit County Open Space program acquires lands to protect the scenic beauty, natural habitat, backcountry character and recreational opportunities in Summit County. Funded through property tax mill levies approved by Wvoters in 1993, 1999, 2003 and 2008, the program has protected more than 14,000 acres of open space.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.


Climax water treatment plant is open for business — Leadville Herald

August 14, 2014
Climax mine

Climax mine

From the Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

Many locals were among the 500 guests who toured the new $200 million Climax Molybdenum Water Treatment Plant during its grand opening on Thursday, Aug. 7. The new plant is located in Summit County and is visible from Colorado 91 on the left heading toward Copper Mountain from Leadville.

Prior to the tours, a number of local and state officials made comments, beginning with Fred Menzer, vice president of Colorado Operations for Climax Molybdenum, who called the water treatment plant another milestone for the company. He outlined how the Climax Mine had gone from 30 people up to the 360 employed today with a target number of 4000.

Since January 2012, Freeport-McMoRan has spent $550 million on the mine, and $300 million of this was spent in Colorado, he said. He also noted Climax has paid $145.5 million in taxes in both Lake and Summit counties.

Dave Thornton, president of Climax, added that since 2008, $1 billion has been spent at the Climax Mine site and more than $75 million has been spent in reclamation at both the Henderson and Climax sites.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton noted that the mine was both providing jobs and taking care of the environment.

“We all are environmentalists in Colorado,” Tipton said.

State Rep. Millie Hamner echoed those thoughts saying Climax is a model on how to do things right. She read a tribute to the mining company from the Colorado General Assembly.

Other speakers included Lake County Commissioner Bruce Hix who read a letter from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. His also expressed regret that the water treatment plant was not built in Lake County.

The Climax Mine started producing molybdenum in 2012, but the feasibility design for the water treatment plant began in March 2011. Climax has treated water since 1983, initially using the Tenmile and Mayflower ponds with lime addition, according to information distributed at the grand opening. The system received an upgrade in 1998; at that time the pH was increased in the Tenmile Pond, which began Stage 1 metals removal (removing iron, aluminum and copper). Stage 2 metals removal took place at the Mayflower Pond (removing manganese with traces of zinc and lead). An additional treatment plant was added in 2007.

Now the new treatment plant replaces the Mayflower pond as Stage 2 metals removal. Treated water is discharged into Tenmile Creek. The treatment plant has an Events Pond on-site to capture overflows and prevent unwanted discharges into Tenmile Creek.

More water treatment coverage here.


Three-year cleanup targets Summit County’s Pennsylvania Mine — Summit Daily News

August 4, 2014
Pennsylvania Mine Upper Peru Creek Basin

Pennsylvania Mine Upper Peru Creek Basin

From the Summit Daily News via The Denver Post:

About 8 miles east of Keystone and a couple of miles south of the 14,000-foot-plus Grays and Torreys peaks, the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine is considered the worst mine in the state. The mine adds toxic heavy metal concentrations and acidifies water flowing into the Peru Creek, a tributary of the Snake River, which feeds Dillon Reservoir.

A three-year, $3 million cleanup project aims to stop that pollution. The project could serve as a model for future mine reclamation efforts around the state, said Paul Peronard, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The collaborative effort is currently under budget and ahead of schedule, he said, even with the added cost of helping Summit County fix the part of Montezuma Road that washed away in early June.

“This is very much a huge partnership,” said Jeff Graves, senior project manager with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

For decades, government agencies and other interested parties faced issues of liability and funding when trying to tackle the mine’s cleanup.

“It’s quite a conundrum,” said Lane Wyatt, a water-quality expert with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “The problem is you don’t really have anybody to point your finger to in places like this to say, ‘You’re responsible. You got to go clean this up.’ “

This year the state is working to place one of two bulkheads, or giant concrete plugs, about 500 feet inside the mine. The bulkheads will block water from leaving through one large entry and stop water from flowing freely through the mine, Graves said.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.


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