Gunnison River Basin: The June Watershed News from the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition is hot off the press

June 4, 2013

gunnisonriverbasin.jpg

Click here to read the news.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.


Crested Butte: Stricter water quality standards mandated by CWQCC for Coal Creek through town

October 7, 2012

crestedbutte.jpg

From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman/Alissa Johnson):

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission voted September 11 to impose the stricter standards despite an argument from U.S. Energy that nearby domestic wells were pumping water from the Slate River instead of Coal Creek. “Frankly, I don’t even recognize my town in the diagrams presented to you from U.S. Energy,” said High Country Citizen’s Alliance (HCCA) water director Jennifer Bock in reference to the claim that the wells were pumping water from the Slate River. The portion of the creek affected by the decision starts at just below the town’s water supply intake to the confluence with the Slate River. By voting to put stricter regulations on that portion of Coal Creek, the commission voted in agreement with positions advocated by HCCA, Gunnison County, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, and the Gunnison County Stockgrowers.

The segment of Coal Creek is out of compliance with state water quality standards, and has been since temporary modifications were first put in place in the early 1990s. Bock explained that temporary modifications are put in place when a discharger releasing pollutants into a water body cannot meet quality standards and needs more time to assess the situation. “The legal word in the regulations is uncertainty, so if there’s uncertainty about why there’s a pollution problem, it does give the discharger time to resolve it,” Bock said. In this case, U.S. Energy Corp. was requesting an extension of the temporary modifications and more lenient standards on cadmium, zinc and copper.

Initially, U.S. Energy proposed loosening the temporary modifications in addition to extending them. Yet the current temporary standards are already significantly above state standards: of 2.3 micrograms per liter for cadmium as opposed to the more typical range of .15 to 1.2 depending on water hardness, and 667 micrograms per liter for zinc. State standards for zinc are typically between 34 and 428 micrograms per liter, again depending on the hardness of the water. After some back and forth, U.S. Energy instead proposed a slight tightening of the temporary modifications to 2.1 micrograms per liter for cadmium and 440 for zinc. In HCCA’s eyes, that amounts to the status quo, but that’s acceptable for the time being if steps are taken to understand where that pollution is coming from.

In addition to standards for drinking water, the commission granted U.S. Energy’s request for temporary modifications on standards for copper, cadmium and zinc. As part of the decision the Water Quality Control Commission is asking U.S. Energy to develop a comprehensive study on metal loading from Mt. Emmons, which will be the subject of another hearing on December 10 in Denver.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.


After a five year review the EPA has approved the remediation plan for the Standard Mine superfund site

November 11, 2011

faultveinstandardminegunnisoncounty.jpg

From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

The two-phase plan would control the flow of water through the mine to reduce contamination, and if needed, use passive water treatment to further treat runoff.

The record of decision, signed in September, has the support of the local nonprofit Standard Mine Technical Advisory Group but still needs to be selected for federal funding. It could take until 2013 before the plan is implemented, complementing remediation work already done from 2007 through 2009.

The Standard Mine, which is about five miles west of Crested Butte and drains into Elk Creek, was added to the National Priority List in 2005 because of elevated levels of metals in the soil and the creek. Elk Creek flows into Coal Creek, which is the site of the municipal water intake for Crested Butte.

“We were really fortunate that when the EPA first came in 2006, they had the funding to do some surface cleanup first,” said Anthony Poponi, executive director of Coal Creek Watershed Coalition and grant administrator for the advisory group. That work included building a repository for mine tailings that included waste rock and tailings rich in pyrite, a metal that creates acid mine drainage when exposed to air. After removing waste rock and tailings from Elk Creek, the EPA also reconfigured the creek.

“The miners had produced a creek channel around and through the mill site, which was not the natural orientation, so once we took the tailings out, we dropped the creek back to its natural alignment,” explained EPA superfund project manager Christina Progess. That alignment includes small wetlands and riparian areas and has led to a measureable reduction in metals in Coal Creek and Elk Creek…

“There are three connected mine levels,” said Poponi, “and the EPA knew water coming in at the highest level was in pretty good condition and by the time it came out at level 1 [at the bottom] it was really bad, so they did some investigations and what they came up with was the proposed plan.” The first phase of the remediation plan proposes filling the entrance at level 3, toward the top of the mine, with a flowable fill and foam. That fill, a concrete mixture, would seal off the entrance to the mine so that clean water could be prevented from entering mine workings and would reduce the amount of water coming out of level 1…

A flowthrough bulkhead would be installed at level 1 to control the water flowing out of the bottom of the mine. The bulkhead would allow for what Progess calls the “metered release” of water from the mine…

Residents interested in learning more about the plan are invited to attend an EPA-hosted community meeting on November 30, at 1 p.m. in Town Hall.

More Standard Mine coverage here and here.


The High Country Citizens’ Alliance and the Western Mining Action Project file lawsuit over prospecting activities at the Mt. Emmons mine

March 14, 2011

A picture named mountemmons.jpg

From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

HCCA, along with the Western Mining Action Project, filed the suit in Denver District Court on Wednesday, March 2. “We firmly believe the mining company needs to put up a bond that should address water treatment issues,” explained HCCA executive director Dan Morse.

The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board, which oversees all mining decisions in the state, granted final approval for the proposal in January 2011, but failed to require any bonding amount for the treatment of polluted water from the Project.

According to a HCCA press release, “The approved activities include the construction of a mining drift that would be 8 feet wide by 10 feet high generating as much as 15,000 cubic yards of waste material, which is described as having the potential to generate acid mine discharge. This mining drift would be used to conduct a program of delineation drilling of the ore body. Many of the residents of the Town of Crested Butte are concerned about the project’s impacts because the activities would take place within the town’s municipal drinking watershed.”

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


Gunnison River basin: The High Country Citizen’s Alliance files lawsuit over Mt. Emmons mine plans

March 7, 2011

A picture named mountemmons.jpg

From the Associated Press via Bloomberg Businessweek:

The High Country Citizens’ Alliance filed a lawsuit in Denver last week over work planned at Mount Emmons. It says Colorado mining officials should have required U.S. Energy Corp. to post a large enough bond to cover water treatment costs from its proposed work before approving the company’s plans.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


CPDPHE and CWQD extend U.S. Energy’s Mt. Emmons mine water quality progress report until April 1

February 20, 2011

A picture named mountemmons.jpg

From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

U.S. Energy was sent a “Compliance Advisory Letter” at the end of December by the division. The letter advised the company of “possible violations of the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, its implementing regulations and permits, so that it may take appropriate steps to avoid or mitigate formal enforcement action.” U.S. Energy is the primary mining patent holder for the Mt. Emmons project, a proposed mine that would extract molybdenum from Mt. Emmons. Water quality sampling between 2008 and 2010 has shown that the water from the mine property exceeds water quality standards for Coal Creek, according to Dave Akers with the water Quality Control Division.

More Mt. Emmons mine coverage here.


The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board upholds the approval additional prospecting for the Mt. Emmons molybdenum mine near Crested Butte

January 23, 2011

A picture named gunnisonriverbasin.jpg

From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

The state last week rejected an appeal by the High Country Citizens’ Alliance to overturn a decision approving a proposal for additional prospecting at the proposed Mt. Emmons molybdenum mine. With a 4-1 vote, the Colorado Mined Reclamation Board agreed to allow a new mine tunnel, or drift, to be constructed as part of the proposed prospecting activities by the Mt. Emmons Moly Company (MEMCO). The original decision was approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety (DRMS). The hearing lasted almost five and a half hours. With the MLRB’s ruling in place, MEMCO is now authorized by the state of Colorado to pursue prospecting activities, which will allow for further exploration to better define the molybdenum deposit at Mount Emmons. In a press release from MEMCO, Larry Clark, vice president and general manager of the Mount Emmons Project for Thompson Creek said, “MEMCO will continue to work through permitting requirements as we proceed with these activities, and we will continue keeping the Gunnison Country community apprised of our progress.”

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


U.S. Energy Corp. responds to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s clean up order for the Mt. Emmons mine

January 23, 2011

A picture named mountemmons.jpg

Here’s the letter via The Crested Butte News. Here’s the article previewing Friday’s meeting between U.S. Energy Corp. and the state, from Mark Reaman writing for The Crested Butte News. From the article:

U.S. Energy Corp. will be meeting Friday with representatives from the state’s Water Quality Control Division to get some clarification of the state’s pollution concerns.

The mining company responded last week to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over concerns Coal Creek is being polluted with heavy metals from the mine on Mt. Emmons. The response basically disagrees with the ultimate conclusions of the state. “In short, U.S. Energy disagrees with the Division’s suggestion that stormwater discharges from the Mt. Emmons Project are causing or threatening to cause degradation of Coal Creek,” a letter dated January 11 from the mining company states.

The state had sent U.S. Energy a “Compliance Advisory Letter” at the end of December warning of “possible violations of the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.” It demanded the company formulate a plan to bring down the levels of heavy metals measured in the creek and have a progress report ready by February 1. Sampling over the last few years on the mine property showed huge spikes in the heavy metal levels in Coal Creek.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


USFS: Gunnison District to host two presentations about the Mt. Emmons Mine

January 17, 2011

A picture named gunnisonriverbasin.jpg

From the Montrose Daily Press:

[U.S. Energy Corp] The company wants to undertake geologic studies, using test pits and shallow holes, to analyze the soils and geology in the area, which has molybdenum.

The first meeting will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in the South Ballroom (Room 215) at the Western State College Student Center in Gunnison. (Park in the north parking lot.) Another meeting will be from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, Mountaineer Conference Center, in Crested Butte.

The U.S. Forest Service wants to present more information on what is proposed for the baseline studies and the agency’s role in the projects and proposals, said Gunnison District Ranger John Murphy. “It’s important for folks to know the sideboards of our authority, as well as to provide them an opportunity to discuss the proposed work with resource specialists,” he said.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


Gunnison River basin: CPDHE orders U.S. Energy Corp. to clean up water from the Mt. Emmons mine

January 14, 2011

A picture named mountemmons.jpg

From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

The first thing to know is that the town of Crested Butte drinking water is fine…

The state is demanding that U.S. Energy Corp, the company that ultimately owns the Mt. Emmons Project molybdenum mine, correct the situation immediately. U.S. Energy CEO Keith Larsen said the company is confident the situation will be rectified. “We can work through the issues. We want to have a face-to-face meeting with the state to talk about the things found in the report,” he said. “But the crux of the issue is, what is the obligation of a landowner to treat those waters that are contaminated with heavy metals that migrate onto your property during a heavy runoff?”

The state’s Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has given U.S. Energy until this week to respond to findings outlined by the department. An official “Compliance Advisory letter” was sent to U.S. Energy at the end of December. That letter “is intended to advise US Energy Corp. of possible violations of the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, its implementing regulations and permits, so that it may take appropriate steps to avoid or mitigate formal enforcement action.” The company must begin increased monitoring of the water immediately and “prepare a plan to reduce concentrations to below the standard, review with the Division and implement the plan as approved by the Division.” A progress report is expected by February 1 with regular updates expected throughout the year.

According to the letter from the state, sampling conducted by the mine company on its property between the fall of 2008 and the fall of 2010 showed violations in water quality standards. In May 2009, huge violations of the water quality standards in terms of heavy metals including aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead manganese, pH and zinc were found. The samples in some cases were more than 30 times the upper limit of the state’s standards. For example, the upper limit for cadmium is 4.3 micrograms per liter but 140.6 micrograms per liter were found. The upper limit for aluminum is 750 micrograms per liter. But the sample showed 11,497.9 micrograms per liter…

“I think what happened was that naturally occurring seepage from the mountain after the snowfall runoff picked up some metals,” Larsen continued. “We are the ones monitoring the situation.” “I think what it gets down to is, what is the obligation of any landowner to treat offsite heavy metals that migrate onto your property with heavy runoff. Is that our obligation?

Other landowners in the Crested Butte area might be subject to the same responsibility.” [High Country Citizens’ Alliance executive director Dan Morse] said HCCA feels the polluted water is coming off U.S. Energy’s private land and unpatented mining claims. “We understand there is a bulkhead in the 2000 level of the Keystone mine [2,000 feet below the Mt. Emmons peak] that is holding back about 170 vertical feet of water,” said Morse. “The question is, does all that water create artificial seeps and springs that allows polluted water to reach the surface? Are there fractures in the rock causing this water to get to the surface and ultimately pollute Coal Creek? The fact is, Coal Creek is contaminated with heavy metals… and the question remains, are they from this source?”

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board upholds the approval additional prospecting for the Mt. Emmons molybdenum mine near Crested Butte

January 12, 2011

A picture named mountemmons.jpg

From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via Bloomberg. From the article:

Riverton, Wyo.-based U.S. Energy Corp. won state approval last year of a revised plan to build a mine tunnel at Mount Emmons. The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board voted 4-1 Wednesday to uphold the approval and reject an appeal from the High Country Citizens’ Alliance.

The group’s executive director Dan Morse says the High Country Citizens’ Alliance still has concerns about water quality for Crested Butte.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


Gunnison River basin: CPDHE orders U.S. Energy Corp. to clean up water from the Mt. Emmons mine

January 10, 2011

A picture named mountemmons.jpg

From email from the High Country Citizens’ Alliance (Dan Morse, High Country Citizens’ Alliance/Jeff Parsons, Western Mining Action Project):

The State of Colorado has found US Energy Corp’s Mount Emmons mine site outside of Crested Butte exceeding state water quality standards for multiple heavy metal pollutants and is requiring the company to remedy the water quality issues or face further violation orders and penalties. In a letter sent to US Energy Corp CEO Keith Larsen on December 27, 2010 the Colorado Water Quality Control Division details possible violations of the Colorado Water Quality Control Act for discharges of Aluminum, Cadmium, Copper, Iron, Lead, Manganese, Zinc and low pH levels. The State’s letter requires a response from US Energy Corp by January 12, 2011 and requires a plan to be developed and implemented that would bring the discharges into compliance. The CDPHE letter is available here.

The revelations of contamination come just as the State of Colorado mining division is simultaneously in the process of reviewing and approving new mine development activity at the same Mt. Emmons site. The mine proponents are seeking permission to construct a new mine tunnel, produce waste rock and conduct drilling in the mine. The proposed operations would involve the handling of large volumes of water and ground disturbance in the Crested Butte watershed. Dan Morse, Executive Director of the Crested Butte environmental group High Country Citizens’ Alliance commented, “The State’s review process for a new mining tunnel at this site has so far avoided addressing these water quality risks including the need for substantial financial guarantees if new work is approved.”

The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board will hear an appeal of the proposed mining activities on Wednesday January 12 at 9am at 1313 Sherman Street, Room 318, in Denver.

Morse added “We have had long standing concerns about the quality of surface water, ground water and water in the historic mine workings on Mt. Emmons. The state’s advisory letter to US Energy clearly confirms our fears and shows that water from this mine site is polluting Coal Creek as it runs through Crested Butte. We are deeply concerned for the protection of Crested Butte’s drinking watershed and the natural environment of Coal Creek.”

The Mt. Emmons Project is a proposed molybdenum mine located three miles west of Crested Butte on the flanks of 12,000 foot Mt. Emmons. The mine property is owned by US Energy Corp of Riverton, Wyoming and operated in conjunction with Denver based partner Thompson Creek Metals Company. The mine proposal is at the site of historic mining activity that resulted in severe mining pollution that is now treated in a water treatment plant. The state’s recent advisory letter addresses surface water runoff not captured in the treatment plant, instead flowing directly to Coal Creek. Coal Creek is the sole source of drinking water for the Town of Crested Butte.

Water quality monitoring by another local group, the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition, has shown elevated pollutant levels in the creek for the last five years, but the sources of the metals have remained unclear. Efforts to improve water quality in Coal Creek date back as far as the late 1970’s when AMAX, Inc. installed an industrial water treatment plant at the mine site at the requests of the Town of Crested Butte, State of Colorado, US Forest Service, and area residents. Although that plant improved water quality, Coal Creek continues to be listed as an impaired water body by state regulators.

Jeff Parsons, Senior Attorney with Western Mining Action Project stated, “These pollution problems are serious and deserve immediate attention. U.S. Energy should not be allowed to expand its mining activities and create more impacts until it can clean up the mess that’s already there.”

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


Gunnison River basin: CPDHE orders U.S. Energy Corp. to clean up water from the Mt. Emmons mine

January 8, 2011

A picture named mountemmons.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment “compliance advisory” orders site owner U.S. Energy Corp. to clean up the contamination at the Mount Emmons mine near Crested Butte.
But a watchdog group says mining regulators have not collected required bond money from the company to guarantee a cleanup if U.S. Energy can’t do the job.

“We’re doing everything in our power to comply with all regulations. We certainly want to do everything we can to keep the drinking water as safe as we can,” U.S. Energy chief executive Keith Larsen said. “We’re addressing the issues. It’s not our obligation to get it out of the creek. It is our obligation to treat water as it comes out of the mine.”

The contamination documented by state water-quality inspectors complicates a case where state mining regulators already have granted U.S. Energy a prospecting permit to work one of the world’s largest and purest known deposits of molybdenum.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


Coal Creek Watershed coalition awarded two grants

September 13, 2009

A picture named crestedbutte.jpg

From The Crested Butte News:

he Coal Creek Watershed Coalition (CCWC) recently received $33,006 from two sources to further their work within the Coal Creek Watershed. The Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund awarded $10,756 to the CCWC to fund four programs. A portion of the funding will be used to complete the data analysis and interpretation of a tracer study. The study will characterize groundwater interactions with surface water during spring conditions. The funds will also be used to help provide support for a storm water study being conducted in 2009. The remaining funds will be used to attend conferences and workshops and will also provide funding for a third year of VISTA member support for the organization.

The CCWC was also awarded $22,250 by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to complete a riparian assessment in the watershed. The goal of the assessment is to assess the health of riparian (river) corridors within the watershed to develop prioritized list of areas most suitable for future restoration efforts. Ultimately healthy riparian areas contribute to the overall health of stream systems, provide habitat for a variety of organisms, function in the maintenance of a normal hydrologic regime and are aesthetically pleasing; among other values.

More Gunnison Basin coverage here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 960 other followers

%d bloggers like this: