EPA cleanup of old Vermont copper mine in final phase
SOUTH STRAFFORD, Vt. (AP) — The final phase of cleanup is underway at the former Elizabeth Mine that began 18 years ago in South Strafford, an effort that has cost nearly $90 million and helped bring an area river back to life.
Neighbors of the former Vermont copper mine in South Strafford and over the town line in Thetford can expect less truck traffic this summer and none of the blasting that occurred in 2018 that was designed to prevent waste from further polluting the area, especially the watershed of the Ompompanoosuc River.
“We’re almost there,” Ed Hathaway, EPA manager of the Superfund remediation work, told the Valley News. “We’re closing in on finishing up this big, long project.”
The EPA estimates the amount of copper flowing into the Ompompanoosuc from the 150-year-old copper mine that closed in 1958 has fallen 99%, while the concentration of iron dropped 95%, prompting environmental officials to remove the river from the list of Vermont waterways too “impaired” to support aquatic life.
In 2001, the EPA declared the South Strafford property a Superfund site, citing the acid- and metal-contaminated water that had been leaching from waste rock and tailings into streams feeding the west branch of the Ompompanoosuc.
The main focus of the project is shifting to dismantling a wastewater processing plant that had been treating toxic leachate from the mine since 2008. It will be replaced with what Hathaway describes as “a passive, gravity-based system that will use limestone and natural settling ponds” to treat the water.
Between 600 and 700 truck trips are expected this summer to bring stone for ditches, topsoil for restoring surfaces and limestone. Last summer trucks brought in almost 1,500 loads of material.
The project is expected to finish next year.
Information from: Lebanon Valley News, http://www.vnews.com