On March 26, the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership hosted a public meeting on the 20-year Idarado Mine Remediation Project and zinc loading in Red Mountain Creek of the Uncompahgre River Basin.
Representatives from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and Idarado Mining Company presented results of remedial measures which were implemented as a result of a 1983 State of Colorado lawsuit brought against Idarado for damages to natural resources. The resulting 1992 Consent Decree and implemented remediation project had no provisions for mandatory public hearings or regular presentations, thus the UWP thanks the panel; Camille Price and Doug Jamison of CDPHE; Sherm Worthington of Worthington Miller Environmental, LLC; and Larry Fiske of Idarado, as well as attendees from Newmont Mining Corporation, for dedicating their time and resources to this valuable public update for the citizens of Ouray County.
Although revegetation of the tailings under the original remediation plan has met performance objectives in terms of percent live and total vegetative cover, determination of water quality compliance has been challenging (50 percent reduction in zinc concentrations is the remediation goal). Compliance could be calculated only in two years, since the beginning of monitoring in 2002 because stream flows were either higher than the required flow range or did not occur on sufficient number of days within the sampling period. Idarado and State representatives reviewed the details of monitoring results, further steps for additional sampling in 2013, and potential remedial measures to reduce zinc loading to Red Mountain Creek. They will consider several additional approaches, including mine portal plugs or partial bulkheads, portal water collection systems, pipelines, weeplines or infiltration channels, in-situ passive treatment systems, diversion channels, re-alignment of existing drainages or stream channels, removal of waste rock or tailings, and slope and bank stabilization. The detailed report can be found on UWP’s website, www.uncompahgrewatershed.org.
The meeting was attended by 50 community members of Ouray County. The lively discussions at the end of the status report echoed the public’s concern for water quality in their watershed and included some comments challenging the need for remediation. The panel graciously provided clarification and steps for further work within the Idarado project area. UWP believes that this forum was a model for private, governmental and public co-operation. The presentations were informative, and the question-and-answer session remained respectful. UWP welcomes future updates from Idarado and the State on the progress of additional remedial actions and encourages constructive public participation in the process. To receive periodic updates or get involved with the watershed group, please visit UWP’s website.