Flat Creek Superfund site closed for winter

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Environmental Consultant, Steve Ackerlund shows plans for work on the Flat Creek-Iron Mountain Mine Superfund site during a public tour last fall. Work on the site has stopped due to winter weather and will resume next spring. (File photo).

Work on the Flat Creek-Iron Mountain Mine Superfund site has ended for the year as winter weather moved into the area. Some of the work on the nearly $4 million site which is located north of Superior, has been completed while other projects will need to wait until next spring according to a report by the Superior Technical Assistance Committee (STAC) Environmental Consultant, Steve Ackerlund.

The Nov. 30 report outlined work which has been completed and what will need to be done next spring. Including projects on both private and Forest Service land. He also gave an update on an alternative drinking water source for the town of Superior and discussed tentative plans to engage local high school students with the Superfund cleanup.

According to the report, crews were able to complete capping and fencing the repository. The repository is located below the mill site and is the area where tailings have been deposited. They also completed planned road improvements and excavations.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is preparing a contract to support re-seeding at multiple sites for next spring. They will be looking for a local contractor to support remaining earth work that may be needed to be done with the report due out within the next few months.

Additional water samples will be collected on private land along Flat Creek below US Forest Service (USFS) land this winter. This is where tailings may be located, in particular on Robin Dent’s properties and outside the deeply incised creek channel. Once results are returned a remedial action plan will be made with the landowners.

On Forest Service land along Flat Creek, USDA and Forest Service Engineer, Bob Wintergerst, conducted some tests on the tailings which revealed “considerable more tailings than had been identified in the prior Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis Report”, Ackerlund’s report stated. “The increase volume requires re-thinking plans.”

Wintergerst will be working with Trout Unlimited and DEQ to develop a revised plan of action with “remedial construction still planned for next year.”

Another part of the project was to find an alternative source of clean drinking water for Superior in the drainage above the repository. However, local drillers were unavailable and that project will now be rescheduled for the spring.

There are also plans to get local high school students involved with the Superfund effort. This would include class presentations on the history of the mine, reclamation work, and possibly have student make “no trespassing” signs for some of the reclaimed areas.

A Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 5-year review and remedial investigation work plan is also currently being prepared and should be available by next spring or summer. This is a requirement of the Superfund regulation.

Ackerlund said he hopes to have a STAC meeting in the New Year, “we can rejoice in the quality job in Flat Creek this year and that the weather cooperated to enable reaching a cost-effective and stable completion of earth work and road construction.”

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