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EPA: Cleanup of former cooper mine may end this year

June 23, 2021 GMT

STRAFFORD, Vt. (AP) — The decades-long cleanup efforts at the site of a former copper mine in Strafford could conclude by the end of the year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced.

Ed Hathaway, the EPA’s remedial project manager, said there are still a few projects that have to be finished before the Elizabeth Mine Superfund site can be closed, the Lebanon Valley News reported.

Crews on the site are working on installing concrete plugs that would prevent 700,000 gallons (2.7 million liters) of acidic water in the mine from escaping and creating a sinkhole.

The $90 million cleanup of the Elizabeth Mine Superfund site started in 2001. Contaminated water had been leaching from waste rock and tailings into streams since the 150-year-old copper mine closed in 1958, endangering animals and homes nearby, the newspaper reported.

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In the last two decades, the EPA has placed 60,000 cubic yards of soil to stabilize and restore approximately 8 acres (3 hectares) of toxic wetlands with 15 acres (6 hectares) of healthy wetlands that naturally clean the water.

The EPA’s tracking shows that residential wells in the area are not contaminated, Hathaway said. The polluted waters are confined to the waste area.

Most of the once-contaminated streams are currently meeting water quality standards. Now, Vermont is expected to fund and monitor the future long-term maintenance of the site after the EPA completes the cleanup this year, which will cost the state about $61,000 a year, Hathaway said.

Residents of Strafford said there’s been a difference since the EPA began cleanup at the site 20 years ago.

“If it rained heavily before the EPA came to do their job, the river would turn a deep reddish, coppery color, ” Strafford Selectboard Chairperson Toni Pippy said. “Now, we never see that.”

As the project finishes, the EPA is focusing on moving from active engineering to “institutional controls” that will help protect cleanup, Hathaway said.

He said that the EPA with collaborate with residents and city officials to determine what will work best for the site in the future.