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EPA Proposes Vermont Mine Site to Superfund List
Release Date: 03/08/04
Contact Information: Contact: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Involvement Office, (617) 918-1064
For Immediate Release: March 8, 2004; Release #04-03-03
BOSTON -The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed the Pike Hill Copper Mine in Corinth, Vermont, to the National Priorities List (NPL), commonly known as the Superfund. The Superfund is EPA's list of the country's hazardous waste sites that have been identified for possible long-term cleanup by the federal government. Superfund makes public funds available to clean up toxic waste sites when private financing is unavailable. The government can later recoup its costs from current and past owners of the property.
Pike Hill Copper Mine is one of 11 sites proposed to the NPL today. There are 98 sites on the NPL in New England, 11 of which are in Vermont, four sites that are proposed (including this one) and ten sites across the region that have been deleted with cleanup complete. Across the nation, there are 1,240 sites on the NPL and 65 sites proposed.
Under its Land Revitalization Agenda announced last year, EPA made a commitment that revitalization and reuse will now be a formal part of planning at every site. Nationally, more than 70 percent of all Superfund sites are cleaned up by those responsible for the pollution. Since the beginning of the Superfund program, more than $21 billion in cleanup commitments and funding have been provided by the parties responsible for toxic waste sites.
For the second consecutive year, the Administration requested an additional $150 million be added to the Superfund budget to keep the momentum moving on cleaning up sites.
Pike Hill Copper Mine Site background
Approximately 9,085,298 pounds of copper was mined from Pike Hill from 1847 until 1919. There are some 20,000 tons of mill and mine dumps (tailings), averaging 1.6 percent copper, scattered over the surface of the 216 acres of the mine. There are five tailings piles and two mine shafts on the site, and several adits are located around the Pike Hill hillside. The tailings piles are made of brownish-orange colored fine-grained material with rock fragments with little vegetation.
The mine tailings are rich in metals and sulfides. As water passes over and through the tailings, sulfuric acid is produced and the metals within the tailings are dissolved and mobilized. This results in acid mine drainage and contributes to metals contamination to Pike Hill Brook and the Waits River. In addition, in October 1993, the Corinth Fire Department was informed that smoke was emanating from the mine fill at the PHCM site. According to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the smoldering was due to spontaneous oxidation and combustion of reactive sulfides present in the mine fill.
Previous environmental studies of soil, surface water and sediment have documented elevated levels of metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and cyanide.
A 1997 Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation study of the macro-invertebrate community and fish populations in surface waters near the site documented a significant impact from acid mine drainage just downstream of the mine. The site poses a risk to fisheries in the Connecticut River and Waits River, and a risk to a particular species of bat (Eastern Small-footed bat, Myotis Leibii). Surface contamination may also pose a risk to hunters or others who frequent the area.