The Elizabeth Mine, located in Strafford and Thetford, VT, mined copper and copperas from ca. 1809 until 1958. Located in a rural area, the mine is surrounded by woods, with undeveloped and residential properties bordering the site's western margin. When the mine closed in 1958, it left behind 47 acres of tailings (crushed and processed rock), heap leach piles, waste rock, two large open cuts, several ore processing buildings, and almost a mile of underground workings extending from the top of Copperas Hill northward under the West Branch of the Ompompanoosuc River (WBOR). Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) from the mine is polluting the WBOR, which in turn flows into the Connecticut River. AMD forms when sulfur-bearing waste rock and tailings are exposed to air and water, forming sulfuric acid. This acidic runoff dissolves metals, including aluminum, copper, cobalt, manganese, and zinc, which become part of the ground or surface water.
Current Site Status and Cleanup Actions to Date
- As of September 2004, EPA relocated over 120,000 cubic yards of tailings at the site to establish a better grade on the tailing dam and to allow construction of the buttress. EPA also installed a drain to collect AMD along the tailing dam.
- In April 2004, EPA completed the design for a soil buttress. Major construction of the soil buttress began that May, and should be completed in December 2004.
- In March 2003, EPA began a removal cleanup action to stabilize the tailing dam. EPA provided stand-by pumps to provide extra drainage capacity when snow melted in Spring 2003, installed graded filters to lessen internal dam erosion, and installed a diversion pipe and spillway channel to replace the existing decant pipe.
- In September 2002, EPA signed an Action Memorandum for a Non-Time-Critical Removal Action (NTCRA) that included stabilization of the tailing piles and diversion of surface water/shallow groundwater.
- EPA awarded the community a TAG and a Redevelopment Initiative grant. The TAG helped the community receive independent technical assistance about site decisions. The Redevelopment Initiative grant helped facilitate an evaluation of future use of the site.
- EPA also provided university-based, independent technical assistance through the Technical Outreach Services for Communities program.
Current Funding Status
- EPA has spent approximately $5 million as part of the investigations for the site and approximately $1 million for removal cleanup actions performed in 2003.
- EPA funded $4.7 million for the installation of the soil buttress in Fiscal Year 2004. However, more extensive parts of the tailing piles stabilization and diversion of the surface water/shallow groundwater projects called for under the NTCRA were not funded in Fiscal Year 2004.
For more information on the projects at this site, please read the Elizabeth Mine Fact Sheet on the Region 1 Superfund Web site.
- EPA has provided more than $5 million characterize the nature and extent of the contamination. The $5 million includes funding for a Technical Assistance Grant (TAG), facilitation services for the Elizabeth Mine Community Advisory Group (EMCAG), and a Redevelopment Initiative grant.
- EPA provided more than $1 million in 2003 and an additional $4.7 million in 2004 for removal cleanup activities.
- EPA installed a diversion pipe and spillway channel to better stabilize the tailing dam.
- As part of a removal cleanup action, EPA is constructing a soil buttress (retaining wall) to better support the tailings dam. Construction of the buttress should be completed by December 2004.