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Superfund Program Implements the Recovery Act

Central City/Clear Creek

Clear Creek and Gilpin Counties, Colorado

Site Description
The site is located in an area that was once Colorado’s leading mining center, approximately 30 miles west of Denver.  The decline of mining in the area began with the silver crash in the 1890s.  However, mining continued to be an important industry in Clear Creek and Gilpin counties from the turn of the century until approximately 1950.  Since 1950, mining in the area has been limited, with only a handful of mines operating.  The environmental issues EPA is addressing at this site include heavy metals contamination in the surface waters of Clear Creek, particularly the North Fork, and the management of mine tailings, waste rock and tunnel drainage to prevent further contamination of the creek.  Contaminants of concern (COCs) for aquatic life include cadmium, zinc, and manganese, while COCs for humans are arsenic and lead.   Health risks to humans could result from long-term drinking of ground water with high concentrations of these metals, ingestion of tailings and waste rock, and inhalation of airborne dust.

Cleanup Activities to Date
EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List in 1983.  Since that time, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, EPA and the local community have worked to clean up the contamination resulting from hard rock mining in the area.  To address this large site—which encompasses a 400- square-mile watershed—EPA has divided the site into multiple cleanup projects or operable units.  Cleanup activities at operable units 1, 2 and 3 are complete, and included the consolidation and capping of mine waste piles, and acid mine drainage collection and water treatment.  Remaining cleanup work at the site is limited to operable unit 4, the North Fork of Clear Creek, and consists of additional consolidation and capping of mine waste piles, sediment improvement/control and water treatment. 

Recovery Act Project Activity
EPA will use the $2.16 million in Recovery Act funding to consolidate and cap additional mine waste piles, implement sediment control and drainage controls, and treat water to mitigate heavy metal impacts to Clear Creek. Reclaimed areas will be re-vegetated and restored. This work moves the project one step closer to completion by assisting in the recovery of aquatic life in the North Fork of Clear Creek. Work at the site also reduces metal loads entering the watershed supplying water to Denver area residents.

FY2011 highlights include:

  • Recovery funds are also being used to construct a pipeline to carry mine-contaminated water from the National Tunnel, Gregory Incline and Gregory Gulch. Approximately 90% of the work on the pipeline is done, with this work on schedule for completion by 4Q FY2012.
  • Work has also been completed on remediation of the mine waste rock piles located in one area of the site.

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