Dirty ‘lake’ must be turned green
MINTURN – Much as landfills have been resurrected as soccer fields, the land above buried mine waste in the Bolts Lake area might be reborn as a private golf course.Developer Bobby Ginn owns 5,400 acres on and around Battle Mountain, where he plans to build a private ski resort, 1,700 homes, two gondolas and a golf course.The golf course sits south of Minturn smack dab on portions of land the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA declared polluted under its Superfund program. State environment officials want some assurance existing waste doesn’t harm people.
“Golf courses have been built on Superfund sites. They have been built on tailing piles,” said Wendy Naugle, who manages the Eagle Mine Superfund for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.Ginn also plans to build a village further south of the golf course atop former waste sites containing higher than normal levels of heavy metals, Naugle said.Many sites across the nation once considered hazardous to humans have been redeveloped. Soccer fields site atop landfills and golf courses have been built on mine waste.Part of the town of Aspen sits on the Smuggler Mountain Superfund site, once covered by mine waste. A Superfund site in Telluride has been considered for development.Anatomy of wasteWaste was once transported from the Eagle Mine and collected at the now dry Bolts Lake area. The waste is called tailing, which is the byproduct of rock ground up and chemically treated to remove metals, Naugle said.The waste is either sand-like or a clay material called slime. Both contain metals and also acidic water that can pull the metal out of the tailing. Metal that reaches a river can kill fish and bugs, Naugle said.Four current or former waste sites exist in the Bolts Lake area on Ginn’s land: From south to north are portions of Maloit Park, the consolidated tailing pile, the old tailing pile and Rex Flats.Much of the land has been cleaned to prevent environmental damage. Waste was transferred to the consolidated tailing piles from each of the other three sites. The consolidated pile was sealed with clay and topped with soil. Groundwater is extracted from around the pile and cleaned at a water treatment plant.Tee-off timeGinn wants to build the golf course atop the massive consolidated pile and possibly portions of Maloit Park, Naugle said.Ginn Company spokesman Cliff Thompson estimated the pile consists of 100 million tons of tailing. He said, “We’re not moving that.”Because it can’t be moved, poeple must be kept away from the potentially harmful contaminants in the waste pile, Naugle said.”If he protects the existing remedy, and continues to protect human health and the environment then we’ll approve it,” Naugle said.
An additional clay and soil barrier must be put over the pile so water and tree roots can’t reach the contaminated soils below.Toxic avengerIn addition to the golf course, a village is planned, likely on Rex Flats and the old tailing pile, Naugle said. The leftover soil where the tailing once sat contain higher than normal levels of the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and manganese, Naugle said.These metals are often found at elevated concentrations around mines and can sicken or kill humans if ingested, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.If future samples at the two sites show the soil is harmful to human health, the soil has to be removed or covered before residences are built, Naugle said.Thompson said soil and air will continue to be monitored before, during and after development.”We have to know what we’ve got before (development), so we’ll know if any disturbance occurs,” Thompson said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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