Region 8

Barker Hughesville Mining District

Barker Hughesville site location map Site Type: Final NPL
City: Monarch
County: Cascade, Judith Basin
Street Address: Forest Service Road 6403
ZIP Code: 59469
EPA ID: MT6122307485
SSID: 085N
Site Aliases: Barker-Hughesville, Barker-Hughesville Site
Congressional District: At Large

What's New?

Updated October 2014

In September 2014, EPA was in the field completing multiple activities at the Barker Hughesville site. These activities included:

  • Conducting semi-annual sampling of surface water and sediment at established monitoring stations that have been sampled since 2009.
  • Conducting synoptic (comprehensive) stream gauge sampling of Galena Creek from above the Block P Mine to below the Lucky Strike Mine to determine where the stream may be gaining or losing flow to groundwater.
  • Conducting semi-annual sampling of adits, seeps and groundwater monitoring wells.
  • Continued operation of the passive treatment pilot test at the Danny T mine adit using three different treatment options and a control. This is the second year of the pilot test and the results from the first year of the pilot test are included in Site Documents.

Additionally, Doe Run Resource Corporation conducted their fall sampling and performance monitoring associated with the removal actions at the Block P mine and mill in September. As a result of this monitoring and discussions with EPA and DEQ in the field, a contractor will be procured this fall to reseed the Block P Mine slope since the original seeding efforts after the removal action have not resulted in a well-established and diverse plant community.

August 2014 photo showing vegetation on the Block P mine slope

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Recently installed fire ring

The U.S. Forest Service obtained funding in 2014 to make improvements to several areas along Dry Fork Belt Creek that have streamside tailings deposits from mine waste upstream. These areas are being used as dispersed campsites in the summer and fall. These improvements are being conducted to limit exposure of recreational users to lead-contaminated soils in these areas until final cleanup decisions are made. The improvements included the installation of steel campfire rings and 3-inch-thick gravel pads in six to eight camp areas, and waterless restroom facilities at two locations.


An EPA-DEQ site-wide Remedial Investigation (RI) report is scheduled to be completed in early 2015 and will use information gathered between 2009 and 2014, as well as historic data. The RI will describe the nature and extent of contamination at the site and will include human health and baseline ecological risk assessments. In early 2014, EPA, in consultation with DEQ and the USFS, began a Feasibility Study (FS) of the Galena Creek portion of the site (where the abandoned mines are) to evaluate the most appropriate cleanup methods. This Galena Creek FS should be completed in 2015. This will be followed by a proposed plan and a Record of Decision (ROD) for cleanup of Galena Creek. Agency staff will then focus on preparing a FS for the Dry Fork Belt Creek portion of the site. This area does not contain source areas along the Dry Fork Belt Creek, but has roughly 13 miles and approximately 300,000 cubic yards of mine-impacted streamside soils (including areas used as recreational campsites) to be evaluated for cleanup. The 2015 field season will focus on information important to the Galena Creek FS. Results will help to develop various alternatives for cleanup and will provide a greater understanding of site conditions; it builds on work done in 2013 and 2014.


A five-year policy review is scheduled for 2015. A policy review is being conducted because all response actions at the site to date were conducted as removal actions and hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants were left on site above levels that allow for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure.

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Site Description

The Barker Hughesville Mining District Superfund Site covers about 15 square miles in west central Montana. The site is south of Great Falls and approximately 12 miles east of the town of Monarch. Although mostly in Cascade County, a portion of the site is in Judith Basin County. The site contains approximately 46 abandoned mines strewn with waste rock dumps, tailings and seeping mine openings. Rich silver and lead ores were discovered in the Barker Hughesville area in 1879. Mining activity occurred there until 1893 and again in the 1920s and 1940s. Minimal mining and exploration occurred in the district after WWII. Historic mining camps in Barker and Hughesville were home to more than 500 people, mostly miners who worked at mines and ore processing facilities.

The abandoned mines and associated contamination are dispersed throughout a 6,000-acre watershed. Most of the mine sites are in the Galena Creek drainage, near the historic town sites. Some of the abandoned mines are on privately owned land and others are on public lands administered by the US Forest Service (USFS). The largest abandoned mines include the Block P Mill Tailings and Block P Mine Complex properties. Metals and arsenic contamination of soils, groundwater and surface water have been documented in several studies conducted at the site since 1990. Because of the contamination and risks to public health and the environment, EPA proposed the site for the National Priorities List (NPL) for Superfund cleanup in December 2000. On September 13, 2001, the site was listed as a Final NPL site in the Federal Register. The NPL is a list of sites with environmental contamination, commonly referred to as Superfund sites.

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Site Risk

Sixteen abandoned mines in the Barker Hughesville district have been identified as water contamination sources because of their proximity to surface streams. These abandoned mines and associated contamination are dispersed throughout the Galena Creek watershed and the Dry Fork Belt Creek floodplain.

Heavy metals and arsenic contamination of soils, groundwater and surface water have been documented in several studies conducted at the site since the 1990s. Dissolved zinc is the metal of greatest concern along with elevated levels of lead and cadmium. Ten discharging adits (horizontal mine openings) have also been identified. Scattered mine waste piles present both safety risks and health risks.

Galena Creek flows through the Barker Hughesville site. There is no fishery or aquatic insect life in Galena Creek because of the impact of mining wastes. However, there are isolated populations of westslope cutthroat trout in several clean tributaries that have been protected from hybridization by the mine-influenced waters. There is also a fishery in the upper reach of Dry Fork of Belt Creek; however, it is impacted by Galena Creek in its lower reach below the confluence of the streams.

Media Affected Contaminants Source of Contamination
groundwater, sediment, surface water, soils heavy metals and arsenic mining wastes

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Cleanup Progress

EPA is the lead agency under the Superfund program for site cleanup and works in cooperation with Montana DEQ, the US Forest Service and other state and federal agencies. Cleanup at this site uses two approaches. Removal actions are used to expedite cleanup of the most immediate threats to human health and the environment. A longer term remedial program involving the development of a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) assists in determining the nature and extent of contamination and selecting cleanup alternatives. The cleanup approach using removal authority is documented in an Action Memorandum, while the remedial program documents cleanup decisions in a Record of Decision. Both authorities allow for public participation at this site.

Removal Authority

Using USFS removal authority, the Doe Run Resources Corporation (Doe Run), as the corporate successor to St Joseph’s Lead Company, investigated the nature and extent of contamination associated with the Block P mine and tailings in the late 1990s. This resulted in an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis report (EE/CA), which investigated the magnitude and extent of soil and groundwater contamination associated with the Block P Mill area. The EE/CA also evaluated alternatives for removal actions. The USFS and EPA signed an Action Memorandum in 2002 for a portion of the mining district called the Block P Mill Tailing Site, which is posted in Site Documents. The subsequent Administrative Order required Doe Run to investigate and clean up environmental conditions associated with the Block P Mill Tailings (under the oversight of EPA and DEQ). Soon afterward, the USFS issued an order to Doe Run for cleanup of the Block P Mill Tailings. During 2004-2005, Doe Run conducted a removal action to consolidate and cap the Block P mill tailings. Approximately 150,000 cubic yards of material was excavated and placed in the onsite repository.

Block P Mill Tailings in 2004 before removal (left) and in 2013 after removal (right)

In 2008, EPA and Doe Run, in consultation with DEQ and the USFS, signed a legal agreement called an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC), requiring Doe Run to investigate the Block P Mine Complex and to perform an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA). The purpose of the EE/CA was to investigate the magnitude and extent of soil and groundwater contamination associated with the Block P Mine Complex about a mile upstream of the former mill site. The EE/CA also evaluated alternatives for removal actions. In 2010, EPA signed an Action Memorandum for cleanup associated with the Block P Mining Complex.  Soon afterward, EPA and Doe Run signed an AOC for cleanup of the Block P Mine Complex under the oversight of EPA and DEQ. The AOC required Doe Run to excavate and consolidate mine wastes into a repository located on Doe Run property.

Waste rock removal from the estimated 230,000 cubic yards of the Block P Mine waste dump began on July 25, 2011 and required two construction seasons to complete. Waste rock placement in the repository included compaction of waste in 12- to 18-inch lifts and graded according to the engineered design plans. Also, building debris associated with abandoned and dilapidated buildings was distributed across lifts and crushed by the dozer tracks. A diversion trench was installed to intercept the subsurface flow from the adit, causing observable flow from the portal to cease although it later emerged at the same elevation as Galena Creek. Work was completed in the fall of 2012 and the removal action and the final pollution report is posted in Site Documents below. Doe Run is currently conducting operation and maintenance of the removal actions at both locations. In 2015, Doe Run will continue acid mine drainage investigations from mine adit discharging waters, and post removal inspection and monitoring at the Block P Mine Complex; they will also continue annual monitoring activities at the Block P Mill Repository (general site inspections and repository integrity monitoring as required in the AOC).

Remedial Investigation

Tailings deposited along Dry Fork Belt Creek

Because of the size of the site, EPA, DEQ and USFS have broken the site into two manageable portions called operable unit (OUs). OU1 includes the abandoned mines, adit discharges and seeps, and streamside deposits within the Galena Creek watershed. This includes the removal actions that have already occurred at the Block P Mill and Mine Complex. OU2 includes the mine-impacted streamside deposits along the Dry Fork Belt Creek, which have been deposited during flood events such as the 1953 flood. Aerial photos taken of Dry Fork Belt Creek below Smoke in the Hole Creek before the 1953 flood, soon after the flood and almost 60 years later are posted in Site Documents below, to show that these areas are still impacted decades after the flood.

EPA is scheduled to release a site-wide RI report in 2015 that evaluates the nature and extent of contamination at the abandoned mine properties. To prepare for the RI, EPA, DEQ and USFS staff visited and ranked the abandoned mines according to hazard (tiers I, II and III); collected surface water and sediment samples from multiple monitoring stations since 2009; completed over 125 test pits within the Galena Creek and Dry Fork Belt Creek floodplain; installed over four dozen monitoring wells and well points to monitor the conditions of alluvial groundwater; and sampled residential properties in the communities of Barker, Hughesville, and Monarch. In addition, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) has been collecting invertebrate and fish samples along Galena and Dry Fork Belt Creeks since 2010.

After the remedial investigation is complete, the Agencies will evaluate methods to address site contamination that poses a risk to human health and the environment. EPA will then issue a proposed plan, with opportunity for public comment, to explain which cleanup alternatives are being considered for use at the site. After considering public comment, the decision on how to proceed with be documented in a Record of Decision (ROD).

In early 2014, EPA began the Feasibility Study (FS) of the Galena Creek (OU1) portion of the site (where the abandoned mines are) to evaluate the most appropriate cleanup methods. This Galena Creek FS should be completed in 2015; it will be followed by a proposed plan and a Record of Decision for cleanup for Galena Creek. EPA will then focus on preparing a FS for the Dry Fork Belt Creek portion of the site. This area does not contain source areas, but has roughly 13 miles and approximately 300,000 cubic yards of mine-impacted streamside soils (including campsites) to be evaluated for cleanup. The 2015 field season will focus on information important to the Galena Creek FS. Results will help to develop various alternatives for cleanup and will provide a greater understanding of site conditions. It builds on work done in 2013 and 2014.

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Community Involvement

Community involvement plays an important role in the Superfund process. The EPA uses a number of different tools and resources to promote effective, on-going, meaningful community involvement. The goals of the Superfund community involvement program are to:

  • Keep communities affected by sites informed throughout the cleanup process.
  • Provide opportunities for communities to comment and offer their input about site cleanup plans.
  • Facilitate the resolution of community issues tied to a site.

Throughout the cleanup process, Superfund law requires that stakeholders and the community be given every opportunity to have meaningful input on the cleanup. First, a Community Involvement Plan (CIP) is prepared acknowledging any concerns or issues the community and other stakeholders may have. The CIP outlines how the EPA will communicate with the public about future work, opportunities for commenting on decisions, and other pertinent information. Some methods used for communicating with the public include: fact sheets, public notices, public meetings, press releases and this Web page. The Community Involvement Plan and most recent fact sheets are included in Site Documents below.

EPA, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and the United States Forest Service (USFS) briefed the Cascade County Commissioners on the ongoing and planned site activities at the regular commission meeting on May 12, 2014. A copy of the presentation and a fact sheet summarizing planned 2014 field activities that was sent out to interested parties in April are posted in Site Documents below.

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Reuse

The EPA places a high priority on land reuse as part of its Superfund response program mission. The agency tries to select cleanup options that encourage and support future use of a site. The EPA uses two fundamental methods to facilitate reuse of Superfund sites:

  • Exploring future uses before the cleanup remedy is implemented, an approach that gives the Agency the best chance of designing cleanup remedies to support the likely future use of a site.
  • Working with landowners and communities to remove barriers not considered necessary for the protection of human health or the environment at those sites where remedies are already in place.

One option for reuse is the siting of clean and renewable energy projects on contaminated (or formerly contaminated) lands. As part of this effort, the EPA is evaluating the potential for energy projects on these properties and working with landowners and communities to identify ways to remove barriers to such projects.

The reasonably anticipated future land use is determined during the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study process. This information is considered during the development and selection of the remedy for the site.

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Land Use Controls and Other Institutional Controls

Land use controls are the most common type of institutional control (IC). ICs are administrative or legal controls that help reduce the likelihood for human exposure to contamination. ICs can also help protect the integrity of the remedy. Examples of ICs are:

  • Zoning ordinances.
  • Environmental covenants.
  • Deed notices.
  • Well-drilling restrictions.
  • Building permits.
  • Informational advisories.

The EPA will develop options for specific ICs for this site, as needed, in the Feasibility Study. ICs will be documented in the Record of Decision as a component of the remedy.

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Five-Year Reviews

The EPA or the lead agency conducts five-year reviews following the start of a Superfund cleanup using remedial authority when contamination is left on the site. These reviews are repeated every five years. We use these reviews to determine:

  • How the remedy is working.
  • If the remedy remains protective of human health and the environment.

A five-year policy review is scheduled for 2015. A policy review is being conducted because all response actions at the site to date were conducted as removal actions and hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants were left on site above levels that allow for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure.

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Site Documents

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more

Presentation from County Commissioners' Briefing, May 12, 2014

Project Update Fact Sheet, April 2014

Final Danny T Adit Treatability Study Year 1 Technical Memorandum, March 2014

Sampling Activities Report: 2013 Sampling Events, January 2014

Block P Mine Complex Final Removal Pollution/Situation Report, September 2013

Technical Memorandum: Streamside Tailings and Campsite Investigation, Fall 2011, January 25, 2012

Aerial photos showing the effect of 1953 flood in Dry Fork Belt Creek below Smoke in the Hole Creek, 1946-2011

Action Memorandum: Request for Approval of a Non-Time-Critical Removal Action at the Block P Mine Complex, August 18, 2010

Community Involvement Plan, February 2010

Administrative Order on Consent for Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis, August 7, 2008

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Contacts

EPA

Steven Way
On-Scene Coordinator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8
1595 Wynkoop Street (8EPR-SA)
Denver, Colorado 80202
303-312-6723-1129
800-227-8917, ext. 312-6723 (toll free Region 8 only)
way.steven@epa.gov

Roger Hoogerheide
Remedial Project Manager
U.S. EPA, Region 8, Montana Office
Federal Building
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
Helena, MT 59626
406-457-5021
hoogerheide.roger@epa.gov

Montana DEQ

Keith Large
State Project Officer
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Remediation Division
1100 N. Last Chance Gulch
PO Box 200901
Helena, MT 59620-0901
406-841-5039
klarge@mt.gov

USFS

Beth Ihle
On-Scene Coordinator
Townsend Ranger District
415 South Front Street
Townsend, MT 59644
406-266-3425
bihle@fs.fed.us

Site Information Repositories:

EPA Superfund Records Center
Montana Office
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
Helena, MT 59626
406-457-5046
866-457-2690 (toll free)
Hours: M-F, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

U.S. Forest Service, Belt Creek Ranger Station
4234 U.S. Highway 89 N
Neihart, MT 59465
406-236-5511
Hours: M-F, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Cascade County Health Department
115 4th Street South
Great Falls, MT 59401
406-454-6950
Hours: M-F, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

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Photo/Video Gallery

Click on a thumbnail below to view the full size image.

Biochemical reactor pilot test at the Danny T adit
Liberty mine as seen from the top of the Block P mine
Collecting a sample of mine-influenced water at a road culvert just before it enters Dry Fork Belt Creek
Planting willow stakes around Galena Creek at toe of Block P mine
Mine-influenced water being routed around a waste pile at the Carter mine

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Links

The following links exit the site Exit

Montana Department of Environmental Quality – Federal Superfund Bureau

Cascade County, Montana

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