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Barker Hughesville Mining District
|Site Type: Final NPL
County: Cascade, Judith Basin
Street Address: Forest Service Road 6403
ZIP Code: 59469
EPA ID: MT6122307485
Site Aliases: Barker-Hughesville, Barker-Hughesville Site
Congressional District: At Large
Updated August 2014
In late July and early August 2014, EPA’s contractor was in the field completing multiple activities at the Barker Hughesville site. These activities included:
- Conducted an initial review of potential revegetation test plot areas along impacted streamsides along Dry Fork Belt Creek. Field reconnaissance identified well vegetated plant communities in streamside soils containing high concentrations of zinc and copper but are periodically flooded during spring runoff. This indicates that organic content continues to be added to the soils during these flood events and is a key contributor to plant health and community diversity.
- Excavated test pits in one of the few relatively flat portions along the Galena Creek area below the mining district to evaluate the potential of the area for use in passive treatment of mine influenced waters. Test pits were completed to determine types of soils of the area and depth to groundwater.
- Installed a safety grate on an open mine shaft at the Tiger mine that presented a threat to site workers and trespassers.
- Investigated the Tiger mine shaft with a down-hole camera to learn more about its characteristics and potential passive treatment of mine-influenced water within the mine shaft.
In May 2013, a dye tracer test showed a hydraulic connection between the discharge from a seasonal seep and the open shaft (lower Tiger shaft). The intent of field investigations is to determine the best method for introducing a substrate to the bottom of the shaft, in order to raise the pH of the waters and reduce the amount of dissolved metals in the mine-influenced waters before they discharge from the adit. A work plan for this pilot study is currently undergoing review and will be posted once it is finalized.
- Used over 1,000 feet of flexible tubing to temporarily divert the headwaters of Galena Creek around mine waste piles and workings in the Upper Galena Creek drainage.
- 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.
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 planned improvements include 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 late 2014 and will use information gathered between 2009 and 2012, 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 campsites) to be evaluated for cleanup. The 2014 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.
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.
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|
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 site-wide 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.
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. 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.
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 2011, 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 235,000 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 2014, 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).
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 before the 1953 flood, soon after and almost 60 years later of Dry Fork Belt Creek below Smoke in the Hole Creek 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 late 2014 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 mine sites 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 US Forest Service will evaluate methods to treat site contamination. 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 2013, EPA conducted an additional spring and fall round of groundwater and seep sampling. Some of the results are included in the 2013 Sampling Activities Report posted in Site Documents below. EPA also began activities to gather information to support the upcoming feasibility study (FS) and collected some additional data on newly identified mine properties. These activities included:
- Tracer Dye Testing. Tracer dyes were injected into various mine adits in the Upper Galena Creek drainage and samples were collected at suspected discharge points for analysis to confirm hydraulic connections between mine workings, seeps, and surface water bodies.
- Continuous Monitoring. Water quality was continuously monitored at a single location in Upper Galena Creek to determine if there are significant fluctuations in metals loading, pH, conductivity, or temperature due to contributions from nearby mine sites. Innovative diffusive gradient thin film (DGT) samplers were also tested to determine their potential to gather long-term data at a low cost.
- Adit Discharge Pilot Test. EPA constructed and operated a pilot-scale system to test passive treatment technologies and help determine which, if any, treatment methods show promise for long-term cleanup. A Technical Memorandum detailing the results of the first year of the pilot test is posted in Site Documents below.
- Test Pit Excavations. Test pits were excavated on selected streamside areas in the Galena Creek drainage to map the presence of alluvial materials and bedrock and identify tailings and waste rock. Temporary well points will be installed in some excavations to provide groundwater data.
- Road Sampling. Field testing was done on shallow soils on several miles of unpaved roads in areas most likely to have road contamination, to determine if there are areas with unacceptable concentrations of contaminants that need to be addressed.
- Additional Orphan Mine Sites. EPA identified six additional “orphan” mine sites from reviews of aerial imagery and claim maps, and the properties were screened to assess potential source areas (such as waste rock piles or adit discharges).
While equipment was is the field for investigative activities in 2013, EPA also took the opportunity to reroute water flow at the Carter, Moulton, and Tiger mines to prevent clean water from running over or from undercutting contaminated mine waste.
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 2014 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Five-year reviews are not yet required at this site.
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
Sampling Activities Report: 2013 Sampling Events, January 2014
Block P Mine Complex Final Removal Pollution/Situation Report, September 2013
Community Involvement Plan, February 2010
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8
1595 Wynkoop Street (8EPR-SA)
Denver, Colorado 80202
800-227-8917, ext. 312-6723 (toll free Region 8 only)
Remedial Project Manager
U.S. EPA, Region 8, Montana Office
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
Helena, MT 59626
State Project Officer
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
1100 N. Last Chance Gulch
PO Box 200901
Helena, MT 59620-0901
Townsend Ranger District
415 South Front Street
Townsend, MT 59644
Site Information Repositories:
EPA Superfund Records Center
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
Helena, MT 59626
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
Hours: M-F, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Cascade County Health Department
115 4th Street South
Great Falls, MT 59401
Hours: M-F, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
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