Region 8

Smuggler Mountain

Smuggler Mountain site location map Site Type: Deleted NPL
City: Aspen
County: Pitkin
Street Address: Spruce Street
ZIP Code: 81611
EPA ID: COD980806277
SSID: 0841
Site Aliases: Aspen
Congressional District: 3

What's New?

Updated June 2012

The EPA is conducting the fourth five-year review of the remedy at the Smuggler Mountain Superfund Site. The five-year review consists of a review of relevant documents, interviews, review of legal requirements, operation and maintenance (O&M) data, and a site inspection. A public notice was placed in the local paper notifying the community of the five-year review. The community will be notified when the review is completed and where copies of the report will be located.

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Site Description

The Smuggler Mountain site is located in northeastern Aspen, on the southwestern flank of Smuggler Mountain, in the Roaring Fork River valley of Pitkin County, Colorado. The site is largely developed, containing large and small condominiums, mobile home parks, a tennis club and numerous single family residences. Silver and lead mines were active on the site between 1879 and 1920. Mine waste included toxic metals, mill tailings and smelter by-products. Site soil analyses conducted in the 1980s showed high levels of lead and cadmium. The Roaring Fork River was not contaminated and was not considered a potential health risk to the community. The EPA placed the site on its Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) in 1986.

The site was divided into two study areas, or Operable Units (OUs), OU1 and OU2. OU1 includes the entire site except for the actual Smuggler Mine portion of the site, which is OU2. OU1 covers approximately 300 acres and lies on the northeastern edge of the town of Aspen. OU2 addresses the mine reclamation work and surface and groundwater response actions. OU2 covers approximately 25 acres and lies on the upward slope of Smuggler Mountain, just northeast of OU1. Three mine waste dumps, containing an estimated 22,000 cubic yards of mine wastes, are located on the mine site. Future mining activities at OU2 are expected to produce as much as 2,100 cubic yards of additional waste rock per year. These wastes will be placed on the existing dumps. The mine site dumps can accommodate the projected quantities of waste for the projected life of the mine without significantly changing the character of the dumps.

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Site Risk

The sources of the lead and cadmium are the waste rock and tailings (mine wastes) from the mines on Smuggler Mountain. These wastes were exposed, covered or mixed with native soils across the site. The potential health risks to residents before cleanup included contaminated surface soils and groundwater. Contaminated dust could be breathed in or consumed in garden vegetables. The responsible parties have implemented all appropriate response actions required to sufficiently protect human health and the environment. Reports on lead speciation, bioavailability and blood lead monitoring studies have concluded that children living on the site are not at unacceptable risk due to exposure to lead in the soil.

Media Affected Contaminants Source of Contamination
groundwater, soil lead, cadmium mining operations

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Cleanup Progress

The following cleanup activities have been completed by the Potentially Responsible Parties (the PRPs):

  • Completing reports on lead impacts, bio-availability and blood-lead monitoring studies concluding that children living on the site are not at unacceptable risk due to exposure to lead in soil.
  • Capping a contaminated berm with clean soil and vegetation. Covering and replanting common-use areas of exposed mine waste, including the Mollie Gibson Park.
  • Regrading a parking area and part of the mine to drain back into the mountain.
  • Controlling dust emissions from the mine from dirt roads and the parking area by periodic spraying of a dust-suppressant solution.
  • Extending the existing fence to restrict entry to the lower portion of the mine.
  • Cleanup construction was completed in September 1996. The site was deleted from the NPL on September 23, 1999.

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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.

Community interviews and public feedback are part of the five-year review process and the community will be notified of the five-year reviews and their completion.

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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 site is largely developed, containing large and small condominiums, mobile home parks, a tennis club and numerous single family residences. Following listing, the EPA removed soil from around the residential area. This cleanup allowed a local company to reopen the mine in an effort to extract more silver. While the search for silver continues, the company has also opened the mine for tourists and is now earning income from this new activity. There are no planned changes in land use.

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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.

In relation to the mine, O&M activities include maintenance of runoff and dust control, and restriction of site access. For the residential area, ICs restrict the movement of contaminated soils in and from the site and help preserve the integrity of the remedy. The Board of Pitkin County Commissioners and the City of Aspen adopted ICs that apply to any activity that may result in the movement or disturbance of contaminated soil within the boundaries of the Smuggler Mountain Superfund Site. These ICs require anyone engaged in activities that would excavate or expose more than 1 cubic yard of soil to obtain a special permit before beginning work. Recipients of this permit, and any other person engaged in development on the site, are required to follow certain procedures with respect to excavation, dust suppression and removal of contaminated material. Landscaping, as well as vegetable and flower gardening, must also be conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Institutional Controls. All areas within the site are required to be maintained with a permanent vegetative or hard surface cover, and in a manner designed to minimize erosion. Periodic site visits are conducted by the Department of Environmental Health & Natural Resources to ensure ongoing compliance with these requirements.

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Five-Year Reviews

The EPA or the lead agency conducts five-year reviews following the start of a Superfund cleanup 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.

The EPA completed the third five-year review of the site remedy in June 2007.The review indicated that the remedy is protective of human health and the environment. The next five-year review is scheduled for completion in 2012.

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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.Update to the Five-Year Review, July 2011

Third Five-Year Review Report (PDF), June 2007 (54 pp, 2.4 MB)

Pitkin County Resolution: prohibiting excavation without a permit, June 7, 1994

Pitkin County Ordinance: intergovernmental agreement with the City of Aspen, October 24, 2001

Aspen Municipal Code Amendment: prohibiting excavation without a permit (PDF), July 11, 1994  Exit(11 pp, 346 K)

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Armando Saenz
Remedial Project Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8
1595 Wynkoop Street (8EPR-SR)
Denver, CO 80202-1129
800-227-8917 ext. 312-6559 (toll free Region 8 only)

Pitkin County Environmental Health

Carla Ostberg
Pitkin County Environmental Health
0405 Castle Creek Road, Suite 10
Aspen, CO 81611

Site Information Repositories:

Pitkin County Library
120 N. Mill Street
Aspen, CO 81611

EPA Superfund Records Center
1595 Wynkoop Street
Denver, CO 80202-1129
To request copies of administrative record documents call:
800-227-8917 ext. 312-7273 (toll free Region 8 only)


Mark Rudolph
Project Manager
Superfund, Brownfields and Voluntary Cleanup Unit
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South
Denver, CO 80246-1530
800-886-7689 ext. 3311 (toll free in Colorado)

Warren Smith
Community Involvement Manager
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South
Denver, CO 80246-1530
800-886-7689 ext. 3373 (toll free in Colorado)

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Photo/Video Gallery

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The following links exit the site Exit

Smuggler Mountain page at The City of Aspen and Pitkin County, Land Use Engineering Department

Smuggler Mountain page at The City of Aspen and Pitkin County, Department of Environmental Health

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