Region 8

Whitewood Creek

site location map Site Type: Deleted NPL
City: Whitewood
County: Lawrence
Street Address: 18-mile part of stream
ZIP Code: 57793
EPA ID: SDD980717136
SSID: 0806
Site Aliases: Homestake Mining Co. Gold Div.
Congressional District: At Large

What's New?

Updated January 2013

On September 17, 2012, the EPA signed the third five-year review for the Whitewood Creek Superfund Site in Lawrence, Mead and Butte counties, South Dakota. The findings of the third five-year review indicate that the site is protective of human health and the environment. Long-term protectiveness will be achieved after the disposal area is revegetated and the properties with geofabric layer breaches are remediated.

Site Description

The Whitewood Creek Superfund Site consists of an 18-mile stretch of Whitewood Creek, from the Crook City Bridge to the confluence with the Belle Fourche River. Since the 1870s, millions of tons of toxic tailings were deposited along the creek in Lawrence, Meade and Butte counties. By 1994, the potentially responsible party (PRP), Homestake Mining Company, had completed the cleanup, including removal and replacement of contaminated soil from 16 residences. Homestake continues to monitor surface water in Whitewood Creek.

Whitewood Creek at the Crook City Bridge

Local residents use the creek for irrigation, watering livestock and recreation. About 280 people live within a mile of the site. EPA listed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in September 1983.

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Site Risk

Groundwater, surface water, and/or soils contain heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, copper, silver, mercury and/or cyanide. Arsenic is the contaminant of greatest concern. Exposure to high levels of arsenic may increase the risk of skin cancer, neurological effects and vascular disease.

Media Affected Contaminants Source of Contamination
soil, surface water, groundwater, sludge, liquid waste arsenic, cadmium, copper, silver, mercury and/or cyanide mine and mine tailings in and along creek

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Cleanup Progress

EPA documented in the 1990 Record of Decision (ROD) that the most appropriate remedy for the Whitewood Creek Superfund Site was to remove and/or cover contaminated residential soils and restrict access to contaminated tailings and groundwater by use of institutional controls. In the 1991 Explanation of Significant Differences, arsenic contaminated materials removed from residential areas were disposed of in an on-site facility instead of an off-site facility, and the term "existing residential areas" was clarified as being those areas in which residential land use was occurring at the time of the ROD. The PRP, Homestake Mining Company, completed the following cleanup activities by 1994:

  • Removal and replacement of 4,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil from 16 residential yards and disposal of contaminated soils in a landfill constructed in an undeveloped part of the site.
  • Continuation of Whitewood Creek surface-water monitoring.

Remedial construction at the site was completed in March of 1993. The site was removed from EPA’s NPL in August of 1996. Subsequently, EPA conducted an ecological risk assessment to verify that the remedy is protective of the environment. Since waste is left in place, which precludes unlimited use and unrestricted exposure, EPA will continue to conduct five-year reviews. The most recent five-year review (see Site Documents below) was completed in September 2012. The review determined that the remedy is protective of human health and the environment.

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Community Involvement

Community involvement plays an important role in the Superfund process. 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.

The EPA, via a public notice, asks for public comment during five-year reviews. In January 2012, a public notice was published in the Rapid City Journal newspaper announcing the commencement of the five-year review process for the site, and inviting community participation. Community interviews were conducted and are discussed in Section 6.6 of the five-year review report.

Previously, the designated site information repository was located at the Rapid City Public Library in Rapid City, South Dakota. Because Rapid City is located more than 35 miles from the site, the EPA was able to secure a new site repository during this five-year review process. The new site repository is located at the Whitewood Public Library, 1201 Ash Street, Whitewood, South Dakota, 57793.

Pursuant to the Whitewood Creek Superfund Site Post-Remedy Operations, Maintenance and Reporting Plan, amended in May 2003, Homestake Mining Company sent a Residential Information Sheet to area residents, which described the remedy including institutional controls, and contained updated maps, dated March 23, 2012.

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The EPA places a high priority on land redevelopment 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 redevelopment 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 likely future use of a site.
  • Working with 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 redevelopment 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 communities to identify barriers to such projects.

Portions of the site are being used for wildlife habitat, ranching and farming.

Whitewood Creek: Reuse Fact Sheet, September 2013

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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.

ICs play an important role in site remedies because they reduce exposure to the contamination remaining on site by limiting land or resource use and guiding human behavior at a site. Zoning ordinances are often used at sites to restrict land use consistent with the level of cleanup. The National Contingency Plan (NCP) emphasizes that ICs are meant to supplement engineering controls and that ICs will rarely be the sole remedy at a site.

The institutional control portion of the remedy was implemented during 1993 and 1994. In accordance with the ROD’s requirements, Butte, Meade and Lawrence Counties adopted ordinances in late 1993 and early 1994 that prohibited construction of new residential or commercial structures on the tailings deposits, restricted future development in tailings-impacted areas of the site, and prohibited removal and use of tailings outside the tailings areas. The area with settled tailings in the stream bed and flood plain is referred to as the Tailings Deposit Area; the area where tailings settled onto natural soils adjacent to the flood plain is referred to as the Tailings Impacted Area. On November 29, 1993, EPA approved the Whitewood Creek Tailings Area Building Permit Handbook, which was developed to aid in the future implementation of the proposed ordinances. The handbook outlines the steps needed in order for residential development to comply with the proposed ordinances in the Tailings Impacted Areas.

A state well ban regulation prohibiting wells in the 100-year floodplain of Whitewood Creek remains in effect to limit exposure to groundwater from the downgradient shallow aquifer.

In 1993, Homestake began distributing a Residential Information Sheet to educate the public on site hazards and ways to minimize the risk posed by residual contamination. Educational materials are still distributed annually to affected residents; the most recent was mailed in March 2012.

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Partial revegetation at the disposal area
Driveway where cover is thin and geofabric layer is visible

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 third five-year review was completed in September 2012 and can be found in the Site Documents section below. The findings of the review indicate that the site is protective of human health and the environment. Long-term protectiveness will be achieved after the disposal area is revegetated and the properties with geofabric layer breaches are remediated.

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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.

Whitewood Creek: Reuse Fact Sheet, September 2013

Third Five-Year Review Report (PDF), September 2012(85 pp, 2.2 MB)

Map of Whitewood Creek Superfund Site Boundaries and Institutional Controls, July 26, 2012

Homestake Mining Company Residential Information Sheet, March 23, 2012

Lawrence County Zoning Ordinance, amended June 9, 2010

Whitewood Creek Superfund Site Post-Remedy Operations, Maintenance and Reporting Plan, amended May 1, 2003

Federal Register Notice of Deletion from the National Priorities List, August 13, 1996

Butte County Ordinance No. 94-1, February 1, 1994 (pages 31-32 of the building permit handbook below)

Lawrence, Meade and Butte County Building Permit Handbook limiting construction or placement of buildings on tailings deposit areas, February 1, 1994

Meade County Ordinance No. 16, January 4, 1994 (pages 29-30 of the building permit handbook above)

South Dakota Administrative Rule prohibiting groundwater well installation/construction, July 16, 1992

Explanation of Significant Differences (PDF), June 11, 1991(8 pp, 120 K)

Record of Decision (PDF), March 30, 1990(51 pp, 106 K)

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Kerri Fiedler
Environmental Engineer
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8
1595 Wynkoop Street (EPR-SR)
Denver, CO 80202-1129
800-227-8917 ext. 312-6493 (toll free Region 8 only)


Joane Lineburg
Project Manager
South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources
Joe Foss Building
523 East Capitol
Pierre, SD 57501-3181

Site Information Repositories:

Whitewood Public Library
1201 Ash Street
Whitewood, SD 57793

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)

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Photo/Video Gallery

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

Whitewood Creek from Crook City Bridge with tailings in top 2–3 feet of the bank on the right
Whitewood Creek bank
Whitewood Creek crossing on Wiseman Road
Remediated land
Remediated yard and driveway
Whitewood Creek at 194 Street bridge crossing
Whitewood Creek at the disposal area
Whitewood Creek at the disposal area
Groundwater monitoring well
Whitewood Creek at the disposal area

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The following links exit the site Exit

Whitewood Creek Narrative at the South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources

Lawrence County, South Dakota, Planning & Zoning Department

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