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ELY COPPER MINE
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Are there risks at the site now?
Risks and pathways addressed by the cleanup include health risks from people ingesting or touching contaminants in soil, wastes and ground water.
Historic mining operations at Ely Mine have left behind sulfide-containing waste rock, tailings and roast ore that are responsible for the contamination of the Site’s soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water. The major issue at the Site is acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage occurs when sulfide-containing mine waste is exposed to water and oxygen, producing sulfuric acid, which leaches metals from waste (including aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc) and releases them into groundwater and surface water. This low-pH water with elevated levels of metals is highly toxic to many aquatic organisms. As a result, severe ecological impacts have been documented in Schoolhouse Brook, Ely Brook, several small tributaries to Ely Brook, and two on-site ponds. The sediments of these surface water bodies was also found to be toxic to aquatic organisms. The metals leaching from the waste piles and mine tunnels also make groundwater beneath and adjacent to the waste areas and in the underground mine tunnels unsuitable for human consumption. Elevated levels of several metals also my pose a risk to children exposed to waste and soils at the Site under residential use scenarios.
The Ely Copper Mine Superfund site is located in rural Vershire, Vermont. It is an abandoned copper mine that includes an area of about 350 acres. From 1821 until 1920, copper mining operations generated piles of waste rock, smelter waste and tailings. Operators disposed of the materials on site. Mining operations stopped at the site in 1920, but activities to remove dump-ore occurred between 1949 and 1950. EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 2001. EPA finalized a cleanup plan for the site in 2011. The design for the cleanup is ongoing. Since 1950, activities at the site have included commercial timber management as well as hunting, snowmobile riding and horseback riding. The site also includes historic mining-related artifacts and provides habitat for several species of state and federal threatened and endangered bats.