Barker Hughesville Mining District
National Priorities List (NPL) History
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 November 2012
An open house/public meeting was held at the Monarch/Neihart Senior Center on Monday, November 5, 2012 to discuss activities that took place in 2012 and plans for 2013 and beyond. A 2012 Field Update presentation from the meeting has been posted in the Site Documents section below.
Read the November 6 Great Falls Tribune article Belt Creek lead levels threat to fish, animals.
A fact sheet containing our 2012 Field Progress Report is provided in the Site Documents section below.
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 U.S. 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, the 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.
Rich silver and lead ores were discovered in the Barker Hughesville Mining District in 1879. Mining activity occurred until around 1893 and again in the 1920s, 1940s and 1970s. There are approximately 46 abandoned mines in the Barker Hughesville district. Sixteen 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 and upper Dry Fork watersheds.
Metals and arsenic contamination of soils, groundwater and surface water have been documented in several studies conducted at the site since 1990. Dissolved zinc is the metal of greatest concern. 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. There is a fishery in the upper reach of Dry Fork of Belt Creek; however, it is severely impacted by Galena Creek in its lower reach.
|Media Affected||Contaminants||Source of Contamination|
|groundwater, sediment, surface water, soils||metals and arsenic||mining|
The EPA is the lead agency under the Superfund program for site cleanup. The EPA is working in cooperation with Montana Department of Environmental Quality and other 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 clean-up approach will be documented in a Record of Decision after public comment.
As part of the removal program, the Doe Run Resources Corporation, with oversight from the EPA, investigated the nature and extent of contamination associated with the Block P mine and tailings. 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 Action Memorandum required Doe Run to investigate and clean up environmental conditions associated with the Block P Mill Tailings (under the oversight of the EPA). 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, the EPA and Doe Run 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. The EE/CA also evaluated alternatives for removal actions. In 2011, the EPA and Doe Run signed an AOC for cleanup of the Block P Mine Complex. The AOC includes excavation and consolidation of mine wastes into a repository located on Doe Run property. Site preparations began in October 2010 with the filling of the Block P Mine shaft by installing a concrete plug and allowing it to cure over the winter. Haul road improvements to the repository were started. The hoist building over the shaft was also removed for safety since it was unstable.
Mobilization and road repair began in late June 2011. The county road repairs below the Block P Mine, where Galena Creek washed out the road, were necessary to allow site access. The shaft opening above the plug was filled. Clearing and soil stock piled for the repository started the week of July 11, 2011.
Limestone rock (approximately 6-inch lift) was placed over the base of the repository to provide buffering of the water infiltrating the waste during spring melt/runoff.
Waste rock removal from the estimated 235,000 cubic yard Block P Mine waste dump began on July 25, 2011. Waste rock placement in the repository included compaction of waste in 12- to 18-inch lifts and graded according to the design plans. Also, building debris 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 adit to cease.
The haul operations were discontinued due to weather by October 24, 2011, with an estimated 139,000 cubic yards placed in the repository. Site stabilization measures were installed to control erosion and run-off. These operations shut-down by October 28, 2011.
The EPA is conducting the RI to evaluate the nature and extent of contamination at the abandoned mine properties. The RI report is expected to be completed in 2013. To prepare for the RI, the EPA visited and ranked the abandoned mine sites according to hazard (Tiers I, II, and III). The EPA compiled existing site data and identified where more data were needed. Since 2009, the EPA has been performing field work for the RI to obtain additional data. Samples are being collected samples from Tier 1 and 2 mine sites, waste piles, residential soils, roadways, surface water, sediments and streams. In 2010, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) began to collect invertebrate and fish samples along Galena and Dry Fork Belt Creeks. In 2011, the EPA completed the following activities:
- Conducted toxicity tests using site surface water and sediment. Made preliminary determination of National Register eligibility for all properties over 50 years of age.
- Conducted habitat assessment of the historic floodplain.
- Collected high- and low-flow surface water samples and low-flow sediment.
- Surveyed Tier III mine sites, installed monitoring wells, sampled surface water and some adit discharge, and made reconnaissance of streams and collection of streamside tailings samples.
The results from the 2011 sampling can be viewed in the Site Documents section below. In 2012, the EPA completed almost 100 test pits in the Dry Fork Belt Creek flood plain and took over 800 field measurements using X-ray fluorescence, to determine the levels of metals and arsenic in the soils. Over 100 water samples were collected of the various mine drainages in the site and an additional 100 surface water samples were collected. The results of this work have not yet been thoroughly evaluated, but it is clear that flood events in the area are very high energy and can move large volumes of mine waste over great distances. Tailings from mine sites upgradient of Dry Fork Belt Creek have been washed down the creek in these events and are present in much greater concentrations and over a much greater area than was originally believed.
Thirty-nine monitoring wells and temporary well points were installed in 2012, and a site-wide groundwater sampling event took place in October 2012. At the request of the Cascade County Health Department, shallow soil samples were collected from multiple locations at two depths at 13 Monarch residential properties. Groundwater was sampled from the wells at nine of those properties. In addition, aquatic community surveys were conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in 2012, and the EPA collected small mammals, terrestrial insects, vegetation and soil samples from the various areas in the site. The 2012 results have expanded our knowledge of the nature and extent of contaminants of potential concern at the site. Results will be available once these data have been compiled.
After the remedial investigation is complete, the Forest Service will evaluate methods to treat site contamination. The EPA will then issue a proposed plan, with opportunity for public comment, to explain which cleanup alternatives will be used at the site.
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 EPA, Montana DEQ and U.S. Forest Service hosted an open house/public meeting on November 5, 2012 at the Neihart/Monarch Senior Center to discuss the results of the 2012 investigations and construction, and the sampling and cleanup plans for 2013. A fact sheet containing our 2012 Field Progress Report and a 2012 Field Update presentation from the meeting have been posted in the Site Documents section 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 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.
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.
Five-year reviews are not yet required at this site.
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2012 Field Update presentation from the November 5, 2012 public meeting (PDF, 18 pp, 2.8MB)
2012 Field Progress Report, October 2012 (PDF, 2 pp, 217K)
Presentation from the May 3, 2012 public meeting (PDF, 51 pp, 11.8MB)
2012 Field Update, April 2012 (PDF, 2 pp, 118K)
Sampling Activities Report: 2011 Sampling Events, March 2012 (PDF, 205 pp, 76MB)
Technical Memorandum: Streamside Tailings and Campsite Investigation, Fall 2011, January 25, 2012 (PDF, 50 pp, 80MB)
2011 Field Update, August 2011 (PDF, 2 pp, 45K)
Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis of the Block P Mine Complex, March 2010 (PDF, 59 pp, 212K)
- Appendices A-J
Community Involvement Plan, February 2010 (PDF, 55 pp, 423K)
Administrative Order on Consent for Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis, August 7, 2008 (PDF, 36 pp, 2.6MB)
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
View Documents at:
EPA Superfund Records Center, Montana Operations
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
Helena, MT 59626
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.
Belt Creek lead levels threat to fish, animals, Great Falls Tribune, November 6, 2012