Chino AOC Update: Freeport Begins Hanover/Whitewater Creek Cleanup

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Freeport-McMoRan (FMI) began interim cleanup of Hanover/Whitewater Creek in late October as part of the 1994 Chino Administrative Order on Consent, a legally- binding agreement with NMED to remediate historical mine contamination caused by Chino Mine. GRIP has participated in the AOC’s Community Work Group since  its inception and advocates for timely cleanup that is protective of public health.

Beginning as early as 1948, Hanover and Whitewater creeks were contaminated by releases of acidic waters from the mine’s former precipitation plant, seepage from old stockpiles, and by spills from the tailings pipeline.  The streambeds were further degraded by so-called “Tin Can Operations,” where individuals produced copper using tin cans and scrap metal in the contaminated flows of the creeks. Along with having a low pH (acidic), the soil and sediment of the creeks also have high concentrations of metals including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, and zinc.

The excavations will take place along the Hanover and Whitewater creek streambeds, and will begin on mine-owned land near Hanover and the intersection of highways 152 and 356, continue south through Bayard, roughly along highways 356 and 180, and then to Hurley. Trucks will haul contaminated materials on mine property for disposal on Chino Mine’s West Stockpile. Water trucks will be used to suppress dust from excavation equipment and trucks using dirt roads to reach excavation areas. Fill material will be hauled on highways 180 and 356 to excavation sites. FMI’s transportation plan precludes truck transport of fill material on municipal roadways during school drop-off/pickup .

There are 43 areas to be excavated along the creeks, with an estimated 72,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sediment to be removed. The work plan includes a procedure to create temporary stockpiles of the contaminated material adjacent to the creek on property owned by FMI, but where those stockpiles will be, and how long they will remain, will be decided by the contractor and FMI personnel on site. Excavated areas of the streambed may receive backfill or bank armoring using rip-rap to stabilize stream banks from high water flows.

Completion of the creek cleanup is anticipated by end of March 2019.

Reports and work plans for the AOC remediation are available for public review at the Miller Library on the Western New Mexico University campus and at the Bayard Public Library. Copies are also available online at www.

Participation in oversight of the AOC process is open to the public at state-mandated  Community Work Group meetings held quarterly at 7 p.m. at the Bayard Community Center.


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