Hanover/Whitewater Creek Cleanup Open House – Tuesday, Oct 30th
Freeport-McMoRan (FMI) Chino mine will be holding an Open House for the Hanover/Whitewater Creek Investigation Unit Interim Removal Action, on October 30th from 4 – 7pm at the Bayard Community Center, 290 Hurley Ave in Bayard.
FMI will begin the next Interim Removal Action at the Chino Mine site this fall, according to the work plan recently approved by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). FMI is obligated to perform these interim, or temporary, cleanups to address historical mine contamination at the Chino Mine under a legally-binding agreement with NMED, the Administrative Order on Consent of 1994 (AOC). The Chino Mine site was divided into six units for investigation and remediation. This removal action will be in the Hanover/Whitewater Creek Investigative Unit.
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. This is also the route for the trucks hauling all of the contaminated materials north, to be added to 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. FMI is also required to have a transportation plan for the work, but GRIP has not received the plan.
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.
The construction phase for the Hanover/Whitewater Creek removal action is on track to begin October 30th within the perimeter of Chino Mine.
Excavation of materials in the creek outside of Chino’s mine operation boundary is anticipated to begin in early November and advance approximately 7 miles downstream to Hurley. 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.fcx.com/chino/.
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.