Endangered Winter Run Chinook Salmon Threatened by EPA Sacramento River/ Spring Creek Toxic Sediment Clean-Up Project September 2009-Fall 2010
In September 2009 the EPA began the next phase of the Iron Mountain Superfund clean-up site in Traditional Ehl'-Pom Wintu Territory. The Iron Mountain mine site, adjacent to the community of Keswick, Ca was identified as the Most Toxic Polluter in the Nation and the third most Toxic place on the entire planet, and as a result placed on EPA's National Priorities List of Superfund Sites in 1983.
Iron Mountain Mine is 10 miles northwest of Redding, Ca in the foothills of the Trinity Mountains, in the northwestern Sacramento Valley. Established in 1850 by early Shasta County Pioneer James Salee, Iron Mountain Mine is the southermost mine in the historical West Shasta Mining District, an area of gold, copper, sinc, and iron pyrite mines. Open pit and subterrainean mining activities were performed at Iron Mountain Mine from the mid 1800's until its closure in 1964. Acid mine drainage is produced at the site as water passes thru the sulfide ores and discharges through mine portals and seeps. Secondary sources of acid mine drainage result from runoff through and over waste rock piles, tailings piles, and other surface areas. In addition to acid, mine drainage at Iron Moutnain contains high concentrations of copper, zinc, and cadmium. These historical mining activities have been a neagtive detriment to both the populations of Wintu native to the area, and the flora and fauna that was denuded by toxic discharges by water and by air in the form of sulphur dioxide that was discharged on a massive scale from the mines smelters for several decades.
Contamination migration pathways to NOAA trust resources in primary via surface water flow to Spring Creek. During periods of heavy winter rains, high volumes of runoff water are produced from the Spring Creek Watershed. This coincides with high acid mine drainage from the mines many seeps, tailings piles, and shafts. The drainage of which is released through Spring Creek Reservoir and Dam, and into the Sacramento River at Keswick Lake (an impoundment of the Sacramento River). The Sacramento River enters the San Franciso Bay 360 KM below Keswick Dam.
The Sacramento River is source for drinking water for over 90,000 people in Northern California. And home to endangered Winter Rin Chinook Salmon.
The Spring Creek Arm contaminated sediments being removed, were deposited during the 50 years prior to EPA’s cleanup actions. EPA expects that dredging the contaminated sediments will eliminate the last major threat that contamination from the Iron Mountain Mine poses to human health and the environment. Construction of the cleanup project infrastructure for treating, transporting and disposing of the contaminated sediments began in May 2009 and will continue through September 2010. The infrastructure consists of a pipe-line, three pump stations, a water treatment plant and the disposal cell.
What is the potential for toxic sediment releases during these clean-up phases? What measures have been takes to protect the endangered Wintu Run Salmon from taxic discharges thru the peak months of Winter Run spawning and rearing? What measures have been taken to assure the health and safety of those that live in the community of Keswick?
From the EPA website:
"On occasion during the dredging operations, waterin the Keswick Reservoir may become more turbid (murky) and turn slightly red in color. The potentialred color is due to the stirring up of sediments contain-ing high levels of iron during dredging."