Lack of Superfund reports is problem for property owners

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A meeting was held by the Superior Technical Assistance Committee (STAC) to update the public on the progress of the Flat Creek Superfund site, located north of Superior. The meeting included a report on available drinking water; concerns over the public getting adequate information regarding Superior property; and concerns over the creek’s design.

The Environmental Protection Agency is required to review conditions at Superfund sites every five years whenever contamination is left at the site. Allie Archer with the Environmental Protection Agency said the first five-year review covered the town of Superior. Then additional reviews will occur at Flat Creek and the repository five years after the Superfund project is completed. The repository is where over 90,000 cubic yards of contaminated mine tailings have been buried.

The five-year review involved site inspections, meeting with local health department personnel, and conducting community interviews. The principal finding was that the regulation “appeared to be adequate and functioning; however, some property owner letters are not available or readily accessible from its files and community members seem unaware of the regulation.”

These program deficiencies could have a material impact on real estate development in Superior, noted Steve Ackerlund, the STAC technical advisor — as well as potential liabilities associated with disclosure requirements in real estate transactions.

During the meeting, Superior property owner Herman Berniking said he has never received letters documenting cleanup for any of his seven parcels of land. Also, Anita Bailey, a local real estate agent, said she had a potential buyer who had trouble figuring out where to get information as to whether the lots had been tested and remediated. She also said that many realtors are unaware of Superfund actions in Superior.

MINE TAILINGS were brought into Superior and used as fill, road base, and driveway material more than 40 years ago. In 2002, the EPA did a remediated cleanup of the site. Mine tailings used as fill in Superior were removed which included the high school track, portions of the county fairgrounds, and a number of private driveways and roads.

There was also an update on a possible well for water. As part of the cleanup effort, there has been a search to find an alternative drinking water supply which will be used as emergency backup water for Superior. Because the shallow ground water in the Flat Creek area has antimony which exceeds the Safe Drinking Water Act, test wells have been drilled. One was in Club Gulch and it turned out to be a couple parts per million over the limit.

One option suggested by Bob Wintergerst with the U.S. Forest Service is to work with various departments on a blend of well water and other water to achieve compliance. “This could provide an option for lower-cost drinking water,” he said.

Other topics reported during the meeting were the repairs along Flat Creek. The spring floods in 2018 left areas eroded and damaged. Joel Chavez, construction manager with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), said the stream has largely re-established itself and is more stable. This spring, trees and shrubs will be planted to help with the stabilization process. The overall design work for the creek will continue with the help of Trout Unlimited.

The Flat Creek/Iron Mountain Mine site was contaminated in the late 1800s. Water and soil in the area contained high levels of arsenic, mercury, and antimony. The mine, located approximately 10 miles up Flat Creek Road northeast of Superior, has been on the National Priority Superfund since 2002.

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