Phelps Dodge to cap mining tailing

Employees of Phelps Dodge Corporation gave a presentation to the Town of Clarkdale Tuesday regarding its plan for capping the mining tailing that contaminated the land around Tuzigoot National Monument.

The curvaceous pattern of tailing has been a concern for the municipality for decades. The danger of the tailing's toxic minerals seeping into the nearby aquifer and Verde River has drawn unease from the town, its residents and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

PD, the company that inherited the polluted land from United Verde Copper Company in 1935, presented an initiative to cover the tainted area with two feet of soil. This soil, through a process called evapotranspiration, would prevent rainwater from infiltrating the tailing and into surrounding waters.

"(This will) isolate the tailing itself," Project and Design Engineer Patrick Gorman said. "It envelopes it."

The company plans to grade down the circular rock formations and bring in nearby soil to cover it up.

The soil would absorb rainfall, allowing it to evaporate or be used by the future vegetation that will grow out of the seeds PD plans to plant on top of the soil.

Community residents expressed concern over whether the vegetation PD plans on planting on the site would be native. Gorman said it would be a seed mix that will not necessarily be completely comprised of native seeds.

Another issue involved is the removal and relocation of the wastewater effluent that is currently being splashed out onto the site from the neighboring treatment facility. Town Manager Gayle Mabery said plans are to begin dumping this wastewater in a 60-acre site in the industrial area of Clarkdale. PD Remediation Project Manager Barbara Nielsen said PD would pay half of the cost involved in doing this.

The project will begin in the first quarter of 2006 and is expected to take at least six months, Nielsen said.

Initially, a golf course was proposed to consume the area. PD has decided that this is not a viable option at this time, but it may be considered at a later date.

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