The arrival of the Phelps Dodge construction fleet means the mining tailings around Tuzigoot National Monument that have been an eyesore and environmental concern for so many years soon will be buried under two feet of nearby soil.
Project and Design Engineer Patrick Gorman told the Clarkdale mayor and council in December that the company would cap the tailings through a process called evapotranspiration, which prevents rainwater from infiltrating the tailings and into surrounding waters.
The soil will absorb rainfall and allow it to be evaporated or used by future vegetation.
In the 1990s, the Environmental Protection agency ordered a consent order to cap the tailings due to concerns of the tailing's toxic minerals seeping into the nearby aquifer and Verde River. Clarkdale Town Manager Gayle Mabery said this problem had been remedied in the past; however, Phelps Dodge is taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen. It is Phelps Dodge's responsibility because the company inherited the land from United Verde Copper Company in 1935.
Phelps Dodge plans to grade down the area, cap it with soil and plant a seed mix that will produce foliage that is similar to the surrounding environment. At the December council meeting, residents urged Phelps Dodge employees to use a native seed mix. Gorman said it would not necessarily be completely comprised of native seed, but assured that it will resemble nearby vegetation.
Project Manager Barbara Nielsen estimated that the project would last at least six months.
A golf course was initially planned for the area, but the company later decided that it was not a viable option at this time. Phelps Dodge has not ruled out the option of placing a golf course on the site at a later date.
To allow for the copper company to cap the area, the wastewater effluent that is being dumped on site from the Clarkdale water treatment facility needed to be redirected. That is why the town awarded a bid of $1.97 million to Back Constructing LLC last week to extend the effluent piping to a 65-acre area in the industrial part of town.
Mabery said Phelps Dodge corporation is going to pay half the cost in redirecting the effluent line.