Orange to green

Mining tailings in Clarkdale are capped

The once orange, scarred land that has been an eyesore baking in the sun below Tuzigoot National Monument has finally been covered. Green grass is the first of the planted vegetation to emerge from the mining tailings capping project.

"It looks really good," Town Manager Gayle Mabery said.

There have been concerns from residents that the reseeding has not all taken, leaving patches of land with nothing growing. However, Mabery said that is because mining company Phelps Dodge -- who made plans to cap the tailings a little more than a year ago -- seeded at different intervals.

"The patches will come up later," she said.

In time, the area will begin to look like the surrounding area. It only looks different now because the green grass was the first of the vegetation to come up. The Forest Service department recommended the vegetation. There is no watering taking place. The only water the seeded vegetation will require is the water nature provides.

There was one area of the tailings where a portion of the town's wastewater was still being dumped. Before the capping project, the town was dumping much of its effluent on the site.

New piping has been constructed and effluent is now being pumped to an irrigation site in the industrial part of town behind the Town Hall complex.

Mabery said the town completely converted from dumping effluent on the tailings to pumping it to the irrigation site roughly 10 days ago, when the system was fully ready.

The town leased about 60 acres for the irrigation site, but only about 30 to 40 acres is being used, Mabery said.

Phelps Dodge committed to cap the tailings after a 50-year plea from residents.

The environmental impacts of the tailing goes back to 1935 when United Verde Copper Company ceased its mining operation and left a curvaceous pattern of material after copper was removed from ore.

The Verde Independent first called for action to be taken on the potentially toxic, arsenic-contaminated dust columns in an editorial from May 5, 1955.

Over time, environmental issues were addressed, yet with lingering concern.


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