1955-1956: CLARKDALE; Smelter Tailings Pond.


"The tailings pond between Clarkdale and Tuzigoot National Moument is ruining the Verde Valley climate. Dust blowing hundreds of feet into the sky and streaming out for miles on windy days, is giving us a black eye."

"Tourists are turning away from Tuzigoot in droves and housewives as well as storekeepers are keeping late hours cleanig up. At Tuzigoot they are scraping the stuff off the furniture by the handful."

"The tailings pond menace is not getting better; it's getting worse, as spring winds dry out the surface of the dump still more. The pond, so-called, hasn't seen a drop of water since Phelps Dodge Corp. stopped concentrating ore nearly two years ago."

"The almost daily dust storm is not too choosy when it comes to direction. Clarkdale, Cottonwood and even Cornville have lain in its path on different days during the past month."

"The storm is a blot on our scenery and a first class nuisance to boot. There is reputed to be a trace of cyanide in the tailings, but even if there were not it shouldn't be hard to get a doctor's statement to the effect that the dust is unhealthy."

"For all the complaints about the tailings pond, probably no one has yet asked Phelps Dodge, the owner, to do something about it. They should be asked. If they don't care to do anything they should be forced to with a court injunction."

"The dust will be with us for another two months --- a little bit worse every day. And if nothing is done this year the story will be even sadder next year."

"The tailings used to be held down under a covering of water piped over from the smelter. When P-D sold the smelter they lost interest, of course."

"Their interest should be revived at once. This is a logical job for the Verde Valley Chamber of Commerce."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, May 5, 1955; page 2, columns 1-2.)


"Conditions of the Clarkdale tailings pond is due to 'an extremely dry spring and to unusually strong winds which were encountered this year.' J. B. Pullen, assistant general manager of the Phelps Dodge Corp., told the Cottonwood Progressive Association in a letter read to the organization at its monthly meeting Friday."

"In his letter Pullen said he had recently inspected the pond and 'In my opinion under normal weather conditions in this area (the pond) should not cause any more dust than it has in past years.'"

"John Stratton, ranger at Tuzigoot National Monument, said the National Park Service received an almost identical letter several years ago when a complaint was made regarding dust from the tailings pond."

"Members of the Cottonwood association decided the matter should be put in the hands of the county health department, and the secretary was instructed to write a letter to the proper authorities

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, July 14, 1955; columns 2-3.)


"The Cottonwood Progressive Association referred the problem of the Phelps Dodge Corp. tailings pond to the county health department last week and said it was obvious P-D intended to do nothing."

"Copies of a letter prepared by Tony Kovacovich, association secretary, were sent to P-D, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors and the National Park Service at Tuzigoot National Monument."

"The letter said: 'We are enclosing copies of letters we wrote to Phelps Dodge, as well as a copy of their answer. As you will note, the subject matter is the tailings pond at Clarkdale. From the contents of the letter from Phelps Dodge it is quite evident they intend to do nothing about the pond.'"

"ARSENIC CONTENT: 'The University of Arizona has advised the National Park Service at Tuzigoot that the tailings pond has arsenic content. As you well know this creates a health hazard in the entire Verde Valley.'"

"Since Phelps Dodge is not interested in correcting this situation we think you should carry on and see what can be done.'"

"J. B. Pullen, assistant general manager of P-D, said in a letter to the association that improved weather conditions might prevent so much dust from blowing off the pond in future years."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, August 4, 1955; page 1, columns 4-5.)


"Indications were this week that the Verde Valley crusaders for the elimination of the dust menace from the tailings pond between Clarkdale and Tuzigoot National Monument are finally on the road to success."

"Phelps Dodge Corp. engineers began Monday staking out a dike project which will cover the 129 acres of dried tailings with water from Peck's Lake and thus eliminate huge quantities of dust being blown into homes and businesses in Cottonwood and Clarkdale."

"A. J. Potocki, Phelps Dodge representative in the Verde Valley, said Tuesday that contractor for the work will be Andrew J. Gilbert, and work is to be completed by April 1."

"Long a thorn in the side of Verde Valley residents, the dust menace has been getting progressively worse since the large mining corporation stopped concentrating ore in Clarkdale well over two years ago."

"The Verde Independent called attention to the menace through an editorial in the May 5, 1955 issue of the paper, and the National Park Service made numerous complaints to Phelps Dodge pointing out that the dust lessened attendance and created a tremendous housekeeping problem at Tuzigoot."

"CONTAINS ARSENIC: A chemical analysis of material from the tailings pond was run at the University of Arizona later in May and showed a definite positive reaction for arsenic."

"Even former residents entered the campaign to control the tailings dust problem. Walter B. Swan, a former resident of Clarkdale now living in Oakland, said in a letter to the Verde Independent, 'I would not like to be choked to death with a man-made Oklahoma dust storm while in the Verde Valley or have to wear a clothespin on my nose to keep from getting silicosis.' He suggested spraying the tailings with a dust coat of crude oil."

"COMPLAINTS: Complaints witten by local residents to Phelps Dodge were acknowledged by the company with expressions of thanks for their suggestions."

"In June the Cottonwood Progressive Association entered the drive, writing a letter to the Phelps Dodge general manager in Douglas, and asking that something be done about the menace. In response J. B. Pullen, assistant general manager, said he had recently inspected the pond and, 'in my opinion under normal weather conditions in this area (the pond) should not cause any more dust than it has in past years.'"

"LETTERS NOT ACKNOWLEDGED: The association then decided to write to the county health department, the state health department and the Yavapai County supervisors. 'These letters were not even acknowledged.' Tony Kovacovich, secretary of the association, said Tuesday."

"Meantime The Verde Independent continued its editorial barrage, urging residents not to forget the problem during the summer rains which settld the dust. The final editorial was only last week when the paper warned that spring winds are near, and with the winds, tailings pond dust."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, January 26, 1956; page 1, columns 1-2.)


"Water, at the rate of 600 gallons per minute, began pouring over the Clarkdale tailings pond this week, as construction was completed on a series of dikes. The tailings pond, which covers an area of 139 acres, is now broken up into 120 lands, each to be filled with water."

"Cost of the project was approximately $30,000, according to A. J. Potocki, of Phelps Dodge Corp. P-D authorized construction of the project to cover the pond with water and help keep down the dust. Contractor for the project was Andrew J. Gilbert, who finished the job before a deadline of April 1."

"A ditch has been constructed along the top of the pond and water is diverted to the divisions by means of suction pipes. Water is pumped from Peck's Lake through an eight-inch pipe to the pond ditch."

"Filling each division with water is slow work, said Potocki, with only four completed each day. Potocki said facilities have been made available for another pump if it is needed to keep the pond flooded."

"Residents of the surrounding area expressed gratitude that the work was finished before the spring winds hit the dry, powdery surface of the tailings pond."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, March 15, 1956; page 1, column 1.)


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