Howard Fork Tailings

 
Site Contact:
Joni Sandoval
On-Scene Coordinator

(Sandoval.Joni@epa.gov)

Site Location:
Ophir, CO 81426
response.epa.gov/Howardforktailings

The Howard Fork Tailings Site is located near Ophir in San Miguel County, Colorado. The site is a mixed ownership site, where a small portion (10% approximately) of the Site is federally managed, and the rest is privately owned.

The Site was referred to the EPA by the property owner shortly before completing a Time Critical Removal Action at the neighboring property known as the Carribeau Mill Site in 2019.  Based on observations, the Site appears to have been used for disposal of tailings during the historic mine operations in the area. It is unclear how long this operation lasted. However, based on the depth and extent of tailings material (estimated at up to 10,000 cubic yards), it is assumed to have lasted for decades.

The waste appears to have been brought in by wooden flume from the east and deposited in a low-lying area adjacent to the Howard Fork of the San Miguel River.  The tailings contain harmful levels of lead, arsenic and cadmium. A removal action is proposed to start in Fall of 2021. It is anticipated that soil excavation and repository disposal will take approximately 5 weeks. Stream and vegetative restoration is estimated to take an additional 2 weeks, which may need to be completed in 2022 if weather conditions prevent work completion. If weather permits, completion is expected by November 30, 2021.


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