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HEALTH CONSULTATION

COPPER BASIN MINING DISTRICT, OPERABLE UNIT 3
COPPERHILL, POLK COUNTY, TENNESSEE

 

DISCUSSION

Waste/Surface Soil/Sediment

Elevated concentrations of copper and lead were detected in waste material, surface soil, and sediment. Prolonged human contact with this contamination could pose a public health hazard, particularly in young children who are more likely to ingest contaminants during hand-to-mouth activities. However, under current conditions, young, unattended children are unlikely to access the area. If the land were converted to residential use, children could be exposed to contaminants at levels of health concern.

Access to the site is unrestricted, so trespassing does occur. In particular, the area around the LMFP is used by motorcyclists and drivers of other off-road vehicles. Although one waste sample contained lead at 3,600 ppm and one surface soil sample contained lead at 1,100 ppm, the lead content of most of the other samples was less than 1,000 ppm. This level would not be expected to pose a health hazard to adults who occasionally trespass on site.

In an earlier investigation [1], cyanide was detected in a surface soil sample at a concentration of 140 ppm. (Cyanide was used in the flotation process.) This concentration of cyanide in soil would not pose a public health hazard to children or adults.

Surface Water

Water samples from surface bodies of water in Operable Unit 3 contained concentrations of lead and manganese in excess of health-based guidelines for drinking water. However, water from the creeks and ponds on-site is not used for potable purposes. Therefore, surface water contamination does not pose a public health hazard.

Physical Hazards

The deteriorating buildings and structures at the LMFP pose a physical hazard to trespassers at the site. There is also an open mine shaft partially filled with water that poses a physical hazard. Several years ago a fence was erected around portions of the LMFP. However, high acidity in the soil corroded through the metal fence posts, and the fence has fallen down.



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