COPPER BASIN MINING DISTRICT, OPERABLE UNIT 4
COPPERHILL, POLK COUNTY, TENNESSEE
BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Region IV (EPA) asked the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to assess the public health impact of environmental contamination at the Copper Basin Mining District site. This consultation will address only the human health impact of contamination at the site. Although mining activities and related contamination have dramatically affected the environment and biota at the site, these issues are outside the scope of ATSDR.
The Copper Basin Mining District Site is located in Polk County, Tennessee. Commercial mining operations began in the region in the mid 1800s. A large complex mining and production facility operated in the basin for years and included mining, milling, floatation, roasting, smelting, and producing bulk chemicals (primarily sulfuric acid).
The subject area covers 30 square miles and includes the now defunct Tennessee Chemical Company (TCC) and other areas that have been impacted by mining activities. The TCC ceased mining activities in the basin in 1987 and declared bankruptcy in 1989. Much of the land formerly owned by TCC was auctioned off and is now in private hands.
The EPA divided the site into six operable units. This health consultation will address contamination in Operable Unit 4. The most prominent geophysical features in Operable Unit 4 include the Eureka Mine and Isabella Mine. These mines extend to a depth of about 900 feet and are connected underground. The Isabella Mine pit has formed at the surface from the collapse of the upper levels of both mines. The pit is reportedly about 300 feet deep and is filled with water that is dark red in color.
Water from the Isabella Mine Pit is pumped to the London Mill Waste Water Treatment Plant and treated before being discharged to Bura-Bura Creek.
In 1997, PRC Environmental Management, Inc. a contractor for EPA, conducted environmental sampling at the site. This consultation will focus on the results of this environmental sampling, since these data provide the most recent characterization of environmental contamination at the site.
Two surface water samples from the Isabella Mine Pit were analyzed for contamination. The maximum concentrations of contaminants were: copper - 10,000 parts per billion (ppb), lead - 76 ppb (JN), manganese - 7,400 ppb, and zinc - 640 ppb.