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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

SUMMITVILLE MINE
DEL NORTE, RIO GRANDE COUNTY, COLORADO


CONCLUSIONS

Cyanide, heavy metals, and sulfate have leached into local creeks through acid mine drainage and release of heap leachate at Summitville Mine. Remedial measures at the site have reduced contamination entering the creeks.

Surface water is the main environmental medium the Summitville Mine site has affected and is the primary transport mechanism carrying contaminants from the site.

ATSDR has classified this site as no apparent public health hazard. Although no adverse human health effects are anticipated from metals in drinking water, soils, crops, livestock, or wildlife in the Alamosa River basin, we support continuing studies in these environmental media.

Private well samplings in the San Luis Valley, approximately 20 miles downstream of the mine site, suggest that mine drainage has had no widespread effect on well water quality.

Because of ongoing treatment of on-site water containing cyanide and of volatilization and dilution of cyanide in the river, cyanide in Alamosa River water is not at levels of public health concern.

While the Summitville Mine was an operating facility, three workers probably exposed to cyanide experienced short-term adverse health effects. The individuals reporting the symptoms suggestive of cyanide poisoning recovered quickly and appeared to suffer no long-term effects.

PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN (PHAP)

The purpose of the Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) is to ensure that this public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards but also provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) informed the local health nurse of the situation at the Summitville site. CDPHE plans to keep the community informed through distribution of fact sheets and by holding one-on-one and larger informational meetings.

The CDPHE has kept the citizens informed about private well contamination. If conditions change at the site or if new information or data become available after the release of the assessment, assessors will review the new information and determine whether there is a need for further public health action.

Actions Taken:

EPA is controlling cyanide and metals in the heap-leach pad and the release of water from the site. Contractors have plugged the major adits, removed and relocated mine waste to the mine pit, and reclaimed mine areas.

The CDPHE and EPA's contractor, Morrison Knudsen, have monitored private wells in the San Luis Valley for heavy metals.

The CDPHE, United States Geological Survey, and others are monitoring Alamosa River surface water quality.

The U.S. Forest Service posted signs warning against drinking the surface water of creeks receiving drainage from the mine.

The CDPHE has worked with the Public Health Nurse in Conejos County and the local TAG to provide health information to keep citizens informed. A fact sheet on health concerns and environmental studies was distributed to citizens in the area in February 1995.

Actions Planned:

Although ATSDR has determined that human health effects are unlikely, we have recommended further sampling of surface water for heavy metals in order to evaluate the long-term impact, if any, on downstream users of Alamosa River water. In particular, ATSDR recommends continued evaluation of metals transport through Terrace Reservoir on the Alamosa River. Currently, USGS, Morrison Knudsen, and others are monitoring surface water downstream of the mine site.

The Colorado School of Mines and Agro-Engineering of Alamosa, Colorado is cooperating with Colorado State University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences on further soil studies.

Although ATSDR believes that human health effects from metal uptake by the major crops (alfalfa, barley, wheat, and potatoes) in the area are unlikely, we support continuing these studies.

The CDPHE will continue to keep citizens informed about health concerns related to the Summitville Mine through fact sheets, informational meetings, and one-on-one contact as needed.

EPA and CDPHE should consider a private well sampling program to confirm 1995 results and assure residents that their drinking water is safe. We recommend sampling private wells during surface water sampling.

ATSDR recommends that remediation at the Summitville Mine site continue so that environmental impacts from metal and hydrogen ion loading to the Alamosa River are lessened.

Additional information from field studies of a greater number of ducks in their natural habitat would help to determine the ducks' main sources of exposure and to develop reasonable scenarios for bioavailability of the metals.

Colorado State University is continuing studies on sheep and ducks to help determine whether livestock and waterfowl will be adversely affected by Summitville drainage in the Alamosa River.

Although ATSDR has categorized the site as no apparent public health hazard based on the lack of completed exposure pathways and concentrations of contaminants that would cause adverse human health effects, we will continue to review further environmental data as it becomes available. If future environmental data change this conclusion category, this PHA will be amended and recommendations made as appropriate.

Public Comment:

The Public Health Assessment (PHA) for the Summitville Mine site was released for public comment from April 18 through May 23, 1997. Appendix Three presents a summary of comments received.

PREPARERS OF REPORT

Environmental:

Laura Barr
Section B
Superfund Site Assessment Branch

Health:

John Crellin, PhD
Section B
Superfund Site Assessment Branch

Regional Representative:

Susan Muza
Region VIII - Denver
Office of Regional Operations


REFERENCES

  1. Morrison Knudsen Corporation and ICF Kaiser Engineers, Inc. Baseline human health risk assessment, Summitville Mine Site. 1995 March 9.
  2. Morrison Knudsen Corporation and ICF Kaiser Engineers, Inc. Ecological risk characterization, Summitville Mine Site. 1995 May 15.
  3. Pendleton JA, et al. Characterizing Summitville and its impacts: setting the scene. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:1- 12.
  4. Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental news. 1994 May 27.
  5. Environmental Protection Agency. Summitville Mining Site backgrounder. 1993 Jan.
  6. Roy F. Weston, Inc./REAC, Summitville Mine Site interim report. 1993 Feb.
  7. Environmental Protection Agency. Videotape, Superfund's early action at the Summitville Mine, Region VIII. 1993
  8. Ecology and Environment, Inc. Engineering evaluation/cost analysis for the Cropsy Waste Pile, Beaver Mud Dump, Cleveland Cliffs Tailings Pond, and Mine Pits, Summitville Mine Site, Summitville, Colorado, prepared for US Environmental Protection Agency. 1993 July.
  9. Morrison Knudsen Corporation. Revision 6U of the Summitville Mining Site master database submitted to EPA Region VIII. 1995 Oct 19.
  10. Environmental Protection Agency. Community Relations Plan, Summitville Mine, Rio Grande County, Colorado. 1994 Feb.
  11. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Ranger District letter to Colorado Department of Health on proposed actions regarding National Forest System lands downstream of the Summitville Mining site in the Alamosa River corridor, Conejos County, Colorado. 1993 April 30.
  12. State of Colorado and EPA. Summitville status report, compilation of technical reports, Report No. 5. 1994 Jan 5.
  13. Tidball RR et al. Geochemical Mapping of Surficial Materials in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:244- 262.
  14. Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources. Listing of wells by location in portions of Conejos and Rio Grande counties. 1993 Nov 17.
  15. Environmental Protection Agency. HRS (hazardous ranking system) documentation, Summitville Mine Site, Region 8. 1993 Feb 5.
  16. Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Use attainability assessment, Alamosa River watershed through 1996, prepared for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1996 July 12.
  17. Colorado Division of Wildlife. Preliminary observations regarding fishery data of the Summitville area (unpublished). 1993 Oct.
  18. Woodling J. Historic fisheries records: Alamosa River. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:228-235.
  19. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Public health assessment guidance manual. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1992.
  20. Plumee, G.S. and P. Edelman, US Geological Survey, An Update on USGS Studies of the Summitville Mine and its Downstream Environmental Effects, Open-File Report 95-23. 1995.
  21. US Geological Survey, 1995 Summitville data, electronic copy of January through November surface water data.
  22. EPA. Chemical releases and chemical risks- A citizen's guide to risk screening. Washington: US Environmental Protection Agency. 1989.
  23. Steffen Robertson & Kirsten, letter and report to Summitville Consolidated Mining Company, Inc., Assessment of effects of leach solution on liner integrity and on downstream surface water quality. 1986 Sept.
  24. Environmental Protection Agency. ATSDR Region V verbal communications with Remedial Project Manager. 1994.
  25. Daniels WJ, Deng JF. Health hazard evaluation report Summitville Consolidated Mining Company Inc., Del Norte, CO. Atlanta: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1988 Sept.
  26. Morrison Knudsen Corporation. Summitville mine site surface water monitoring stations, figure 6A01, prepared for US Environmental Protection Agency. 1993 Oct.
  27. US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Summitville Mine Superfund Site, Rio Grande County, CO. Design report for Cropsy removal action--phase 2, prepared for US Environmental Protection Agency. 1994 May 1.
  28. Agro Engineering. Water, sediment and soil quality synopsis and literature review, Alamosa River, Conejos County, CO, unpublished report for the Alamosa La Jara Water Conservancy District. 1992 Dec 29.
  29. Ortiz RF et al. Effect of a localized rainstorm on the water quality of the Alamosa River upstream from Terrace Reservoir, south-central Colorado, August 9-10, 1993. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:178- 182.
  30. Ferguson SA. US Geological Survey. Evaluation of metal transport into and out of Terrace Reservoir, Conejos County, Colorado, April 1994 through March 1995. In: Geological Society of America Field Guide, Hydrogeology of the San Luis Valley and environmental issues downstream from the Summitville Mine. 1996 Oct.
  31. Plumee GS, et al. Geochemical processes controlling acid-drainage generation and cyanide degradation at Summitville. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:23-34.
  32. Summitville Consolidated Mining Company, Inc. Final report remedial measures plan, 1992 Nov.
  33. Miller SH, Van Zyl DJA. Summitville site water quality characterization and modeling. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:75- 86.
  34. Devarajan R, et al. Interim project report Reynolds Adit Control Program. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:127- 133.
  35. Morrison Knudsen Corporation. Lower Alamosa River Basin groundwater monitoring wells, figures 6A07-6A08, prepared for US Environmental Protection Agency. 1993 Sept.
  36. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension March 29. Water analyses reports. 1993 June.
  37. US Department of Agriculture, forest service letter to Colorado Department of Health on public health and safety concerns regarding national forest system lands downstream of the Summitville Mining Site in the Alamosa River corridor, Conejos County, CO. 1993 March 29.
  38. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. Water analyses reports. 1993 Oct.
  39. State of Colorado, Colorado Department of Health. Inorganic chemistry laboratory water sample analyses. 1993 Nov.
  40. Analytica Inc. San Luis Valley sample analyses of March 30-31 and April 1-2, collected by Morrison Knudsen and Maya ter Kuile, 1992.
  41. Letter to residents from the State of Colorado, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, July 12, 1995.
  42. Agro Engineering. Agricultural implications of soil, sediment and surface water chemistry, Alamosa River, Conejos County, CO: unpublished report for the Alamosa La Jara Water Conservancy District. 1992 July.
  43. Erdman JA, Smith KS. Impact of the Summitville Mine on irrigation water, agricultural soils, and alfalfa in the southwestern San Luis Valley, CO, United States Geological Survey open file report 93-616. 1993.
  44. Connolly SJ, et al. Mineralogical alterations of soil Irrigated with acidic mine water in the Alamosa River Basin. In: Geological Society of America field guide, hydrogeology of the San Luis Valley and environmental issues downstream from the Summitville Mine. 1996 Oct.
  45. Agro Engineering. Interim Report, Summitville Site-wide Feasibility Study, San Luis Valley Agricultural Soils, Alamosa, Colorado. 1997 January 20.
  46. Morrison Knudsen Corporation and ICF Kaiser Engineers. Draft ecological effects assessment, Summitville Mine Site, prepared for the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Technical Assistance Group. 1995 March 20.
  47. Erdman JA, Smith KL. Stream Contamination from the Summitville Mine and its impact on alfalfa production in part of the San Luis Valley. In: Geological Society of America field guide, hydrogeology of the San Luis Valley and environmental issues downstream from the Summitville Mine. 1996 Oct.
  48. Stout PR, Emerick JC. Metal uptake by Moravian III barley irrigated with water affected by acid mine discharge in San Luis Valley, CO. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:272-280.
  49. Cardon, GE et al, Metal content of wheat and potato tissue and associated soils irrigated with Alamosa River water. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:281- 285.
  50. Brown L., Biological concentrations of key elements in blood, hair, and wool of livestock raised in the Alamosa River watershed. In: Posey HH, et al, editors. Special Publication 38. Proceedings: Summitville Forum '95; 1995 Jan 17-20; Fort Collins, (CO). Denver, (CO): Colorado Geologic Survey, 1995:316-327.
  51. Colorado State University. Summitville Mine Site CERCLA Investigation: Livestock and Waterfowl Risk Assessment. Second Interim Report. 1997 February 17.
  52. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for copper. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1990.
  53. Environmental Protection Agency. Study plan for the chemical, physical, and biological assessment of the Summitville/Wightman Fork and the Alamosa River from the headwaters to Terrace Reservoir, CO during the week of May 20, 1991. 1991 May 10.
  54. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for cyanide. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1992.
  55. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Cancer policy framework. Atlanta. 1993 Jan.

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