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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 5. The major surface waters in Operable Unit 5 are the Gypsum Pond, Davis Mill Creek, North Potato Creek, and Belltown Creek. This unit also contains two currently active facilities: Grangrit, which produces grit for asphalt shingles, and Boliden Intergrade AG (BIT), which produces sulfuric acid and other sulfur-containing chemicals.

In 1997, PRC Environmental Management, Inc., a contractor for EPA, conducted environmental sampling at the site [1]. 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.

Samples of waste materials, surface soil, subsurface soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater were collected and analyzed for metals and organic chemicals. The primary contaminants of concern detected in the environmental media were lead, copper, and manganese. The maximum concentrations of contaminants detected are presented in the following table.

Table 1: Maximum concentrations of contaminants in environmental media in Operable Unit 5(a)

lead copper manganese
waste 7,500 5,900 4,500
surface soil 1,300 JN 2,500 720
sediment 520 JN 7,300 17,000
surface water 390 1,100 88,000
groundwater 72 340 670

(a) waste, surface soil, and sediment - parts per million (ppm)
surface water and ground water - parts per billion (ppb)
J - estimated value
N - presumptive evidence of presence of material

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