Elizabeth Mine Team takes top environmental award

By Ann Marie HarvieSeptember 29, 2014

Elizabeth Mine Final Day
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Elizabeth Mine Superfund
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Elizabeth Mine Superfund
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The Elizabeth Mine Superfund Site Project Delivery Team (PDT) has recently received the prestigious Green Dream Team Award in the 2014 USACE Sustainability Award Program. The project was selected from a large number of projects throughout the Corps of Engineers and the award will be presented at the USACE Senior Leadership Conference in August.

The Green Dream Team Award recognizes exceptional leadership by an interagency green team to effectively place a federal sustainability idea into action. The PDT implemented a comprehensive Green Remediation Strategy that resulted in significant reductions in onsite emissions, fuel consumption, off-site materials, and also resulted in recycling large quantities of consumable waste. Through the PDT's focused effort, the 2013 construction season included capping over 3 million cubic yards (43 acres) of mine tailings, treating over 10 million gallons of impacted water, and creating over 10 acres of wetland.

"The Elizabeth Mine Superfund Site is located in Strafford, Vermont. It is an abandoned copper and iron-sulfate mine that operated from 1806 until 1958," said Scott Acone, Chief, Engineering and Planning, and former Project Manager. "The operations were open-pit type mining. At the end of its operation, the mine was abandoned without any closure measures to restrict access or to prevent run-off from entering the mine. In addition, there were 40 acres of exposed tailing piles (TP) which were still producing acid mine drainage. The acid run-off was causing water quality problems in receiving waters of the drainage, Copperas Brook, and downstream in the west branch of the Ompompanoosuc River."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approached the New England District for assistance in 1999, beginning a long and massive cleanup effort. "Starting in 2005 and continuing through 2013, EPA Region 1 retained the New England District to design and cleanup the Superfund site," said current Project Manager Stephen Dunbar. "The New England District PDT initially focused their efforts on constructing surface water and groundwater diversion structures, stabilizing the steep slopes of the tailing piles, and capturing and treating the contaminated discharge."

During the 2011 and 2012 construction seasons, the District and its contractor, Nobis Engineering, conducted building demolition/abatement compliant with historic preservation requirements, regraded the 43-acre site, constructed an engineered cap of over 3 million cubic yards (CY) of waste, and treated over 10 million gallons of Acid Rock Drainage (ARD)impacted water in using an innovative Lime Amendment Rotating Cylinder Treatment System (RCTS) to oxidate and precipitate metals.

"In addition, the Elizabeth Mine Team completed $21 million in field work over the fiscal years 2011 and 2012 construction seasons, completing the 45-acre engineered cap weeks ahead of schedule and $654,000 under budget," said Dunbar. "At the close of the 2012 construction season, Nobis Engineering, Inc., recorded roughly 96,000 man hours without an OSHA recordable event or lost time."

At the onset of the cleanup actions, the PDT recognized that the remediation of the 250+ acre site could impact the natural and cultural resources in the immediate area, according to Dunbar. This included increased air emissions, degradation of natural resources, potential impacts to historic structures and increased waste stream. In response the District PDT implemented a 'Green Remediation Strategy' at the site that would identify measures to minimize the impacts to the local environment.

"The New England District's Green Remediation Strategy reduces air contaminants associated with onsite or offsite fuel consumption; uses onsite rather than imported material for backfill and site restoration; establishes processes for maximum recycling or reuse of waste materials; and initiates a procurement process for environmentally preferred products," said Dunbar. "In addition, the strategy calls for reducing the volume of materials entering the waste stream (refuse) and assuring preservation of the site's historic aspects and ecosystem. By executing this strategy without significantly impacting overall costs, the NAE PDT implemented 11 measures that ranged from reducing onsite emission of air contaminants to using biodegradable, wood fiber-based material on all slopes adjacent to the TP-1A soil cap to control erosion while still allowing re-vegetation to occur."

The New England District Elizabeth Mine Superfund Site PDT members cited in the nomination are: Scott Acone (former Project Manager); Steve Dunbar (Project Manager since 2011); David O'Connor (Construction PM); Chris Caisse (on site Construction Representative through 2012, including cap construction); Randy Lecuyer (on site rep in 2013 during wetland restoration); Mark J. Anderson, Jr. (Technical Lead); Jon Kullberg (Geotech); Silas Sanderson (Geotech); Kathy Malinowski (Geo-Environmental); Kate Atwood (Cultural) and Mike Penko (Environmental).

Nobis Engineering, Inc., of Concord, New Hampshire, has been the project contractor since 2011. The company was awarded the American Council of Engineering Companies/Vermont Section 2013 Engineering Excellence Award for its work on the project.

In addition to Nobis Engineering, two other contractors worked on the Elizabeth Mine project over the years. Conti Environment & Infrastructure, Inc., of Edison, New Jersey was on site from 2003-2005. Weston Solutions, Inc., a company that has offices in Connecticut and Massachusetts, worked on the project from 2006 to 2010. A majority of the earthwork was performed by a local sub-contractor, Northwoods Excavating.

With HQUSACE support, the Elizabeth Mine Green Dream Team has also been nominated for the President's GreenGov Green Dream Team Award.

Related Links:

Elizabeth Mine Superfund website