Wednesday, 01 February 2023

BLM hosts Wednesday meeting on mercury mine cleanup

MIDDLETOWN – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will host a meeting in Middletown Wednesday evening to discuss the cleanup of a local mercury mine.


BLM will host the meeting on the proposed cleanup plans for the Oat Hill Extension Mercury Mine near the Napa-Lake county line.


The public meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Jesus Christ Fellowship Building, 21443 Pine St.


The Oat Hill Extension Mercury Mine, in the James Creek Watershed between Middletown and Calistoga, produced mercury from the 1870s until 1944, according to BLM.


According to a BLM report on the mine, the land to be cleaned consists of 25 acres of public lands administered by BLM. The site contains a mercury mine processing mill, a historic miner's cabin and approximately 500,000 tons of mercury mine wastes.


Because the tailings at the mine site have high levels of mercury, which can be dangerous to human, BLM reported that it closed the area to protect the public exposure to mercury and dangers, including mine shafts and unstable buildings.


David Lawler, abandoned mine lands coordinator in the California state BLM's Division of Energy and Minerals, said the mercury tailings at the site are eroding into James Creek.


James Creek, in turn, flows into Pope Creek and then into Putah Creek. From there, the water moves to Lake Berryessa and, ultimately, the Bay-Delta. He said BLM is trying to prevent the mercury from reaching those major state water sources downstream.


Lawler said the Oat Hill Extension Mine itself was a relatively small mine, producing about 1,000 flasks of mercury – or 76,000 pounds – during its operation.


Gary Sharpe, assistant field manager for the BLM’s Ukiah Field Office, said the Oat Hill Extension property is the site of the original mercury strike. The larger Oak Hill mine developed around it.


The main Oak Hill Mine, said Lawler, was the fifth largest mine in terms of production in California, and one of the largest in North American, producing 165,000 flasks of mercury.


The land BLM is proposing to clean up is surrounded by privately owned land, where the owners are doing some cleanup, said Lawler.


Another old mercury mine, the Corona mine, also is located nearby, Lawler said.


At Wednesday's meeting, Sharpe said BLM officials will explain the mercury contamination issues at the mine, describe removal alternatives, discuss engineering evaluations and present cost analysis information.


The BLM is seeking the community's input to help determine the best ways to contain and stabilize hazardous substances at the historic mine, Sharpe said. That input, along with the agency's technical expertise, with be used in the decision-making process.


Other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geologic Survey, the Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board will be involved in the decision making related to the cleanup effort, said Sharpe.


BLM has been evaluating the mine cleanup for about two years, said Sharpe, with a characterization and engineering report starting about a year ago.


A firm estimate on how much the cleanup will cost wasn't available, but Sharpe said some other mercury mine cleanups have ranged between $500,000 and $5 million.


Just how the cleanup will be conducted will be made at the state level, said Sharpe. “The decision ultimately will be made by BLM.”


That decision, he added, should be made within the next six months to a year.


“Mercury is a concern for a lot of people and a very difficult thing to control,” Sharpe said.


For the final engineering evaluation and cost analysis on the Oat Hill Extension mine, visit www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ukiah/Oat_Hill_EECA.html.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

Upcoming Calendar

1Feb
02.01.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
East Region Town Hall
1Feb
02.01.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clear Lake hitch listening session
2Feb
02.02.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
2Feb
02.02.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
8Feb
02.08.2023 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
100+ Women Strong in Lake County
9Feb
02.09.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
11Feb
11Feb
02.11.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild

Mini Calendar

loader

LCNews

Responsible local journalism on the shores of Clear Lake.

 

Memberships:

 

Newsletter

Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.
Cookies!

lakeconews.com uses cookies for statistical information and to improve the site.