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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England
  Serving Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont & 9 Tribal Nations
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 Site Type: Long Term/National Priorities List (NPL) Click to see more about Site Type and how it is used?


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 Vershire,  Vermont
 Orange County
 Street Address: TOWN HIGHWAY 38
 Zip Code: 05079

 EPA ID #: VTD988366571
 Site ID #: 0102065
 Site Aliases:

 Site Responsibility:

 Proposed Date 06/14/2001
 Final Date 09/13/2001

Site Description
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The Ely Copper Mine is an abandoned copper mine located in a rural setting off Beanville Road in Vershire, Orange County, Vermont. The property encompasses approximately 1,800 acres, about 275-350 acres of which were used for copper mining activities from 1821 to 1920. Since 1920, the mining operation has been inactive, except for the removal of "dump-ore" from the property to South Strafford between 1949 and 1950. Currently, the property is owned by Ely Mine Forest Inc. and Green Crow Corporation. Portions of the property are managed for commercial timberland.

The mining operation extends from Ely Brook and continues up a steep slope towards a ridge. Piles of waste rock, smelter waste, and tailings that were generated from mining processes are located on the property. The smelter waste pile is located along the southern section of the property and covers approximately 4.3 acres. This pile consists of slag that exhibits a metallic luster. The tailings pile is located at the central section of the property and covers approximately 10.8 acres. This pile is comprised of a fine-grained material, reddish-brown in color at the surface. Seeps were noted along the western section of the tailings pile. Two intermittent mine drainage streams drain the property. Mine drainage stream "A" flows adjacent to the west side of the tailings pile. Mine drainage stream "B" flows over the tailings pile. The mine drainage stream beds are stained orange-reddish brown due to surface water runoff from the tailings pile on the property.

Remnants of stone works from past mining operations are located throughout the property. There is minimal vegetation in the areas of the waste rock pile, tailings pile, and the smelter waste pile on the property. Woodlands surround the mine property. Downed trees and areas dammed by beaver activities were evident in the Beaver Pond section of the property. The Ely Copper Mine has no restrictive barriers to pedestrian access. During a November 1999 field event, a gate that previously restricted vehicular entry to the access road was observed to be unlocked, damaged, and in an open position. In addition, several people were noted using the property for various types of recreation (hunting, hiking, recreational vehicle use). A gun club has permission to access the property for hunting.

Past mining operations at the site included cobbing, roasting, and smelting the ore. The ore mined at the site averaged 3.3 percent copper. The ore was fragmented or cobbed to a product containing approximately 7 percent copper. Ultimately the ore was smelted to produce a copper matte, a molten mixture of copper/iron sulfide material. In 1918, a flotation mill was built to extract additional copper from existing waste piles on the property. In 10 months, the extraction operation generated 19,000 tons of waste material averaging 1.34 percent copper. According to the volume calculation by the Bureau of Mines, copper mining production generated approximately 100,000 tons of tailings and slag on the property.

Threats and Contaminants
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The Ely Copper Mine has been investigated by State and Federal agencies, and private companies. As part of the various studies, a number of samples of the mine tailings, slag, surface water, soil, sediment, and ground water have been collected and analyzed for metals. Analytical results indicate elevated metal concentrations relative to background concentrations. Additionally, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) collected water samples and inventoried fish species in Ely Brook in 1988. Blacknose dace were present downstream of the confluence with the mine drainage stream and Ely Brook and blacknose and longnose dace, slimy sculpin, brook trout, and rainbow trout were found upstream of the confluence with the mine drainage stream and Ely Brook. VT DEC concluded in 1991 that copper constituents have impacted the macroinvertebrate community of Ely Brook, downstream of the confluence with the mine drainage stream. Furthermore, another macroinvertebrate survey on Ely Brook was conducted by the Bureau of Mines in 1995 to determine the impact of the discharge from the Ely Copper Mine. It was concluded that the mine drainage from Ely Copper Mine has "slightly" impacted the water quality of Ely Brook as noted by physical and biological factors. The tailings on the property are rich in metals and sulfides. As water passes over and through the tailings, sulfuric acid is produced and the metals within the tailings are dissolved and mobilized. This results in acid mine drainage.

Cleanup Approach
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In September 2011, EPA selected a cleanup response for Operable Unit 1 at the Ely Copper Mine. This first phase of the cleanup will target the major threats to human health and the environment. The waste rock piles will be consolidated in a containment cell and a cover system will be installed over the waste. The contaminated sediments in Ely Brook and two small ponds will be removed and these areas will be restored. The investigation program for the underground tunnels and the former smelter/slag area will continue as part of Operable Unit 2.

Response Action Status
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Prior Actions by Bureau of Mines The Bureau of Mines conducted an experimental biological treatment system of the mine drainage at Ely Copper Mine in 1995. A portion of the drainage stream was passively treated with manure, compost, wood chips, and limestone, which served as a bacterial sulfate reduction system to precipitate metals. This treatment system consisted of five 32-gallon barrels in series that intercepted flow in the mine drainage stream. In addition, water samples from the system and two mine drainage streams were collected monthly. In 1995, the treatment system continued to remove metals and sulfate, add alkalinity, and increase the pH of the mine drainage. However, water quality data was inconsistent because of the lack of regular monitoring and maintenance of the system.

EPA investigation EPA began collecting data to better characterize the site in 2002 and 2003. An initial surface water run-off characterization, historic resource assessment, and waste characterization have been completed. A work plan to identify the remaining activities was completed in 2004. EPA completed a series of investigation programs at the Ely Mine site from 2004-2007. These programs included installation of monitoring wells and sampling of groundwater, surface water, sediments, and fish. Benthic community and fish community evaluations were also completed. EPA has completed the investigation program relating to the waste piles. Further investigation activities will take place for the underground workings of the Ely Mine. EPA completed the investigation program for Operable Unit 1 in 2011. The investigation program for Operable Unit 2 will continue through 2015 .

Environmental Progress
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EPA has initiated the remedial investigation and feasibility study for the Site. The investigation program for the waste piles was completed in 2010. EPA completed the investigation program for Operable Unit 1 in 2011. A public comment period for the Operable Unit 1 cleanup was held in July/August 2011. EPA signed a Record of Decision selecting the cleanup approach for Operable Unit 1 in September 2011. EPA also initiated an Early Cleanup Action in September 2011 to allow for land use restrictions to prevent residential development of contaminated areas and to prevent consumption of contaminated groundwater.

Current Site Status
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The site is currently proposed to National Priorities List. EPA is performing the design for the Operable Unit 1 cleanup action. The design is expected to be completed in 2016. EPA also continues the investigation program for Operable Unit 2. EPA is planning to release a cleanup plan for the contaminated groundwater in the underground working in 2015. Investigations and studies regarding the former smelter area and site-wide groundwater will continue through 2016.

Site Photos
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Links to Other Site Information
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Disclaimer Instructions about PDF

Newsletters & Press Releases:
Press Releases about this project  
Community Update # 1, May 2002 - EPA to Begin Investigation at Ely Mine Site (24KB)  
Community Update # 2, August 2006 – EPA Investigation Program Continues at the Site (730 KB)   
Community Update, December 2010 (601 KB)  
Community Update, May 2011 (1.45 MB)  
Public Information Meeting Presentation, July 27, 2011 (8.99 MB)  

Federal Register Notices:
Proposed NPL Listing  
Final NPL Listing  

Administrative Records:
Record of Decision (ROD) OU1 Administrative Record (AR) Index, September 28, 2011 (394 KB)  
Administrative Record (AR) Index for Record of Decision (ROD) Proposed Plan for OU 2 and OU 3, September 4, 2005, (623 KB)  
Administrative Record Collectionsl  

Reports and Studies:
Geochemical Characterization of Slags, Other Mine Waste, and their Leachate from the Elizabeth and Ely Copper Mines, the Ducktown Mining District, and the Clayton Smelter Site, January 2003 (5.48 MB)  
Geochemical Characterization of Mine Waste, January 2004 (2.24 MB)  
Sequential Extraction Results and Mineralogy of Mine Waste and Stream Sediments Associated with Metal Mines in Vermont, Maine, and New Zealand, January 2007 (2.07 MB)  
Conceptual Site Model - Technical Memorandum for Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS), July 2009 (32.6 MB)  
Aquatic Assessment of the Ely Copper Mine, January 2010 (3.77 MB)  
Aquatic Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA), June 2010 (15.9 MB)  
Remedial Investigation (RI) Report Executive Summary, July 2011 (9.50 MB)  
Final Remedial Investigation (RI) Report - Operable Unit 1, July 2011 (38.7 MB)  
Feasibility Study (FS) Executive Summary, July 2011 (5.96 MB)  
Feasibility Study (FS) - Operable Unit 1, July 2011 (21.6 MB)  
Remedial Investigation (RI ) Report, July 1, 2015, (88.2 MB)  
Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA), July 1, 2015, (1.87 MB)  
Technical Memorandum Regarding Milestone Heritage Consulting, July 4, 2015, (1.99 MB)  
Feasibility Study (FS) Report, August 1, 2015, (27.6 MB)  

Decision Documents:
View Records of Decision (RODS) on-line (EPA HQ)  
Record of Decision OU 1, September 28, 2011(30.0 MB)  
Early Action Response Memo for OU 2, September 28, 2011 (787 KB)  
Proposed Plan for Operable Units (OU) 2 and 3 - Underground Workings Groundwater Cleanup, August 19, 2015, (18.5 MB)   

Other Links:
NPL Site Narrative at Listing:  
Site Progress Profile  
Document Collections  

Site Repositories
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OSRR Records and Information Center, 1st Floor, 5 Post Office Square, Suite 100 (HSC), Boston, MA 02109-3912 (617) 918-1440

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EPA Remedial Project Manager: Ed Hathaway
Address: US Environmental Protection Agency
5 Post Office Sq., Suite 100
Mail Code: OSRR07-1
Boston, MA 02109 - 3912
Phone #: 617-918-1372
E-Mail Address: hathaway.ed@epa.gov

EPA Community Involvement Coordinator: Pam Harting-Barrat
Address: US Environmental Protection Agency
5 Post Office Sq., Suite 100
Mail Code: ORA20-1
Boston, MA 02109 - 3912
Phone #: 617-918-1318
E-Mail Address: harting-barrat.pamela@epa.gov

State Agency Contact: Linda Elliott
Address: VT Dept. Environmental Conservation
One National Life Drive
Davis One
Montpelier, VT 05602-3704
Phone #: 802-249-5479
E-Mail Address:


Serving Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, & 10 Tribal Nations
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Last updated on Wednesday, November 4th, 2015
URL: http://www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/sites/ely