Why do a couple of areas of the streams on the site contain an orange color in the water?
The rusty color noted in areas where iron is abundant in rock is the result of a naturally occurring reaction when water containing certain forms of iron comes in contact with the atmosphere. There is also a particular bacterium that is common at iron seeps like this which can cause an orange-colored layer on top of the water.
Despite its appearance, it is not harmful. At most, it is a nuisance in terms of staining.
Iron seeps like this can be seen in lots of places in the area that are not affected by mining.
Some unsightly photos have circulated that make some of the water on the site “appear” contaminated. Do these photos portray an accurate depiction of the water quality?
No. The photos are misleading. The water is safe.
Some photographs of water containing the naturally occurring iron oxide have circulated on the Internet and in some media outlets. These photos have been used to mislead the public. While there are a couple of localized areas that contain the naturally occurring iron, the water is not harmful.
I have seen photos of sprawling, industrial facilities purporting to be pictures of the Umetco site. Are these accurate?
No. These photos are not of the Umetco site. They are of facilities of a nearby mill, owned by another company, not involved in the pending rulemaking.
The Umetco property contains 500 acres of rolling hills, timber forests, streams, and grassy fields, all with abundant terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. The only significant buildings on the property are a small office and a neutralization area used to treat water.
Is Umetco trying to change water quality standards to allow more chloride, sulfate and total dissolved solids to flow into the streams on the former mining site?
Ecoregion mineral standards are a “one size fits all” approach to default standards and are based on the least disturbed streams in each region. The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission frequently allows changes from the default standards to standards that are the most appropriate to specific sites.
Umetco has been working in conjunction with the ADEQ on its reclamation efforts for several decades, with the understanding that some level of mineral concentrations in Wilson Creek and Indian Spring Creek would need to be addressed through standards changes at the end of the reclamation process. As such, Umetco is working with ADEQ to set site-specific standards to replace the “default standards” for only the listed minerals that meet ADEQ guidelines.
Specifically, Umetco conducted a Use Attainability Analysis (UAA) that evaluates the discharge of sulfates, chlorides and total dissolved solids in relationship to the existing ecosystem. ADEQ concluded the proposed site-specific mineral standards do not negatively affect water quality in Wilson Creek and is protective of current water-quality in Wilson Creek, Lake Catherina and the Ouachita River.
What does the future hold for the former mining site?
The Umetco reclamation efforts have resulted in restoring the natural beauty of the previous mining area and providing clean water quality conditions in the streams on the site. Reclamation efforts are ongoing and will continue and the company is committed to continuing to manage the site in a manner that is best for the environment and the needs of the community. Undoubtedly, conditions will continue to improve as the reclamation process continues. Umetco is committed for the long-term.
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