Ely Copper Mine

| April 2, 2014

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Throughout the course, you will be investigating various aspects of the ecosystem and human health toxicology at the Ely Copper Mine Superfund site in east-central Vermont. For EPA in the “real world”, this type of evaluation is typically divided between two related assessments: a Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment or BERA and a Human Health Risk Assessment or HHRA. Typically, the assessment of a Superfund site begins with a Remedial Investigation or RI that documents the nature and extent of contamination. This is the study that provides the types of data that we have been using. The RI feeds into the BERA and HHRA. All three of these activities lead to the Record of Decision or ROD that outlines the remediation plan for the site.
As the name implies, the BERA focuses on the non-human parts of the ecosystem contaminated site. It will include both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. For your exercise, we only focused on the aquatic ecosystem, specifically looking at surface-water quality and sediment quality. We also only focused on copper as a contaminant. In a full blown BERA, all inorganic and organic contaminants are considered. However, depending upon the nature of the site, many types of contaminants may not be an issue.
The HHRA focuses on human health risks. We looked at human health risks in the context of drinking water and soil guidelines. Municipalities get their drinking water from either surface water or groundwater sources. Soil can pose a threat either through the ingestion of particulates or the inhalation of dusts. As we saw, in a residential setting, children play outside and people have gardens so the contact with the soil can be a lot. Therefore, residential soil guidelines are much stricter than those for industrial or commercial land usages. In any case because copper is an essential micronutrient for humans, we will have learned by the end of the course that copper is much more toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates than it is to humans.
The Assignment: Your assignment is to write a “hybrid” report that includes aspects of a BERA, HHRA, and ROD. Your task is to summarize all that you have done at the Ely Mine site and make recommendations about how to remediate the site. Your report should not exceed 10 pages – double spaced (not counting a title page, references, figures, or tables). Use either 11 or 12 point font.
The outline that you should follow is:
Title Page
Executive Summary: Not to exceed 1 page. This part is meant to be a self-contained summary of the high points of your investigation.
Introduction: This section explains why this study is being done.
Site Description – This section gives the reader a summary of the lay of the land and how everything fits together. You need to describe relevant parts of the geography and history of the site as it pertains to your investigation.
Methods and Approach: This section describes what you did. Here you should discuss the types of data that you used (i.e., surface water chemistry, etc.) and any special means of interpreting those data (i.e., Biotic Ligand Model, etc.).
Results: This section describes your analytical results. You do not have to summarize all of the data in tables (you can simply cite that spreadsheets that I have provided), but it is useful to summarize ranges of values for various media and various parts of the study area.
Interpretation: This section is where to tell the reader what everything means. In this section, you should use that tables provided below to summarize your findings. You are basically trying to describe the nature and extent of contamination.
A few questions that you should be thinking about follow – Which bioreceptors (humans are aquatic organisms) are threatened? How are they threatened? For both humans and aquatic organisms, you have two different pathways to assess. For humans, it is soil (mine waste) and drinking water. For aquatic organisms, you have surface water and sediment. Where are they threatened? How consistent are the indicators? Do they all tell you the same thing or do some suggest varying degrees of impairment?
Recommendations: Use the references provided by Gusek and Waples (2009), Johnson and Hallberg (2002), and Walton-Day (2003) about passive treatment (or other sources that you can find on your own) to make recommendation about how to clean up this site. Links to these articles are found in the Lessons. Use your new found knowledge about the toxicity of metals to guide your choices. For examples, is raising or lowering water hardness or dissolved organic carbon a good thing or bad thing? How can you accomplish that with the choices described?
Use as many sources as needed to complete the project.
Ive attached some helpful information, let me know if you have any questions.
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