Elizabeth Mine Solar Project
Elizabeth Mine Cleanup 2003-2021
Elizabeth Mine. The cleanup of the Elizabeth Mine, initiated in 2003 and was finally completed this year. In November the Selectboard was treated to a tour of the site by the EPA team and see the result of nearly two decades of remediation. The first action was the stabilization of the Tailing Dam, which had deteriorated since the mine closure in 1958 and was at risk of catastrophic failure. The tailing dam stabilization was completed in 2005. From 2006 to 2012, EPA focused on excavating mine waste from other areas of the site and placing that material on the tailing impoundment. About 400,000 cubic yards of material were relocated during this period. EPA then installed a 45-acre cover system to isolate the mine waste (waste rock and tailing) from water and oxygen. The cover system also substantially reduced the water levels in the tailing impoundment which increased the stability of the tailing impoundment and reduced the leachate generation from 54 gallons per minute to below 10 gallons per minute. EPA also covered the lead contaminated soil at the former Copperas Factories in a manner that preserved the historic foundations in this area.
In 2014, because of the EPA cleanup efforts, the State of Vermont delisted several nearby waterbodies from the Clean Water Act’s “Impaired Waters List” based on the return of a healthy benthic and fish community. The cleanup also replaced eight acres of toxic wetlands with 15 acres of healthy wetlands and reduced the iron load to receiving bodies of water from 800 pounds per day to one-tenth of a pound per day.
The Elizabeth Mine tailings impoundment, once capped, was repurposed into a solar field. This 20,000-panel solar field generates an average of 8.7 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year, enough to power 1,333 typical Vermont homes and offsets the generation of 7,136 tons of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas. Interpretive panels documenting the history of the Elizabeth Mine dating from the 1850’s and the cleanup and reuse have been installed through a collaboration between EPA, the Strafford Historical Society, the property owners, and the State Historic Preservation Officer. The final action at the Elizabeth Mine was to stabilize the 1898 Adit to prevent the sudden release of the 700,000 gallons of low pH water with high metals content to minimize the potential for a future sink hole under Mine Road. Aerial photos of the completed project can be found at: https://semspub.epa.gov/src/document/01/100019693.