July 23, 2014 - 07:54
North Potato Creek treatment moves to next phase
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The North Potato Creek Treatment Plant treats water contaminated with elevated concentrations of metals and acid. It began operation in 2005.

Contaminants in the North Potato Creek watershed have been reclaimed to the extent that the creek no longer requires treatment. Its water can flow directly to the Ocoee River without affecting river water quality or aquatic life, according to an information fact sheet from Loften Carr, Remedial Project Manager with the US Environmental Protection Agency. As part of the North Potato Creek Water Treatment Plant modification, the creek will be routed around the South Mine Pit to the Ocoee River.

Construction by Glenn Springs Holdings for the discharge pipeline to the river is expected to continue this month and will be visible to those driving along the highway or living nearby. The pipeline will enter the Ocoee slightly downstream of the Grassy Creek Road Bridge. Rip rap boulders will hold the pipe in place and protect it from currents in the river.

Treated water discharged into the Ocoee must meet the required effluent limits determined by TDEC to be protective of the Ocoee River.

The Copper Basin site is being addressed through the cooperative efforts of the EPA, TDEC, and OXY USA through their affiliate Glenn Springs Holdings. The North Potato Creek watershed has been undergoing remediation and reclamation pursuant to a 2001 Settlement Agreement. The Information Fact Sheet was distributed by Carr to describe the changes being made to the treatment plant.

The North Potato Creek Treatment Plant treats water contaminated with elevated concentrations of metals and acid. It began operation in 2005. The plant utilizes temporary in-stream treatment that uses the South Mine Pit as a settling basin. Treated water from South Mine Pit discharges to the North Potato Creek channel. The creek then discharges to the Ocoee River 2100 feet downstream.

Current sources of contamination include water from North Potato Creek, mine water in the lower depths of South Mine Pit, and other sources that are pumped directly to the plant or conveyed through underground mine tunnels. The waters are mixed with lime and air, forming wastewater treatment sludge composed of metal precipitates, which settle approximately 190 feet to the bottom of South Mine Pit. Clean, treated water at the surface of the mine pit flows to the Ocoee through the former North Potato Creek channel.

Other modifications to the treatment plant will allow the continued treatment of contaminated water from a variety of collection systems constructed as part of the remediation and reclamation actions in the watershed. Because South Mine Pit will no longer be used as a settling basin for the wastewater treatment sludge, the water level in South Mine Pit will be permanently drawn down to prevent overflow of mine water that accumulates within it. Mine water in the pit will continue to be treated.

Modifications to the treatment plant include construction of two new aeration tanks and two new clarifiers to settle and collect wastewater treatment sludge. Wastewater treatment sludge will be pumped into the deep working of the Cherokee Mine. Many aspects of the plant will function as they have since 2005. The modifications will continue to protect human health and the environment by preventing discharges of contaminants to the Ocoee River.

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