Mine drainage to increase water in Alpine County’s Leviathan Creek | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Mine drainage to increase water in Alpine County’s Leviathan Creek

People hiking or fishing around Leviathan Creek or Bryant Creek in Alpine County in the next few months may notice a lot more water in the creek than usual.

That’s because the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is completing emergency treatment of the acid mine drainage collecting in ponds at the Leviathan Mine Superfund Site, and has begun releasing the treated water into Leviathan Creek. The ponds filled up with acid mine drainage because of high levels of snow and rain this past year.

Richard Booth, project manager for the Leviathan Mine Project, said the water is clean and, though there may be a noticeable change in taste, there is no health hazard posed by the release.

“The water would normally have flowed all out in the early spring, since we did the emergency treatment in the spring, it will now flow out in July and into August,” he said.

Leviathan Mine, an abandoned sulfur mine five miles east of Markleeville and six miles west of Topaz Lake, has been idle since the early 1960s. California authorities acquired the mine in 1984 to clean up water quality problems. The Lahontan Water Board completed a pollution abatement project at the mine in 1985, and since 1999 has continued to treat acidic waters discharged from the mine site. The federal Environmental Protection Agency regulates the remedial operations at this Superfund Site.

Booth said the problems occur because when water flows through the site it filtrates into the ground, and becomes acidic because the mining activity has exposed the rock to the air and water. The board then treats the water by using lime.

The lime causes the metals in the acid water to form a solid at the bottom, and the water is released into the creek.

Booth said the acid mine drainage has been treated at the site each year since 1999, typically in the summertime. He estimated that the site will be free of acid mine drainage in at least 150 years.

There are about 14 million gallons of acid water in the mine’s ponds, Booth said, and about 12 million gallons will be discharged at a rate of about 180 gallons per minute.

Another two million gallons are expected to evaporate.

The treatment will last for at least 60 days, seven days a week, Booth said.

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