The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 11, 2013

Oronogo officials hire engineer to help monitor mine cleanup

ORONOGO, Mo. — City officials in Oronogo say they are continuing to monitor remediation work being done on former mining land in and around their community, and they also have hired an engineer to help them look for potential problems.

Millions of cubic yards of chat and mining waste in Jasper County are being dumped back into two open pit mines in the region, including the Oronogo Circle Mine.

That work is being done by Geo Engineers for Blue Tee, a metals company that was identified as one of the parties thought to be responsible for mine waste contamination in the area. The company entered into a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency to clean the site.

An estimated 4 million cubic yards of waste — possibly more — are being dumped into the 12-acre open-pit mine that is up to 300 feet deep in parts. Work to refill the pit began in September 2012. So far, an estimated 1.3 million cubic yards of waste has been put into the pit.

Oronogo Councilman Bob Russell said that council members identified two concerns this spring related to the project.

“One of the issues was when it rained, some people complained about flooding,” Russell said. “Another issue raised by people was a worry that filling in the Circle would create problems with their wells.”

According to Mark Doolan, project manager for the EPA, tests with a smaller water-filled pit at Waco in 2006 showed that filling a pit with mine waste had no significant impact on groundwater quality in the area of the pit or on nearby surface waters.  

Russell said tests on city water by the public works department also have been “good” thus far.

“But we’re continuing to monitor it,” he added.

The city also hired Eric Dove, an engineer with Olsson Associates in Springfield, to review the remediation process and provide an update to the council on potential city flooding. Dove said that as a city engineer, he was only looking at the impact on the community, and not the impact remediation might have on any private property owner.

“From a city engineering perspective, it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem, but you need to stay on top of it,” Dove advised the council when it met Monday. “The remediation plans are very fuzzy; as they dig, if they find more (contamination), they keep going.”

And although he said he doesn’t think there is a problem yet for the city, he said if something changes as the cleanup progresses, then he would get involved.

“But at this point, I think I’m done,” he added.

Future visits

Eric Dove, an engineer with Olsson Associates in Springfield, also recommended to the Oronogo City Council during its meeting Monday that it invite representatives from Geo Engineering to a future meeting to provide their own update on mining cleanup, something that Councilman Bob Russell, Mayor Bob Pearish and several other council members agreed would be in order.

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