Chattanooga Engineers Club
Joint program with Million Women Mentors Tennessee
Monday, August 8, 2022
Copper Basin Watershed Restoration and Redevelopment
Carrie L. Stokes, PE, PMP, Senior Vice President at Barge Design Solutions
Once a land so ravaged and eroded by mining operations that it was visible from space, the Copper Basin in southeast Tennessee is now a lush landscape with improved water quality, thanks to the efforts of Glenn Springs Holdings, Inc. (GSH) and Barge Design Solutions, Inc. (Barge).
The Copper Basin is the site of a massive sulfide deposit with concentrated metals including copper, iron, and zinc forming sulfur compounds. Mining began in the 1850s, and as a consequence of the logging and mining methods, virtually all the vegetation of the Copper Basin was eradicated by the 1890s. Mining, mineral beneficiation, and acid production continued in the Copper Basin until 1987 when mining operations in the basin came to an end.
In 2001, under the direction of EPA Region IV, the Copper Basin Site was created as a Superfund Alternative Site with GSH entering into orders with the EPA and TDEC for reclamation of the site. As GSH's prime consultant, Barge became actively involved in the reclamation process. The site includes the North Potato Creek Watershed, the Davis Mill Creek Watershed, and portions of the Ocoee River Watershed. Due to the size and complexity of the environmental issues, the site is considered an EPA Mining Megasite and is the largest reclamation site in the eastern United States. Barge has dedicated professionals over the past 20 years on numerous strategies to restore the Copper Basin.
An adaptive management approach allowed the project to quickly transition to remedial actions with limited assessment. The project relied on the use of surface water, stormwater, and biologic monitoring to measure the success of the remedial actions and to identify areas requiring additional cleanup actions and/or habitat improvement. Some of the many restoration tasks have included:
Construction of clean-water diversions through open channels and piping around mining-impacted areas
Remedial actions in the North Potato Creek to remove human health risks and to re-establish natural, healthy communities of aquatic insects to streams
Reconstruction of Burra Burra Creek to enhance the recovery of the aquatic habitats
Installation of two engineered wetlands for treatment of acid mine waters
Design of collection systems for water impacted by acid-mine drainage and pumping and treatment systems to transfer impacted water to active treatment systems for treatment
Waste removals, and installation of multi-layered caps and covers of impacted areas.
The Copper Basin Project has been a monumental success story based on the efforts of GSH, Barge, TDEC, and the EPA, all working together on common goals. In North Potato Creek and in the Ocoee River, the project has been successful in transforming damaged watersheds and river reaches into recovering streams and rivers. The Ocoee River, once orange and nearly devoid of fish and aquatic species, is now green with a variety of fish communities, and a popular spot for white water rafting and fishing. The current water quality and aquatic diversity in these streams has not previously been seen in over 100 years. Quality of life has greatly improved for area residents and the visitors from around the world who come to enjoy the recreational opportunities of the beautiful Ocoee River.
This is an online event. Access information will be provided upon registration.
This event will qualify for 1 PDH.
Requested PDH's are included with active memberships; $10 for non-members, which can be applied to a membership.