Posted: Aug 17, 2012 4:07 PM by Jen Hollenbach - MTN
Updated: Aug 17, 2012 4:09 PM
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has started a $700,000 reclamation project to remove toxic metal mine sludge from creeks in and around Sand Coulee.
Crews are cleaning out sludge from the old Great Falls Coal Field that's infiltrated Sand Coulee and Cottonwood Creeks, and they're starting from the top at Kate's Coulee.
Hayden Jaansen, with the DEQ, said, "We want to work downstream so we're not disturbing things upstream, and causing more disturbance downstream after the water flows through it. So we do want to start at the top of drainages and work down so any material we do loosen we can pick up later on down the line."
Starting at the top is the toughest job, since that's where the sludge is completely saturated with water.
Jaansen noted, "The landfill has set specifications as far as water saturation in material. They don't want too heavy water material coming in to the landfill."
And that means a few extra steps for crews.
Riley Malone, of Trapper Creek Construction, explained, "These materials are initially stockpiled so the water can weep out. Once it's reached a state where we can haul it to the landfill, then it's exported."
In just two days, four loads have been dried and transported, but there are many more to go before all 19,000 tons of sludge are removed.
Officials aren't completely cleaning creeks, but are focusing on culverts and bridge underpasses to improve waterflow and reduce the flooding potential.