United Verde Soil Program work could start in March

Clarkdale townspeople turn out to learn about the United Verde Soil Program at the Clark Memorial Clubhouse on Wednesday. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

Clarkdale townspeople turn out to learn about the United Verde Soil Program at the Clark Memorial Clubhouse on Wednesday. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

CLARKDALE - Townspeople in Clarkdale could see contaminated soil removed from their yards and public property as soon as March in the United Verde Soil Program, now that the Department of Environmental Quality has approved a plan and location to take the contaminated soil.

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Project manager for Freeport Minerals Alicia Voss speaks to the Clarkdale townspeople who turned out to learn about the United Verde Soil Program at the Clark Memorial Clubhouse on Wednesday. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

Dozens of Clarkdale residents filed into the historic Clark Memorial Clubhouse Auditorium Wednesday afternoon during a town-hall-style open house to learn more about the program.

Experts stood at tables with cardboard posters explaining different aspects of the huge undertaking that is about to become a reality in Clarkdale.

More than 500 property owners have now signed up for soil remediation, according to project manager for Freeport Minerals, Alicia Voss. A total of 850 property owners have agreed to sampling, out of the 1,140 eligible properties in the current study area in the town.

Speaking with a microphone, Voss stood in the middle of the wooden floor of the large open auditorium and addressed the townspeople predicting: “This work should begin in March of this year and will go on for over three years.”

One of the townspeople spoke up and asked Voss where the soil removal would begin.

“We plan to start in upper and lower Clarkdale,” Voss explained. There would be multiple crews. “Five hundred is a big number.”

One obstacle to the project was the ADEQ’s review of soil repository proposed to be built near the Lower TAPCO River Access Point just off Sycamore Canyon Road near the Verde River. The project could not begin until Freeport had somewhere to put the contaminated soil.

However, the remedial action work plan, which includes the soil repository near Sycamore Canyon Road, was approved by the ADEQ on Thursday, according to an email from ADEQ spokesman Erin Jordan. Wednesday, Voss said she talked with ADEQ and said the approval letter will go out soon.

Freeport has already received land-use approval for the repository site from Yavapai County, and next will be a grading-permit application to explain how they will develop the property on Sycamore Canyon Road, she said. “One more permit from Yavapai County,” Voss pointed out.

Over the past two years, Clarkdale soil samples have been sent to an independent laboratory and tested to determine the concentrations of arsenic, copper, lead, tin, zinc, and boron in the soil.

If concentrations of one or more of the metals exceeded soil target cleanup levels, Freeport Minerals Corp. will remove and replace the impacted soil and restore the landscaping to similar condition. The program is free and voluntary.

If a property owner, who falls within the boundary, agrees to have their soil remediated, they will have their soil removed and replaced with new soil. It can be up to two feet of soil but they do increments of six inches depending on the testing, according to Gayle Mabery, Clarkdale Town Manager.

“The soil we take out, we take over to Sycamore Canyon Road and we will build a repository,” she explained. They will “contain it all” and “cover it all.”

“We take the soil of there, we test it again, if it doesn’t pass the test, we treat it to stabilize it,” Voss continued. They will render the soil “inert” with a chemical additive that binds with the soil, she added,

“The final volume of soil (to be placed at the Sycamore Canyon Road site) is dependent on soil testing results and participation of the residents. The final repository design is anticipated to be approximately 10 to 12 feet in height. Once the soil placement is completed, the site will be revegetated to conform to the surrounding landscape,” Freeport stated in an earlier email.

“We have a program of about 500 (property owners) already. So that’s a good number we’re telling people tonight. That’s really great participation,” she added.

History behind the soil

The Clarkdale copper smelter was operated by the United Verde Copper Company from 1915 to 1932 and by Phelps Dodge Corporation from 1935 to 1953.

As the corporate successor to Phelps Dodge Corporation, Freeport Minerals entered into the Arizona Department of Environmental Equality (ADEQ) Voluntary Remediation Program to investigate potential impacts to soil from historical smelter operations. The soil testing has the oversight of both the ADEQ and the Yavapai-Apache Nation Environmental Protection Agency.

Letters about the program have been sent to property owners in the expanded area. If a property owner gives permission for soil testing to be done, and the results come back positive, they can agree to have the contaminated soil removed.

The Clarkdale-Jerome School property won’t have to remediated, because the property was scraped off when built in the 1980s.

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