The BLM has a plan for realigning a portion of Red Devil Creek this summer to stop mercury, arsenic, and antimony from eroding away into the river.
The work will be done under a provision known as early action. This is being done to quickly address erosion issues, instead of waiting years for the full site cleanup. Mike McCrum is the Red Devil Project Manager.
“What we want to do is make some modifications to Red Devil Creek to prevent tailings from migrating through the creek and into the Kuskokwim River,” said McCrum.
Crews would excavate sediments around the main processing area and regrade another tailings areas. That includes adding a sediment trap to catch any small tailings that begin to go downstream. The project is estimated to cost about 2 million dollars.
BLM staff will be in the YK Delta this week to present the plan and meet with residents. The first meeting is in Akiak and a meeting in Bethel is set for Wednesday at 6:00 at the cultural center. They will be upriver in the first week in March. McCrum says they are looking for comments and feedback.
“What were looking for is not just we like it or we don’t like it, but sometimes people know things about the site or the area that we don’t know or we haven’t considered,” said McCrum.
McCrum adds that the BLM does have long terms plans in the works.
“It’s not the final action it’s not the we’re doing this ahead of schedule because we think this is something that warrants early action, a sort of preemptive action if you will,” said McCrum.
The Red Devil mercury mine operated from 1933 to 1971. By the ’80s it was considered abandoned and the government began the long process of cleaning up. Studies have found buildup of metals in fish nearby. The State has issued a warning to residents not to collect subsistence foods nearby. They also warned for pregnant women and young children to avoid large-sized pike and lush, those are predators that can accumulate mercury over many years.
The study on the remediation work is available here.