Newspaper Archive of
Hells Canyon Journal
Halfway, Oregon
August 8, 1990     Hells Canyon Journal
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August 8, 1990

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25 Per Copy 9 Lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury found in soils near proposed trailhead site by David Light of the'Hells Canyon Journal Recent Forest Service test- ing indicates there may be high levels of certain heavy metals in the old mine tail- ings near Cornucopia, north of Halfway. According to a Wallowa- Whitman National Forest news release, several samples were tested from an area east "We haven't had a chance to evaluate the test results yet, but it's no surprise that old mine tailings will have higher concentrations of some heavy metals," Young told the Hells Canyon Journal. "We need to know what the back- ground levels are before we jump to any conclusions." The test samples, which were analyzed by Umpqua Re- search Company, Myrtle .................... Oregon, ahowed high ence with the East Fork of Pine Creek. Owners of the land include United Nuclear Corporation, Maude and Dean Jones, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. "We are working closely with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to determine if any- thing needs to be done with the dump materials," said Bob Richmond, Wallowa- Whitman National Forest Supervisor. Carolyn Young, Public Affairs Officer at the Port. land office of DEQ, said that health risks resulting from possible contamination of drinking water, ground wa- ter and airborne dust par- ticles would be that agency's first concern. levels of lead, arsenic, cad- mium and mercury. Both Frank Erickson, In- formation Officer for Wallow- Whitman, and Young empha- sized that the test was pre- liminary and should cause no alarm for the public. According to Pine District's Recreation Forester, Polly Gribekov, the testing was prompted by local concerns raised in response to the dis- trict's Cornucopia trailhead proposal. Currently, the top of one of the dump piles is used as a vehicle parking area by hikers and horse packers heading into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Another pile is used as a play area by off- road vehicles. The Forest Service reports that, over the years, some materials have been hauled from the piles to nearby communities and used around homes and in con- struction projects. '.This will probably put our trailhead proposal on hold," Gribskov said. "It's a sign of current levels of public aware- ness that requests for infor- mation about possible heavy metal contamination would lead us to conduct testing." The major affected land- owner is United Nuclear Corp., which acquired the property in 1982 from Forest Industries Insurance Manage- ment. The Baker Stamp Mill, which produced .the piles, stopped operating in the 1930's and have been in place since then. Larry Bush, Senior Mine Geologist for UNC, said that the company had not tested the tailings before, or since, acquiring the property. When asked by the Journal about the results of the Forest Serv. ice tests, Bush declined to comment, '`we don't know what form these compounds were in or what sampling techniques were used. Until we know more, we can't comment," he said. According to Young, DEQ and its federal counterpart, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-- which has also been notified -- will need to evaluate the risks of expo- sure to the public before con- ducting further tests. This process is expected to take a week, Young stated. County Court Applies for Involvement As appeals fly on WWNF Forest Plan Baker County Court has applied for intervenor status on appeals of the Wallowa- Whitman Forest Plan. '`we want to make sure we can take part in the process," County Judge Ralph Ward explained. "in another plan there were challenges to a County Court giving input." "We understand several appeals have been fried on the Forest Plan and we wish our intervention request to include these appeals," the Court said in a letter toFor- est Service Chief F. Dale Robertson. "Any interruptions or de- lays in sale offerings could have serious impacts on the economy, employment levels and business stability of the mills in the local communi- ties," the Court asserted in the letter. WaUowa County Court has filed an appeal on the plan itself. They requested a letter of support from the Baker Court who will discuss the matter in their August 15 meeting. As of Monday, August 7, 11 different groups had ap- pealed the Forest Plan. Nelson Lauds Leadership, Readiness "You have very marketable products for tourism here," State Legislative Represen- tative Mike Nelson asserted at a Hells Canyon Chamber of Commerce sponsored meet- ing in Halfway, August 2. "The two most important items for rural economic sta- bility identified by a two-year governmental task force are readiness and leadership," Nelson continued. 'Tou have had readiness for a long time, and the turn out in this room shows you have leaders." Nelson urged citizens inter- ested in developing tourism to think in simple terms. 'TIake your projects achiev- able," he advised. "I'm all for an interpretive center out here to explain the history and guide visitors to attractions. "Tourist families spend an average of $144 per day.Any way you can encourage them to extend their stay in this area brings in those dollars." He commended Ralph Smead for pursuing an es- cape ramp on the Richland grade and encouraged citi. zens to persist in their efforts to obtain more informative signs for the area. "i sit on the Transporta- tion Committee," Nelson reminded the audience. "The State Highway Division moves slowly, and you have moved them in a positive direction." "Legislators from the West side are amazed at the dis- tances when they visit here.., they realize the need for better roads." ARer his prepared remarks, Nelson fielded questions on a variety of concerns, ' any maps and brochures Continued on page 9 .........