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Officials: Tailings causing no harm


Calaveras County Water District officials say piles of old copper tailings along O'Byrnes Ferry Road in Copperopolis are not contaminating the district's water system.

The comments are in response to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board's recently released 2-year-old test results showing 10 times the hazardous amount of copper in streams traveling from areas near the leftover mining rocks to ponds near Black Creek, which flows into Tulloch Reservoir.

CCWD pumps reservoir water to 1,700 houses in the Copperopolis area, plus the businesses downtown near Reed's Turnpike and at the Lake Tulloch Plaza near Copper Cove Drive.

The state test revealed copper levels of 250 milligrams per liter in some streams near the tailings. State safe levels for copper are 25 milligrams per liter.

However, CCWD Operations and Maintenance Superintendent Fred Burnett said tests conducted in the early summer showed .03 milligrams per liter of copper in the town's water system.

The state allowable limit for copper in drinking water is 1 milligram per liter.

The state data differs from the water district's test results because, state and county officials have said, any amount of copper that makes it to Tulloch Reservoir is diluted.

"We have not seen anything detectable in the lake itself," Burnett said. "As of right now, it is of no concern to us."

Tri-Dam Project, the utilities district that manages Tulloch Reservoir, tested the reservoir for contaminants in the summer of 2001 and found nothing unusual.

State officials say they are more concerned with the tailings' potential impact on wildlife — such as frogs and salamanders — than about the possible threat toward human health.

Also, Burnett said tests on CCWD's water system in Copperopolis throughout the past eight years have not revealed copper levels higher than .04 milligrams per liter.

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