More tailings tests for Copper

December 27, 2002 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

State officials are conducting further tests to determine if old copper tailings in Copperopolis pose a threat to the town's water quality.

In a meeting last week, Calaveras County Environmental Health Director Brian Moss discussed the potential problem with three representatives from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Moss took the state officials to Copperopolis to show them where old mining rocks are piled up alongside O'Byrnes Ferry Road. The state officials interviewed a property owner along Reed's Turnpike — where some tailings are — and took water and soil samples from around that property, Moss said.

"They're just identifying if there are any levels of constituents in the water," Moss said. "Right now, this is very preliminary."

Senior Engineering Geologist Victor Izzo, who is handling the state's investigation of the copper tailings, was not available for comment.

Last month, the state released 2-year-old test results that showed hazardous amounts of copper in the water and soil near the leftover mining rocks. Amounts found in some streams near the tailings were more than 10 times what the state considers safe.

The state is now investigating whether harmful amounts of copper could be running into streams and flowing into Tulloch Reservoir, a source of drinking water for almost 2,000 area residents.

Calaveras County Water District officials said recent tests on Tulloch Reservoir have not shown unsafe levels of copper in the drinking water.

Moss said he doesn't know how long it will take for the state to run tests on collected soil and water samples.

Moss also said he is unaware of which property owner was interviewed by state officials, or exactly what that person said about the tailings.

The person "was curious as to what the state was looking at and why they are looking at it," Moss said.

"I think everyone is aware that those tailings have been there for a long time."

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