EPA’s report on Red Arrow mine due Dec. 4; Town Hall meeting, Dec. 10

An Environmental Protection Agency assessment on illegal gold milling operations in Mancos will be released on Dec. 4.

Operations at the illegal, unpermitted Red Arrow gold mill outside Mancos has placed residents on edge regarding public health and safety, but some of those fears could subside once the EPA releases its assessment report.

“The EPA plans to hold a public hearing in Mancos on Dec. 10,” said Town Administrator Andrea Phillips. “The meeting will be held at Town Hall starting at 6 p.m.”

The EPA launched its probe this month, taking soil samples from the environmental polluted milling site on Grand Avenue just outside of town limits. The assessment has been heralded as the benchmark in determining if residents should consider screenings for mercury poisoning.

A sampling of the Red Arrow milling site revealed higher than acceptable levels of arsenic and mercury. State mining officials shut the milling site down in June, charging owner Craig Luiko with six environmental violations. The illegal mill operated for at least six months with a rudimentary ventilation system.

Experts from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety say the risk of contamination in humans from the site is very low, despite finding more than 1,300 cubic yards of polluted solid materials and more than 2,500 gallons of contaminated liquid ingredients at the milling site.

Those most sensitive to mercury’s effects are pregnant women, infants and young children. County health department officials urged worried residents to get a screening.

In addition to EPA soil samplings, federal and state officials wrapped up temporary stabilization measures at the milling site on Nov. 3. The goal was to secure the site for the winter until final remediation plans could be developed. A timeline for completing the cleanup has yet to be announced.