Telluride Valley Floor

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Notices  Posted Category
Site Description 11/12/2020 01 Background
The Telluride Valley Floor Site is approximately 2 acres. The San Miguel River flows east to west through the Site. Fluvial mill tailings deposits exist within the floodplain and along the banks of the San Miguel River. Mining for a variety of metals occurred in the upper basins for over 100 years beginning in the 1860’s. The fluvial tailings resulted from historical mineral processing operations upstream of the Site. The tailings were transported by the San Miguel River and its tributaries during normal seasonal flow and flood events and deposited in downstream areas. The tailings outside of the floodplain are thought to have been mechanically deposited.

The historical railroad grade of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, which operated from late 1880’s to the early 1950’s, is located north of the San Miguel River and restricts the floodplain to the south. The Town of Telluride’s sewer line is buried within the historical railroad grade and aboveground power lines exist along the length of the railroad grade within the Site. Other utilities within the Site include a buried gas line located along the western edge of Boomerang Road and crossing the river on the west side of the footbridge and a buried telephone line located along the eastern side of Boomerang Road and crossing the river on the east side of the footbridge.

The Site is used for recreational purposes by fisherman, water recreators, hikers, mountain bicyclists, and runners primarily along existing trails. The Telluride Valley Floor Trail, which extends west from Telluride, is adjacent to the southern boundary of the Site, with a user-created trail loop located in the western portion of the Site. South of the river across the existing footbridge, the Boomerang Trail continues along the steep southern hillside to Mountain Village. A trail also exists along the alignment of the historical railroad grade. A user-created bicycle area near the intersection of the Boomerang and Telluride Valley Floor Trails (referred to as the bike park or BMX area) is located south of the San Miguel River and east of the footbridge.

Initial Response 11/12/2020 01 Background
The Site is mixed ownership (small area of Town Property with mostly Federal lands) and was referred to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), due to resource and budgeting constraints in Fall of 2020. The EPA attended a Site Visit with the USFS, Town of Telluride, and Trout Unlimited to conduct a visual Site Evaluation, as well as gain familiarity with the assessment done by the USFS in prior years. Tailings were visibly sloughing off into the San Miguel River and being stirred up by bikers and trail users who did not heed warning signs along the River. The OSC personally observed multiple recreators passing through the area in a short time, including a gentleman with a baby in a bicycle seat on a bike riding through tailings. The tailings contain high levels of lead on average between 2,000-10,000 ppm, although some areas contain levels up to 100,000 ppm. Arsenic is also above the acceptable exposure limits.

EPA conducted an emergency response action in the fall of 2020 to stabilize tailings and prevent further bank erosion/degradation. The stabilization work and action details maybe found under the documents section or under previous notices.

In order to address the remaining tailings and threats not addressed during the emergency response action during the fall of 2020, EPA along with the USFS,  decided to initiate a time-critical removal action (TCRA) in the summer of 2021. The TCRA is scheduled to begin July 19,2021 and go through the fall of 2021.Due to the scope and urgency of the project, EPA and EPA contractor crews will need to start work as soon as possible to effectively and safely remove the contamination before any adverse weather impacts the safety of the removal operations. 

Site Objectives 7/26/2021 01 Background


  • Protect human health and the environment by performing a Time-Critical Removal Action of old mill tailings containing high levels of lead and arsenic. 
  • Health and Safety of the public and workers on-site.
  • Communication with stakeholders including the community.
  • Keep open recreational trails by rerouting trails around the work zone.
  • Ensure dust suppression is performed with water trucks on-site to mitigate exposure to human health and the environment, as well as ensure there are no off-site impacts such as wind migration.
  • Safely transport and unload tailings at the repository for consolidation, treatment, and ongoing storage at the state permitted and regulated Idarado tailings piles 5/6.  
  • Ensure no contamination is tracked off site of the Valley Floor or Repository.
  • Provide air sampling and particulate monitoring upwind, in Town, and on-site at the repository to ensure there are no airborne tailings during transport.  
  • Restore the river and Valley Floor back to it's original conditions.  


Operational Objectives 11/12/2020 02 Nov 2-8, 2020
  1. Install low water crossing for moving equipment across river.
  2. Remove tailings on north side of river and install a geotextile liner.
  3. Place rip rap on bank to secure tailings and liner, in place.
  4. Place road base on tailings in biking area to reduce erosion and dust exposure.
  5. Place barriers along public trails to discourage entry into closed area.
  6. Haul backfill material to designated repository/RP staging area.
  7. Restoration - Backfill of excavated areas with clean material, re-vegetation, weather permitting this season.

Current Activities 11/12/2020 02 Nov 2-8, 2020

During the Emergency Response action, EPA was able to accomplish:

  1. Installed low water crossing.
  2. Excavated tailings on North river bank.
  3. Hauled tailings to RP staging area.
  4. Placed road base in biking area.
  5. Imported rip rap and fill from nearby local sources (rock, clean fill).
  6. Installed liner and rip rap on North river bank.

Safety Message 7/26/2021 02 Nov 2-8, 2020
No safety issues were identified during this operational period. 

Planned Activities 11/12/2020 02 Nov 2-8, 2020

1. Continue Site work to stabilize tailings.
2. Keep Stakeholders informed.
3. Follow Health and Safety Protocols.
4. Follow Quality Assurance Protocols.
5. Implement measures to avoid any exposure to Covid-19.
6. Demob after project completion on or around 11/20/20.

Operational Objectives 7/19/2021 03 July 19-25, 2021
  1. Keep stakeholders informed of EPA response actions.
  2. Conduct in-person "office hours" for community members on a monthly basis until removal is complete.
  3. Create and emphasize safe working practices for the community.
  4. Mobilize crew and equipment. 
  5. Locate office to host community members. 
  6. Create and emphasize  a safe and efficient work zone for EPA crews.

Current Activities 7/19/2021 03 July 19-25, 2021

EPA and other stakeholders hosted "office hours" with community members on July 20 and July 21 to learn about the project and talk with EPA and other government stakeholders on the project.  Over 50 people attended at least one of the three public office hours session, and several members of the community attended multiple sessions.  

In response to feedback during the public sessions, EPA made the following revisions to its workplan:

  • Reduced the initial number of haul trucks from 6 to 4.
  • Limited hauling times to between the hours of 7:00 am - 7:00 pm.
  • Will install rubber gaskets in seams of haul trucks to prevent leaks and reduce noises; in addition to decontaminating all haul trucks prior to their leaving the removal site.
  • Will direct haulers to maintain their speed at 7 mph from downtown to the repository.

EPA and EPA contractor crews mobilized to the site to start site setup. This included, placement of equipment, office spaces, and basic site set up. 

No excavation or hauling of tailings was conducted this week.


Safety Message 7/19/2021 03 July 19-25, 2021
No safety issues were identified during this operational period. 

Planned Activities 7/19/2021 03 July 19-25, 2021

Next operational period will be July 26 to August 1, 2021. 

  1. Keep stakeholders informed of EPA response actions. 
  2. Continue to host office hours at EPA office in Telluride. 
  3. Continue and maintain safe practices for the community. 
  4. Start excavation/removal of tailing from the Site. 
  5. Start hauling tailings to the repository. 
  6. Maintain a safe and efficient work zone. 

Operational Objectives 7/26/2021 04 July 26 - Aug 1, 2021
  1. Reroute recreational trails around the work zone.
  2. Keep stakeholders informed of EPA removal actions.
  3. Locate office near main street. 
  4. Create and emphasize a safe and efficient work zone for EPA crews.
  5. Install a recreational low water crossing for the bridge closure reroute.
  6. Prepare ST1 area for tailings excavation by removing sparse/stunted trees on SE side of the bridge.
  7. Begin excavation of tailings in ST1 and haul to repository.
  8. Conduct air sampling and particulate monitoring on-Site and in the community.
  9. Ensure daily data management functions are up to date to ensure accurate website reporting.

Current Activities 7/26/2021 04 July 26 - Aug 1, 2021

During the Current Operational Period the EPA Site Team worked Monday thru Saturday. Operations were hampered by a series of heavy afternoon thunderstorms and lightning. During this period the Team:

  • Continued site setup, building up roads/turn around points, trail reroutes, and creating truck cleaning areas. 
  • Placed clean rock/road base that were dropped at the site and repository to create truck cleaning areas and safer roads for waste haulage. 
  • Met with stakeholders on site updates. 
  • Started excavation/hauling on Thursday, July 29, 2021 in location ST1(a total of approximately 230 cubic yards or 23 truckloads were removed from the site).
  • Deployed air sampling and monitoring locations along the trucking route to capture background levels and assess any potential impacts associated with EPA trucking operations for dust and air borne contamination. Sample results and real time data can be found on the Telluride Valley Floor Site Updates page.  
  • No office location within town has been secured, EPA will continue to follow up on any leads or as space becomes available. 


Safety Message 7/26/2021 04 July 26 - Aug 1, 2021

EPA will adhere to all CDC and local recommendations pertaining to COVID-19 during the site work.

EPA will adhere to all construction and hazardous substance safety best management practices.

Planned Activities 7/26/2021 04 July 26 - Aug 1, 2021

For the next Operational Period, August 2 thru August 8, 2021, the EPA Site Team Plans to:

  1. Keep stakeholders informed of EPA removal actions.
  2. Continue to seek office space on or near main street. 
  3. Continue to create a safe and efficient work zone for EPA crews.
  4. Continue excavation of tailings in ST1 and haul to repository.
  5. Conduct air monitoring and sampling.
  6. Ensure daily data management functions are up to date to ensure accurate website reporting.