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Greens Creek tailing impacts need investigation

Posted: December 23, 2012 - 1:07am

My name is William Brent. I came to Alaska in 1973. I was fortunate enough to work on the Dalton Highway which led to the construction of the pipeline, and did pipeline construction for 22 years. During the pipeline construction, I met a couple from Gustavus who invited me down to visit. I fell in love with Southeast Alaska and purchased part of an old homestead at the mouth of Hawk Inlet. My family and I lived there and subsisted off fish, game, and gardening even before Admiralty Island became a monument.

In 1980, I spoke with Congressman Mo Udall in Hawk Inlet at the Peter Pan Seafood Cannery. He was there deliberating whether or not to designate Admiralty Island as a national monument. I expressed to him my dissatisfaction with so much of Alaska being tied up in wilderness, parks, and monuments. These types of designations restricted my mining in Chicken, Alaska, sheep hunting out of McCarthy, and turned all of the non-private property on Admiralty into monument wilderness with all of its restrictions.

It took me years of living in the Admiralty Monument wilderness to realize its value to the planet and everyone on it. Over time I have come to appreciate the foresight of Congressman Udall and the elders of Angoon to protect Admiralty Island for all Americans for the long term.

While working with Enquip in the early 80’s to install the Bentonite Ditch, an underground ditch which holds back the tailing pile for Greens Creek Mine from leeching into Hawk Inlet, I didn’t realize the magnitude of the weight it would have on it today.

After seeing the disappearance of the pink neck clams in and around the Hawk Inlet area, and knowing the Bentonite Ditch is not resting on bedrock, I wonder what is actually going into Hawk Inlet. How far do airborne contaminants blown off the tailing pile reach? Why is the state allowing fugitive dust from the Greens Creek tailings to blow the pollutants in every direction? Who and what is affected by these pollutants?

I do not know if changes seen and unseen are because of the mining activity, but neither do I know if the shrimp, crabs, fish, and other seafood I still catch are safe to eat.

I urge the U.S. Forest Service to consider the impact to our renewable fisheries, natural resources, and monument wilderness values before allowing Greens Creek to expand their tailing dump.

Bill Brent

Juneau

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