The Gold Mill – And Answers
If you have heard of the new low maintenance, west-side development called “Gold Hill Mesa” – then you might also have encountered some raised eyebrows. Afterall, this Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) was once the site of a gold mill for almost half a century. Naturally, concerns and questions arise in regards to safety of the land AND development:
Question: Was Gold Hill Mesa built on a gold mine with underground shafts and has questionable soil?
GHM says: Gold Hill Mesa was once the site of a gold mill – not a mine. Rock was mined near Cripple Creek and brought down by train. Gold was extracted from the crushed rock, smelted into bars, and sent to banks in Denver. There was never any drilling or underground mine shafts at Gold Hill Mesa.
Question: Was Gold Hill Mesa a landfill?
GHM says: The residential area was never used for any disposal. This has been confirmed by excavations, borings and geotechnical testing of the property. Part of the commercial portion of the property was designated to accept fill dirt from surrounding construction sites in the 1980′s. Because some of the fill material delivered to the site included concrete and in order to deal with the existing mill foundations, the gold Hill Mesa redevelopment team recyucled this material to provide the foundation of Fountain Creek restoration project with rip-rap to help stabilize the banks of Fountain Creek.
Part of the misconception that Gold Hill Mesa was once a landfill may stem from the history of Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Located three miles away from Gold Hills Mesa off of Highway 24 and Ridge Road, this land was in part once used as a landfill. In 2003, the City of Colorado Springs purchased this property and turned it into the spectacular city amenity that it is today. Visitors enjoy recreational opportunities such as hiking, climbing, cycling, horseback riding and picnic areas amidst spectacular geography and breathtaking views.
Question: Can you grow vegetables in gardens at Gold Hill Mesa?
GHM says: A misconception exists that fruits and vegetables cannot be grown at Gold Hill Mesa for safety reasons. Plant life was limited for many years while the mesa sat vacant due to a lack of organic nutrients in the soils, which were essentially crushed rock. As part of the design process, the Gold Hill Mesa team engaged an agronomist to ensure our soil cap has the necessary nutrients to allow trees, shrubs, floers and vegetables to grow naturally.
Question: Is Gold Hill Mesa full of toxins and arsenic that is a risk to human health?
GHM says: When Gold Hill Mesa was an operational mill, it processed ore from Cripple Creek that was rich in metals and minerals. The residual sand that is left after the ore (rock from Cripple Creek) was crushed to extract the gold and silver is called tailings. Because the ore was selected for high levels of minerals, particularly gold and silver, the remaining tailings also contain higher and average levels of minerals. Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral in Front Range soils and is one of the minerals in the tailings. As part of the mitigation process, the soil was mixed with native clays (which is lower in minerals) to re-balance the soil content and return it to measurements normal for the region. Further, the tailings that existed at Gold Hill Mesa did not leach minerals into the groundwater or into Fountain Creek. Finally, construction of every lot at Gold Hill Mesa is supervised by an independent geo-technical engineering firm and is then tested and certified as being safe by the Colorado Department of Public Health before home construction commences.
Cyanide is often mentioned as part of the process used at the former Golden Cycle Mill. Although a cyanide solution was a common method used by all gold and silver mills at the time (including at the Golden Mill) to separate gold and silver from the rock, these chemicals were contained in tanks. Further, Cyanide degrades rapidly (eg in a matter of hours) with exposure to air. As such, cyanide hasn’t been at Gold Hill Mesa since the time the mil closed over 60 years ago.
Question: Are tailings leaching into the groundwater during construction?
GHM says: For many years, deep crevasses caused by uncontrolled drainage of rainfall eroding the sandy hillside created scars on the side of the mesa along Highway 24. These highly visible scars prompted erroneous speculation that they were caused by leaching from the mill process. Although some erosion has happened over the past two years, the Gold Hill Mesa team is controlling the erosion by installing drainage systems and stabilizing the hillside with ground cover. In addition, the Gold Hill Mesa team has constructed water quality ponds strategically located along Fountain Creek, at the base of the mesa on the North face. Any erosion that happens during construction settles in the retention ponds and is prevented from reaching the creek. Gold Hill Mesa has gone the great lengths to protect and preserve Fountain Creek. A creek restoration was completed in May 2010, stabilizing the bank and re-establishing the eco-system along the streamside.
Photo source: GoldHillMesa.com
Information: via Gold Hill Mesa Developers marketing material
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