How could the Original Sixteen to One Mine reduce naturally occurring arsenic in water seeping into Kanaka Creek from one of its mine shafts?
Iron shavings, laid maybe a couple feet deep in the bottom of the quarter-mile-long discharge shaft, might work, said Mike Miller, the gold mine's chief executive officer.
"It pulls the arsenic out," Miller said Monday, explaining that arsenic bonds to iron.
That's one idea Sixteen to One officials are considering in the wake of a cease-and-desist order issued in March by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Under the order, the mine has to make sure by March 2005 that its discharge meets new federal drinking-water-quality standards for arsenic.
The mine filed an appeal on the cease-and-desist order on March 29 with the State Water Resources Control Board, the regional board's parent agency.
Mine officials have also submitted a plan for studying arsenic - something it was required to do within 45 days of the cease and-desist order.
Elizabeth Thayer, a water resources control engineer with the regional board, said Monday she's reviewing the mine's arsenic study plan, but couldn't comment further.
"I'd rather have them hear from us first before reading about it in the paper," Thayer said.
Miller said he's been talking to several firms with expertise in removing arsenic from water, including two that do it with iron shavings.
One reason he likes that concept is it's passive; no maintenance or equipment is required to keep it working. Mine officials have complained that they're being required to reduce arsenic levels to 10 parts per billion - the new federal standard for drinking water - which is lower than the "background" arsenic level of 13 parts per billion already in the creek, they say.
But state regulators justified the new arsenic standard in part by saying domestic and irrigation water rights exist below the mine's discharge, the nearest of which is 71/2 miles downstream.
Reporter for The Union, a Grass Valley, California newspaper.