Journigan's Mill: Contaminated Site Mitigation

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Journigan's Mill is located in the Panamint Range, one mile south of Emigrant Springs and approximately 14 miles south of Stovepipe Wells, California (Figure 2), at an elevation of approximately 4,400 feet above sea level. The Site is open to the public and is located on the west side of Emigrant Canyon/Wildrose Canyon Road. Emigrant Canyon Road is a paved road and open to the public (Figure 2). The Site is bound on the west by steep canyon walls and on the east by Emigrant Canyon Road and the eastern canyon wall.

The Site includes the largest ruin of an amalgamation and cyanide plant of the 1930s-1950s period left within the Park. In 1937, Roy Journigan built an amalgamation and cyanide plant on the Gold Bottom Mill property, known as Journigan's Mill. Water to power the mill was obtained from the Green, Burro, Willow, and Burns Springs. Prior to construction of the 1937 mill, one or possibly two smaller mills were located at the Site. The Site contains a wooden floor platform, two concrete housing foundations, and the foundations to the mill which are divided into three levels. The mill components also include several tanks that were used to support the cyanide operation. Mill tailings are situated around the mill foundations, in most of the tanks, near the foundations of former buildings, and in stockpiles at the Site.
The ruins at the Site are not substantial. However, the highly visible location adjacent to the paved Emigrant Canyon Road attracts visitors, including many who are unfamiliar with mining, milling, and the associated hazards.

On January 23, 1980, the Journigan Mill was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places (HT0001, pdf p. 2). In 1981, the Journigan's Mill ruins were considered to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places due to their local significance. The Site had the longest contiguous usage of a site for milling-related activities within the Death Valley National Monument. It was the largest and "best-equipped" mill in the Wildrose area (NP0003, pdf p. 5). Concrete ruins at the Site were described as being in "good shape" and not requiring stabilization work (NP0003, pdf p. 5).

A Preliminary Assessment (PA) was conducted in 2014 by Environmental Cost Management (ECM). The PA described the historical uses of the Site, current state of the Site, and approximated by visual means only the extent of various waste rock and mill tailings at the Site.
As a follow-up to the PA, a Site Inspection (SI) was conducted by NOREAS, Inc. (NOREAS) at the Site in 2016. Soils are the primary media of concern at the Site. Therefore, soil samples were collected from seven areas, referred to as decision units (DUs) at the Site, including: the cyanide processing area(DU-1); mill foundations (DU-2); mill tailings large bermed stockpile (DU-3); southern mine waste stockpile (DU-4), eroded mill tailings in northern wash (DU-5); eroded mill tailings in southern wash (DU-6); and background soils for comparison (DU-7). The samples were analyzed for metals, cyanide, and pH. Also, select samples were analyzed to determine their potential acid-generating ability (ABA).

The principal human exposure pathways are through dermal contact and inhalation (wind-blown material).
The soil samples from DU-1 through DU-6 showed elevated levels of antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, silver, thallium, vanadium, and zinc compared to the background concentrations in DU-7. Particularly, lead and arsenic were detected at significantly elevated concentrations in soil samples from DU-1 through DU-6. Results of ABA testing of soil indicated no net potential for acid generation.

The results of the SI soil sampling indicate that the Site contains several metals in soil above USEPA regional screening level (RSL) for residential soil, and the NPS ecological screening values (ESVs). Cyanide detected in soil samples also exceeded RSL and ESV

The NPS is conducting an engineering evaluation and cost analysis as part of a non-time-critical removal action to gather additional information to fully characterize the nature and extent of Site contamination. The EE/CA process will include additional site sampling to further understand the impacts of the previous mining and milling activities at the Site. Risk assessments will be conducted to evaluate human health and ecological concerns, and cleanup goals will be established. If cleanup is required, the EE/CA will also develop, present, and evaluate cleanup alternatives. As part of the alternatives development and evaluation process, NPS will consider the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, among other relevant requirements.

The final draft EE/CA Report prepared during this process will be made available for public review and comment during a 30-day period. Following the review and comment period, the EE/CA Report will be revised as necessary and issued in final form. NPS will draft a responsiveness summary that summarizes and responds to significant public comments which will be issued along with the Final EE/CA Report. Following the release of those documents, NPS will issue an Action Memorandum formally selecting the response action alternative for the Site. Once those steps have been taken, NPS will seek funding to implement the selected response action for the Site. Once funding is secured, Site cleanup can proceed.

Contact Information

Abby Wines
Public Information Officer
Death Valley National Park