Highlights from the
15 Years Ago
$250,000 in suit
by Marcia Martinek
July 21, 2005
Catherine A. Patti, former Lake County administrator, was awarded $250,000 in settlement of the lawsuit she filed on July 30, 2004, against Lake County, County Commissioner Ken Olsen, and former County Commissioner Bill Hollenback.
“I can confirm that the case has been settled for a quarter-million dollars,” Patti said Monday. “Although it doesn’t fully compensate me for all I’ve been through, it is a sufficient amount to vindicate me and my claims, and will hopefully ensure that this won’t happen to any other Lake County employees in the future.”
A news release from Jester & Gibson, LLP, the firm representing Patti in the suit, said the settlement agreement and the parties’ mutual releases were agreed to and will be signed by Patti, Olsen, Hollenback and Commissioners Mike Hickman and Carl Schaefer.
The release said that Patti’s first choice was not to file a lawsuit, but she felt that she had to file the suit to protect her reputation. It went on to say that Patti hopes that the settlement will protect other Lake County employees from retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak out on matters of concern to the citizens of Lake County.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boyland presided over the settlement conference on Thursday, July 14.
Handling the matter for the county, Olsen and Hollenback, was the county’s insurer, County Technical Services, Inc., an organization that insures a pool of 40 counties in the state. A division of CTSI handles liability matters, such as the Patti lawsuit.
According to Olsen, the county has a $10,000 deductible, and that is the actual amount that will be paid with county funds.
When asked if insurance premiums would increase as a result of this settlement, Olsen indicated he would not be surprised, but he had no information on this.
Olsen did say that none of the $250,000 settlement was being paid by him personally. He would not comment if Hollenback had to pay any portion of the settlement personally, and Hollenback did not return a phone call from the Herald regarding the outcome of the suit.
The press statement from the board of county commissioners says the insurance agreement allowed the settlement to be entered into without the approval of the BOCC.
The settlement resolves all of Patti’s claims against Lake County, Olsen and Hollenback, and concludes her litigation in the U.S. District Court, the statement said.
When the suit was filed, Patti claimed her employment was terminated “under the guise of reorganization” on Jan. 14, 2003, when Olsen was sworn in as county commissioner.
The suit claimed that the termination was actually in part because of her gender and in part as retaliation from the board for her allegedly bringing to light illegal activities of the board and individuals.
The suit noted that Patti received positive performance reviews and pay increases throughout her tenure with the county until Hollenback was running for county commissioner in 2000.
The suit alleged that Hollenback “referred to Patti and other women in crude, derogatory terms, including referring to Patti as a ‘bitch.’”
It also claimed that Patti was retaliated against for bringing to light illegal board activities, such as violations of the Open Records Act and cronyism.
by Ann E. Wibbenmeyer
Herald Staff Writer
July 28, 2005
The California Superfund site is unique, according to Bill Lyle of the Resurrection Mining Co., because of the compromise between protecting the environment and preserving the history.
On Friday, Lyle gave the Herald a tour of the mining district and showed the work done by Resurrection to complete its portion of the remediation.
Resurrection Mining Co. is responsible for four of the 12 operable units: OU 1, OU 4, OU 8 and OU 10.
The first stop on the tour was OU 1, or the Yak Tunnel water treatment plant up East 2nd Street (CR 2) up California Gulch.
The Yak Tunnel was built during the early mining years for a gravity-pumped water system to the mines. It drained into the Arkansas River below California Gulch.
Resurrection has a joint responsibility with ASARCO to run and maintain the water treatment plant, which treats the water coming from the tunnel before it is released into the river, according to Lyle.
“OU 1 will be a continuing obligation,” said Lyle. Water will always have to be treated before being released.
The treatment plant currently runs three or four days out of the week, said Lyle, because the water flow from the tunnel does not fill the plant to capacity.
Water is, instead, pooled above the bulkhead when the valve there is turned off, said Lyle. While water is pooling, the treatment plant is not operating.
Recently, the bulkhead was plugged. Water had to be pumped to the Black Cloud mine and then down to the treatment plant.
According to Lyle, a hydraulic study is underway to see if a permanent pumping system to the Black Cloud could be instigated to use the water treatment plant more. Adding the Black Cloud mine water would increase flow to capacity, said Lyle.
Just below the treatment plant, which sits on a hill across a gully from the road, is a stone and concrete creek bed. According to Lyle, this is a diversion channel lined with riprap.
Riprap, he explained, is river stone, bedrock or concrete to create channels. These channels keep clean water off the dump and waste piles and prevent erosion.
These diversion channels, said Lyle, are the result of the emphasis the Lake County community put on historic preservation.
Just up the hill from the treatment plant is the AY Minnie main shaft, pump shaft and slag piles.
“My colleagues see these piles and ask why they aren’t capped,” said Lyle.
He explained, “There are two groups of people with two very different visions.”
The piles of slag allow this generation and the next to understand what went on 125 years ago, even if the waste dumps are exposed to water.
Lyle, who grew up in Butte, Mont., has an admiration for small mining communities.
“They are the start of what we use today,” he said.
“Recreation places are thriving on the infrastructure built by mining.” He mentioned Vail and Aspen as examples. They use the electricity, sewer and water systems put in for the early mining industry.
“The recreational industry wouldn’t support putting in the infrastructure,” he said.
Just beyond the mine, the tour left CR 2 and ventured north to Evans Gulch, passing old mine sites on the way.
At one site, concrete foundations were left without the structure on top.
“I always wonder, ‘What was it?’ A mill, a crusher?” said Lyle, pointing out the foundation. He said he is amazed at the ingenuity and creativity our forefathers had. It took months, years or decades to build structures from which we get instant gratification.
“I can see why they want to preserve it,” he said of the community’s desire to preserve the history in the mining district.
On the road were two dump sites; on one side, the obvious yellow, orange and red dirt of a mine site, and the other, a meadow.
The meadow used to be the North Mike dump in OU 4, and was the first example on the tour of a capped dump site.
Capping, explained Lyle, is blocking the interaction of the waste with water. It involves pushing the piles down to a more gradual slope and using some kind of covering. Interaction comes with rainwater, mostly.
The North Mike dump was capped with topsoil for revegetation. The soil had to be created, because the old miners did not salvage the topsoil when they dug up their mines, said Lyle.
To make a topsoil, he explained, the dump is first treated with lime, which comes from limestone, and then mixed and sheeted with soils from a borrow area.
Chuck Montera, from Sigler Communications, Inc., was also along for the ride, and expressed his amazement at the growth on the hillside.
In 2003, the soil was seeded, and that was the last time he had seen the area. It was barren at that time, he said.
Now, there are wild flowers and shin-high grasses carpeting the hillside. There is also one single tree in the middle of the meadow area.
According to Lyle, the tree is natural growth, as transplanted trees have a low percentage of survival.
“Mother nature cures itself,” he said.
Another good point for Lyle: “More growth means more decay, which provides more nutrients for the soil.”
The decision to cap the mine on one side of the road but not the mine on the other side cam down to “getting the biggest bang for a buck,” said Lyle.
With the concentration on the historic preservation, some of the mine dumps were capped, where others only had diversion channels constructed around them.
Up the road into Evans Gulch, Lyle pointed out the Colorado 2 mine dumps, which were also capped, but with a different cap.
These mine dumps were capped with rocks that are alkaline in nature, a mixture of limestone and lime.
Limestone as an alkaline rock is basic. When an acid, with a pH level below 7, and a base, with a pH above 7, combine, they react to stabilize to a pH close to 7, which is the pH of pure water.
Rainwater, according to Lyle, has a pH close to 5.5, making it acidic. The acidic water is what dissolves the harmful metals dug up by the miners. Having a basic stone on top of the waste dumps balances the acid in the water to prevent the metals being dissolved into the water.
Lime, a powder form of limestone, dissolves quickly in the water for a short-term effect. Limestone dissolves at a slow rate for a more long-term effect, said Lyle.
After seeing the work done in Evans Gulch, the group headed back towards California Gulch and up farther to Iowa Gulch. On the way, it passed the site of Oro City, which was remedied with diversion channels.
Work in OU 4 is complete and paperwork is all that needs to be completed for de-listing the unit.
The last stop on the tour was Oregon Gulch, OU 10, which is no longer on the National Priorities List, according to Lyle.
Oregon Gulch is behind the dump road off of Oregon Gulch Road, where the Brooklyn Heights subdivision is being developed. The gulch is where the Resurrection Mining Co. dumped its tailings from the mining operation in California Gulch during the war eras, according to Lyle.
The piles were capped with both rock and revegetation. The rock remedy was put on the slope of the pile, and the revegetation was done on the top.
OU 8 is also complete and waiting for paperwork, said Lyle. This is lower California Gulch, where the water flows into the Arkansas River.
Studies have been done in this area on the survival of the brown trout since 1994, above and below where the stream meets the river.
The number of fish in the last three to four years is much higher than it was the first six years.
This monitoring, according to Lyle, shows the quality of surface water since the completion of remedies in upper California Gulch.