Deep Row Biosolids Application for Reclamation of the Smelter Lake Tailings Pond

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Similco Mine

SYLVIS is using biosolids to solve reclamation challenges. Smelter Lake, the former tailings pond for the Similco Mine, presents a series of challenges to reclamation due to the absence of nutrients, soil and organic matter that are required to sustain vegetation. Reclamation activities are further challenged by a lack of water due to the arid climate and wind caused erosion of the tailings that is impacting adjacent ecosystems. 

SYLVIS identified the use of biosolids in reclamation of the tailings. Biosolids provide a source of nutrients to promote vegetation establishment and growth and organic matter to aid in soil moisture retention. Applications at the mine site have traditionally been applied to the surface of the tailings. However, in time, as the nutrients and organic matter is depleted through aeolian (wind) erosion, additional applications will be required to sustain the vegetation. 

SYLVIS identified deep row application as a method to facilitate reclamation efforts while mitigating the loss of organic matter and nutrients.

In deep row applications the biosolids are placed below the surface in rows consequently reducing the loss of nutrients and organic matter through aeolian erosion. Trees and shrubs are then planted into the rows of biosolids. Row width and depth is calculated based on application rates and intended vegetation.

In the first phase, SYLVIS completed the research, planning, deep row biosolids applications and environmental monitoring associated with the Smelter Lake reclamation program. Reclamation efforts continued in phase 2 with applications and establishment of a vegetation research trial.