October 2017 Meeting

Monday, October 9, 2017
6:00 - 7:30 pm

Pellissippi State Technical Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville
J.L Goins Administration Building


Reclamation of the Lower North Potato Creek Watershed -- A Success Story


Thomas McComb
Senior Geologist
Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, Inc.
Greater Nashville Area, Tennessee


The Lower North Potato Creek Watershed is a 4,000-acre site located between Ducktown and Copperhill, Tennessee in the southeastern corner of the state. Historic copper, iron, and zinc mining, mineral beneficiation, and the resulting acid-mine drainage left this watershed devegetated, severely eroded, and unable to support aquatic life. The Lower North Potato Creek Project is an example of a mining megasite – a site with multiple mines, tailings ponds, ore storage areas, and processing facilities. The project has progressed from the initial investigations, through remediation to long-term monitoring. The successful reclamation of the watershed is a result of the cooperation and communication between all parties involved with the project to the fast track project success.

An additional factor in the success of the reclamation of the Lower North Potato Creek Watershed has been the use of the innovative approach adaptive management techniques combined with the use of biological performance goals in place of water quality goals for the reclamation activities.

The adaptive management process included:

• Construction and operation of an interim water treatment plant to reduce metal loading and acid mine drainage from North Potato Creek to the Ocoee River
• Initial inventories to identify source materials
• Ranking source material by potential impact to the streams
• Phased remedial actions

During all phases of the project, biological monitoring was conducted focusing on macroinvertebrate communities and in-stream and riparian habitat quality at selected locations in North Potato Creek and its major tributaries. The value of the biological monitoring included measuring the impact of the remedial actions on the biological communities to determine which areas would recover and which areas required additional remedial actions.

Today the aquatic macroinvertebrate communities in Lower North Potato Creek and its tributaries are recovering and fish and amphibians have returned to the streams. Additionally, the metals and acid loading in North Potato Creek has been reduced to the point where the stream flows directly to the Ocoee River without requiring treatment.


Page updated May 26, 2018