Public Health Assessment released for Leviathan Mine

The Leviathan Mine area poses more of a risk to people the closer they get to it, according to a new report.

Contact with mine tailings, surface water, and eating fish caught from creeks plants grown there, pose a health hazard according to the Public Health Assessment for the Leviathan Mine, recently released by the California Department of Health Services.

The report, made in conjunction with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, outlines current and past instances of contamination in the area of the mine and takes into some consideration about future exposure.

The Leviathan Mine is a 50-acre open pit mine located six miles east of Markleeville, Calif., and 25 miles southwest of Gardnerville.

A pile of copper sulfate waste covering 26 acres and reaching heights of 130 feet in some places stands in the middle of the mine.

The site was nominated to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Priority List in 1999 and, as a results, the CDHS put together the Public Health Assessment.

In the assessment, the following conclusions were made:

-- Acid Mine Drainage from Leviathon Mine has caused significant contamination to Leviathan, Aspen and Bryant creeks, as well as the River Ranch Irrigation Channel.

-- Seven contaminant metals and chemicals (aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, iron, manganese, nickel and thallium) have been detected in surface water and sediment downstream from the mine.

-- Sources of potential exposure include consumption of fish, plants and wild game collected near the mine, eating beef raised on the River Ranch, inhalation of dust near the mine and future exposure to surface water and sediments via drinking, swimming and wading in Bryant Creek and the River Ranch Irrigation Channel.

-- In general, the closer one gets to the Leviathan Mine, the greater the probability that concentrations of contaminants will present a health risk.

The report states that some of the potential health risks include a greater risk of cancer.

Greg Braun, who authored the report along with Dr. Marilyn Underwood and Jay LaPlante, said that part of the purpose of the report is to record the cultural implications, the environmental damage of the mine.

He said he hopes that as the Environmental Protection Agency develops a risk assessment for the site, which will be released in the future, they will use the health assessment as reference in planning future remediation for the site.

"Risk assessments tend to be geared toward engineering," Braun said. "Ideally, they would be able to use this report to address some of the community concerns."

Braun said he would like to stay involved in posting warnings in the area in the coming years and that he would like to do more with an outreach effort to let the surrounding communities know what is going on at the site.

Requests for the full report can be made to the National Technical Information Service by calling (703) 605-6000.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment