County officials to conduct tour Tuesday
Douglas and Alpine county officials are expected Tuesday to tour the Leviathan Mine.
The tour is expected to help with the Environmental Protection Agency’s superfund designation, which will help clean up the mine.
“It is my hope that we will be able to get this group of federal, state and local agencies to put their collective heads together and take a long and hard look at this problem,” Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., said.
Bryan said he has arraigned for Keith Takata, Region IX director of the Environmental Protection Agency, to meet with officials on concerns about the mine.
The Leviathan Mine, located 25 miles south of Gardnerville, is an inactive sulfur mine now contaminating a nearby creek with acid mine drainage – a toxic stew of acid water containing dissolved metals such as iron, copper, aluminum, nickel and arsenic.
The contaminated water threatens Washoe Tribal lands and the Carson Valley’s drinking supply.
“The Leviathan Mine is an ecological nightmare that continues to contaminate the environment, and it is time that all of the parties are brought together to discuss this environmental disaster,” Bryan said.
The Alpine County, Calif., mine is now owned by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, which has spent the past several years trying to keep the acid mine runoff out of the water supply. This summer, Lahontan officials built a $1 million system of treated contaminated pond water to create more capacity for runoff.
The mine has been closed for 37 years and was first mined in 1863 for copper sulfate to process silver in Virginia City. The Anaconda Co. bought the mine in the 1950s and used it as a sulfur mine. The company excavated hundreds of acres of land, creating an open pit mine – a type of operation known for causing problems in water quality standards.
If the site is declared a superfund project, EPA coordinates cleanup efforts. California and the Washoe Tribe support the Superfund National Priorities List designation. An EPA decision is expected this month.
Bryan said, “It is absolutely imperative that this group come to some decisions and begin a process that will clean up the abandoned mine and provide the necessary safeguards to properly protect not only the environment, but the health and safety of Nevada’s residents.”