Judge rules against BLM in toxic site suit
April 4, 2003
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A federal judge has denied challenges to a lawsuit claiming the Bureau of Land Management failed to warn residents about toxic chemicals found at an old munitions site in north Sparks.
The ruling marks a victory for a Justin Frasure, who blames ongoing health problems to playing as a child at the site of the former Monite Explosives Factory north of Sparks.
Frasure sued the BLM in 2000, claiming the agency knew the hills were littered with DNT and TNT but did not properly fence the area or post warnings.
The agency has denied those claims. Timothy Walthall, a Department of Justice lawyer representing the BLM, filed three motions challenging the lawsuit and asking that the case be dismissed.
But last week U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks denied all three motions, which allows the case to move to a jury trial unless the department appeals.
“The momentum’s going the right way,” Ken Frasure, Justin’s father, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “The almighty sovereign government shouldn’t have the right to do what they do.
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“They’re worried about budgets. They’re not worried about human life.”
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the department had not seen the ruling and would need to review it before deciding how to proceed.
Frasure, now 22, had ridden his bike in the dirt hills north of the Lena Juniper Elementary School in 1992-93. He often dug up and collected yellow crystals he called his treasures rocks that later turned out to be the explosive DNT.
In 1994, his health crashed and he nearly died. Doctors treating him said he looked like he had been contaminated by toxic waste.
Years later, a doctor in Incline Village said the failure of Frasure’s bone marrow and other ailments resulted from his exposure to the chemicals at the Monite site.
After DNT was found at the site in 1992 and 1994, the BLM fenced portions of the area and posted signs, according to numerous documents on the area filed at its Carson City office.
By 1995, the agency’s toxicologist wrote to the director of the BLM warning that the site posed a serious health risk.
A site assessment followed, and by April 1997, the agency had spent $1 million to remove the hazardous chemicals from the area. The BLM’s fiscal report for that year called it “the largest clean up the Bureau has ever conducted.”
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