Leviathan Mine is under Alpine County’s watchful eye for protection, pollution | NevadaAppeal.com

Leviathan Mine is under Alpine County’s watchful eye for protection, pollution

by Andy Bourelle

Alpine County leaders will reconsider whether the polluted Leviathan Mine should be on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list.

Alpine County resident David Griffith, a geologist, has been spearheading an effort to get the Alpine County Board of Supervisors to switch their stance on the abandoned sulfur mine, which spews a toxic soup of dissolved metals into nearby Leviathan Creek.

“I don’t think they should go so far as to say it should never be a Superfund site,” Griffith said. “But I think they should say, ‘We don’t feel comfortable recommending it for Superfund at this time.'”

Superfund status could bring resources and money for the cleanup.

The board of supervisors is scheduled to discuss the issue April 4.

Herman Zellmer, chairman of the Alpine County Board of Supervisors, said he hasn’t made up his mind whether to switch the county’s stance.

“I can’t speak for the other members of the board. I don’t know what they’re thinking,” Zellmer said. “Until I hear what the pros and cons are, I’m not going to make a decision myself.”

EPA last year proposed to list the mine as a federal Superfund site. The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, Alpine County, Douglas County and the Carson City-based Carson Water Subconservancy District, have supported the listing.

Kevin Mayer, Superfund project manager for EPA, said the listing likely will become official in May. Mayer said he did not know if the board changing its mind would make a difference.

“If they feel adamantly the site shouldn’t be listed, I can only promise that I will report that immediately to the decision makers,” Mayer said. “I don’t know what impact it will have on the decision.”

ARCO now owns Anaconda Co., a mining operation that once owned Leviathan Mine and is responsible for creating the open pit mine which caused the problems. California’s Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board now owns the property and has been working to clean it up since the 1980s.

Griffith opposes the listing because, he said, ARCO could fight the allegations that it should pay for the cleanup, thus delaying work.

Mayer said the EPA has funds to continue work if that happens. However, he believes ARCO will cooperate.

What: Alpine County meeting

When: April 4, 9 a.m.

Where: Alpine County Administration Building, 99 Water St., Markleeville