WASHINGTON - Leviathan Mine in Alpine County just west of Douglas County will finally join the nation's list of Superfund sites, Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., announced Wednesday.
That qualifies the mine, which has repeatedly contaminated the Carson River flowing into Nevada, for funding to help clean it up.
"Leviathan Mine is nothing short of an environmental nightmare," said Bryan, "but this assistance will finally help us correct the problem at its source."
Leviathan Mine, on the east slope of the Sierra in Alpine County, was mined from the 1860s until 1962. Anaconda Corp. mined the open pit for sulfur.
Water that filters through the mine tailings combines with the sulfur to make sulfuric acid, which dissolves minerals including dangerous substances such as arsenic. Twelve acres of evaporation ponds at the mine site sometimes overflow into Leviathan and Bryant Creeks, which connect to the East Fork of the Carson River.
The Washoe Tribe as well as officials in Alpine and Douglas counties have been long concerned about the potential for a major ecological disaster caused by the mine. More than $7.5 million has been spent in attempts to clean up the mine.
The EPA will lay out what the designation means at a public meeting May 24 in Carson Valley Middle School in Gardnerville.
Bryan headed efforts that included the tribe, Douglas and Alpine and the California Lahontan Regional Water quality Control Board to get the site on the Superfund list so that it could get the money and environmental controls to stop the environmental damage.
The Superfund is designed to provide the money for major environmental cleanups where there is no practical or legal way to get the money elsewhere.
"With this announcement, I can finally see a little light at the end of the tunnel," said Bryan. "While it has been a long and arduous process to get to this point, the EPA should be commended for making the right decision."
"In the end, the important thing is that we are finally going to get this mess cleaned up once and for all," Bryan said.