The state of Nevada and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have reached agreement on a plan to clean up the old Anaconda Mine site near Yerington.
The plan will require a commitment of about $31 million from the federal government to clean up the four Arimetco evaporation ponds that make up 260 acres of the 3,400-acre mine site. The state must pay a 10 percent match on the $31 million.
Leo Drozdoff, director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the money for that part of the reclamation project was a key to the governor agreeing to list Anaconda as a superfund site.
He said reclamation of the old Anaconda Mine site that makes up the rest of the site is the responsibility of Atlantic Richfield, which owns the property. Dave Emme, administrator of the Nevada EPA, said that could cost the company $100 million or more because it’s basically a groundwater contamination problem.
Gov. Brian Sandoval laid out the terms of the deal in a four-page letter to Jared Blumenfeld, regional EPA administrator in San Francisco. That letter says the federal EPA must be much more proactive in assuring the public they’re not being exposed to containments that include arsenic and uranium.
The letter states the governor has been assured, “the Anaconda site has had no impacts to agricultural land or the products grown on land in Mason Valley,” and those crops and livestock are safe for consumption. It also states the Yerington water isn’t hydrologically connected to the Anaconda site and is not contaminated.
“There have been real impacts to agricultural producers due to exaggeration of the site risks and misstatement of material facts,” the letter says. “Coordination and collaboration on public statements is essential to convey accurate information.”
“That fact needs to be more clearly articulated by EPA,” the letter says pointing out Mason Valley generates more than $225 million a year from the sale of agricultural products.
Drozdoff said another issue is Nevada’s EPA should manage the clean-up as it did effectively with another old mine site reclamation — Rio Tinto in northeast Nevada.
He said the letter was written based on assurances to him and his staff as well as the governor EPA would provide the necessary cash and meet its end of the agreement on behalf not only of the state but Lyon County, City of Yerington and area tribal leaders.
Work is under way to extend Yerington’s city water system to those homes north of the mine that have contaminated wells and he said about 100 residences there are already being supplied with bottled water.
Drozdoff said the hope is to get funding from the federal government and begin work in late 2017.
Drozdoff said the letter also asks EPA to develop a clear five-year schedule for site work and the government must also hold ARCO accountable for its work on the project.