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U.S. EPA taking first steps in plan for Yerington cleanup

Release Date: 4/1/2005
Contact Information: Laura Gentile ( - 415/947-4227 (desk) or 415/760-9161 (cell)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlined initial plans for the cleanup of the Yerington mine in Lyon County, Nev. that constitutes the agency's first step toward directing the Atlantic Richfield Co. to clean up the mine.

Last December, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection asked the EPA to take over as the lead agency overseeing the cleanup. Prior to last December, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, the EPA and the Bureau of Land Management had shared the responsibility of regulating the cleanup of the site, which covers almost six square miles, half of which lies on federal lands.

"We agreed to take on the responsibility as lead agency for the cleanup of this complex site at the request of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA's Superfund division for the Pacific Southwest region. "This builds on the strong foundation that state and federal regulators established through their work with Arco over the past few years."

The EPA issued an order yesterday, which replaces existing orders that had been in place with the NDEP. The order includes specific work activities, such as air and water monitoring, data collection and investigation activities. Arco is already doing most of the work outlined in the order.

The order also requires Arco to conduct additional work, such as the following:

* establish and maintain a protective site security program;

* prepare a plan to monitor air for radiological contaminants; and

* conduct a comprehensive investigation of the area to identify radiological contamination.

The Yerington mine site, which is located about 55 miles southeast of Reno, produced copper for the Anaconda Company for about 30 years until 1978. The subsequent owner, Arimetco Company, abandoned the site in 2000. Mining activities resulted in contamination of the soil and groundwater with several metals -- including copper, lead, arsenic, and mercury -- and radioactive materials, including uranium, radium and thorium.