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Release Date: 5/10/2000
Contact Information: Leo Kay, U.S. EPA, 415-744-2201

     SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has  listed the Leviathan Mine in Alpine County as a federal Superfund site, a move that will help facilitate the cleanup of the inactive sulfur mine located on the eastern slope of the Sierra.

     "This action will provide us with the formal regulatory authority necessary to clean up a very complex site that continues to endanger an otherwise pristine environment," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA's Superfund division in San Francisco.  "Now we can roll up our sleeves and focus entirely on stemming the flow of contamination into nearby creeks and watersheds."

     The EPA will continue working with ARCO and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to address some of the site's immediate issues, such as treating the 15 million gallons of acidic waste currently stored in the ponds to prevent overflows next winter, and intercepting and treating contamination from sources separate from the ponds.  In the meantime, the EPA, ARCO and the water board will work to devise a long-term cleanup plan for the site.

     For the past 40 years, acid mine drainage from the site has killed off aquatic life in Leviathan and Bryant creeks downstream of the mine   including the Lahontan cutthroat trout, a federally listed endangered species.  The East Fork Carson River, which is 10 miles downstream of the site, is also threatened by site runoff.

     State and federal agencies have tried several approaches to clean up the site since the mid- '80s, however, drainage from the site continues to pollute the streams.  Over the past few months, EPA and state officials pumped drainage ponds on the site after excessive snowmelt threatened to overflow mine drainage into Leviathan and Bryant creeks.

     The mine operated from 1863 through 1872 extracting copper sulfate for processing silver ore in the Comstock mining region of Nevada.  Mining operations ceased due to the high sulfur and low copper content of the ore.  In 1954, the Anaconda Company transformed the underground workings into an open pit mine to extract the sulfur ore.  Approximately 22 million tons of overburden and waste rock were removed to get to the ore and spread over 200 acres into and along the channels of Leviathan and Aspen creeks.  The mine has not operated since 1962.

     The EPA will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. on May 24 in the library at Carson Valley Middle School in Gardnerville to discuss the site's Superfund listing.

     Douglas County, Nevada commissioners voted unanimously to support the EPA's listing of the site.  The Washoe Tribe also formally expressed its strong support for listing.  Alpine County, California supervisors recently reaffirmed their support as well.

     Six other sites across the country were also finalized as Superfund sites today, bringing the total number to 1,227 nationwide.  There are now 98 federal Superfund sites in California, and one in Nevada, the Carson River Mercury Site.