MARKLEEVILLE — The federal Environmental Protection Agency has formally told Atlantic Richfield Co. to assist in the cleanup of the Leviathan Mine, recently designated a Superfund environmental site.
Arco is a former owner of the mine in Alpine County, about 25 miles southwest of Gardnerville, Nev.
Leviathan has been leaking a mixture of acids and dissolved metals into creeks that drain into the Carson River for years, discoloring the streams and making portions of them incapable of sustaining life.
The EPA designated the mine a Superfund site in May, putting it on a sordid list of the nation’s most polluted places.
The designation lets EPA order potential responsible parties to help with the cleanup. Los Angeles-based Arco joins the current owner, California’s Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board on the list.
The water board has spent millions of dollars over the years to try to contain the toxic stew.
“The regional board did a great job at performing stopgap work this past summer.
Now it’s Arco’s turn, Keith Takata, director of the EPA Superfund program in San Francisco told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Harold Singer, the Lahontan board’s executive director, said his agency had done the short-term work and the longer-range solutions now are up to Arco.
“It helps from a financial perspective and their expertise as well. They’re involved in cleanups like this all over the country,” Singer said.
His agency has built evaporation ponds to catch the runoff and hold the sludge, but they can’t hold everything and millions of gallons of polluted water drains into the creek annually.
The mine was developed in 1863 and used into the 1870s as a source of copper sulfate. It produced sulfur as recently as the 1950s and was shut down for good in 1963.