BP/ARCO's Anaconda Snake — Still deadly after all these years

Nevada's Cancer Kids

SPARKS TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE

MEDIA IGNORE
POTENTIAL YERINGTON CANCER CLUSTER

(2004 Archive + Updates)

BREAKING NEWS—>
11-6-2013: BP has agreed to a settlement for Anaconda's pollution depredations. Stay tuned.

More Mining News

Recommended Reading: The Las Vegas Gleaner
The best ongoing commentary on Nevada mining
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Silver City Resistance: Robert G. Elston's chronicle of Comstock revulsion at latter day rape and pillage


MSHA releases fatalgram on Klondex Midas Mine death
Elko Daily Free Press / 5-9-2014

We don't care. We don't have to: Jerrit Canyon Nevada gold mine cited for 61 safety violations
AP / Las Vegas Sun 1-31-2014

RENO, Nev. (12-5-2013) — Former Nevada Assemblymember and hospital trustee Vivian Freeman died this morning at her home in Reno. She was 86 years old.

Freeman's distinguished career included Nevada's first mining reclamation law
Dennis Myers / Reno News & Review / 12-12-2013

Death on the job: Nevada workers remain cheap and disposable
Newmont slated for another wet-noodle punishment for June '13 worker fatality
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 11-7-2013 Daily Sparks Tribune

Comstock residents picket mining company's shareholder meeting
Barbwire by Barbano / Daily Sparks Tribune 6-27-2013

Nevada’s privileged mining industry battles the future with ‘campaign contributions’
By Dennis Myers / Reno News & Review / 3-14-13


IN THE BLACK AND COMMITTING BLACKMAIL—>TV station boss and former university chancellor Jim Rogers won't cave to mining industry after advertising cancellation
Las Vegas Sun / 3-2-13

Nevada to mining: Never mind (the tax thing)
Hugh Jackson / Las Vegas CityLife 1-9-2013

Progressive Leadership Alliance Mining Updates

Newmont worker dies at Exodus Mine north of Carlin
Daily Sparks Tribune / 9-4-2012

Jerritt Canyon/Yukon-Nevada charged with multiple safety violations
Reno News & Review / 12-1-2011

Comstock residents fight new open-pit mine that will gut the historic area

View the 5-31-2011 Barbwire TV show about historic Virginia City's jeopardy

MSHA: Newmont contractor dies of fumes from tire repair
Elko Daily Free Press / 11-1-2011

Miners don't even kiss us afterward
Hugh Jackson / Las Vegas CityLife / 8-25-2011

Labor leader hits mining tax loopholes at legislative rally
5-19-2011

Slaves taxes, bread crumbs & another brick in the wall
There are no virgins in politics. The best you can hope for is that your friends treat you a little better than your enemies and promise to kiss you afterward.
Legislative Democrats exempt mining from tax reform proposal
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 5-8-2011 Daily Sparks Tribune

A hard place: Legislators struggle with one industry’s tax loophole
Reno News & Review / 4-14-2011

Gov. Brian the Brutal: Zero is a fair share
Las Vegas Gleaner 3-22-2011
Hugh Jackson's Las Vegas Gleaner blog has offered the best critique of mining for years. Visit often.

Mining's power to condemn anyone's home and land challenged at legislature (again)
Update: This 19th Century relic was erased, but the industry still escaped tax-free
Reno News & Review / 3-3-2011

Smoking guns and suing for schools
Barbwire by Barbano/ Expanded from the 12-5-2010 Daily Sparks Tribune

Stop giving away Nevada's gold
Deidre Pike / Reno News & Review 9-23-2010

Remembering Mother Jones in coal country

Two Nevada NE miners found dead
Killer corporations deserve death penalty

NevadaLabor.com Statewide News Roundup 8-15-2010

U.S. labor secretary forgets to name Nevada worker killed by Newmont Mining negligence
Barbwire by Barbano/ Expanded from the 8-1-2010 Daily Sparks Tribune

Suing for Schools: The 20-year shuck
How mining engineered its current free ride
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 2-21-2010 Daily Sparks Tribune

The crabby cure for what ails us
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 1-17-2010 Daily Sparks Tribune

Initiative petition in the offing to make mining finally pay its fair share after more than a century

Newmont kills another miner

Newmont Mining fined $500,000 for fatal safety flaws

Murdered miner's family sues Newmont
Barbwire / Sparks Tribune/ 6-21-2009

Workers Memorial Day
Déjà vu all over again

GETCHELL GRAVEYARD: DEPTHS OF TRAGEDY
Families, co-workers mourn lost miners as deaths draw attention to site's safety

EPA testing for hazards at toxic Nevada mine site

Diverse groups support change in Mining Law of 1872

Body of missing Nevada miner recovered after almost two weeks
Rest in peace, brother.

Three-judge panel of Nevada Supreme Court reverses mining water ruling

Utilities say new mercury pollution rule not a problem

Quicksilver brain damage: Trying to avoid federal oversight,
Nevada legislative panel approves new rules for coal-fired power plant emissions

MSHA proposes stiffer penalties for mine safety violations

Newmont Mining settles with Peruvian protestors

Court in Nevada case rules BLM must widen look at mining effects
Victory for environmentalists
Reno Gazette-Journal/AP 8-2-2002

Letter clouds gubernatorial candidate Gibson's explanation for violating conflict of interest
regarding mining claims vote

Columnist John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal 7-26-2006

Nevada's Cancer Kids

Mining protest is dead in Nevada
Environmental groups are launching a two-pronged attack on a law passed last year they said bans public participation in state decisions, such as water pollution permit hearings and appeals.
Reno Gazette-Journal 7-6-2006
Ruling over mine exposes flaw in new law
Petitioners required to have standing in case
Las Vegas Sun 7-10-2006
Permission denied
Great Basin Mine Watch discovers that average citizens no longer have the right to challenge corporate polluters
Reno News & Review 7-13-2006

UPDATE — Great Basin Mine Watch files appeal
Reno Gazette-Journal 9-8-2006

RADIATION AND TOXICS ARE GOOD FOR YOU
Sen. Ensign and others take the chamber of commerce PR line
to keep ARCO/Anaconda pit from EPA Superfund designation

Mason Valley News/Reno Gazette-Journal 7-6-2006

Community Action Group requests Superfund listing for mine
Mason Valley News/Reno Gazette-Journal 6-15-2006

Mercury levels in power plants get attention, mining ignored
Nevada has most mercury pollutants of any state by far — 85% of national total
No legislation planned now or in the future
Las Vegas Sun 3-5-2006

Is Nevada a toxic neighbor? Utah accuses Nevada gold mines
of sending mercury via air mail

Reno Gazette-Journal 7-9-2005

New rule limits miners' exposure to diesel exhaust

Winnemucca judge dismisses Newmont Mining whistleblowers' lawsuit, appeal likely
AP corrections to the above story

Two workers injured at Newmont Mine

2004 News Archive

Coverup Denied

Whistle-blower claims BLM firing over polluted mine

Sen. Reid supports Superfund listing for mine site

Call for cleanup of mine site grows stronger

BLM and ARCO disagree over authority for Weed Heights Anaconda cleanup


Nevada's Cancer Kids

SPARKS TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE: MEDIA IGNORE
POTENTIAL YERINGTON CANCER CLUSTER
By Investigative Reporter Kristin Larsen

NO FISHING (NO FISH) — Run-off ponds where the leach pad fluids are still collected at the Anaconda/ARCO/British Petroleum copper pit at Weed Heights near Yerington in Lyon County, Nevada. (Copyright © 2006 Debra Reid/Sparks Tribune)

UPDATE — Cover story: Mountain or molehill?
Health problems in Yerington have former miners wondering if the mine is to blame
By Kristin Larsen
Photos by Debra Reid
Reno News & Review 6-29-2006

UPDATE 11-6-2013: BP has agreed to a settlement for Anaconda's pollution depredations. Stay tuned.


"IMMINENT AND SUBSTANTIAL THREAT"
EPA orders ARCO to clean up abandoned copper mine near Yerington

Las Vegas Review-Journal 1-18-2007

New evaporation pond could outlive usefulness
Mason Valley News/RGJ 10-6-2006

Mine groundwater data point to northern migration. Questions remain: How far? How deep?
Mason Valley News/RGJ 9-22-2006

Anaconda mine site update; health consultation released
Mason Valley News/RGJ 9-14-2006

Changes in store for continued air monitoring at mine
Mason Valley News/RGJ 7-20-2006

Worried about bad publicity, Sen. Ensign and others take the Love Canal approach
to keep the Weed Heights Anaconda pit from Superfund listing

Gov. Dudley Do-Right and Congressman Obtusenik agree
Toxic waste and radiation are good for you?
Mason Valley News/RGJ 7-6-2006

Lack of information concerns Yerington residents
Locals worry about mine pollution
By Kristin Larsen

Daily Sparks Tribune January 5, 2005

Yerington residents have contamination concerns
By Kristin Larsen
Daily Sparks Tribune Dec. 12, 2004

Yerington woman starts petition drive
Daily Sparks 9-21-2004

Sen. Reid: ARCO should pay for miners' health care
Water is so radioactive that residents can't brush their teeth
Stats show cancer incidence 1/3 higher than national average
Daily Sparks Tribune 8-20-2004
By Kristin Larsen

Potential cancer cluster in Yerington
By Kristin Larsen
No other newspaper or wire service picked up on this story
after the Tribune broke it on 7-27-2004. Go figure.

Maybe it needs a catchy buzzword headline — like nuclear waste.

Yerington officials try to blame the messenger
Don't want no furriners meddling at 8-25 town hall
Mason Valley News/Reno Gazette-Journal 8-19-2004

Gov. Dudley Do-Right reconsiders opposing Anaconda Superfund listing
Gannett story makes no mention of available cancer stats

Mason Valley News/Reno Gazette-Journal 8-8-2004

In a spasm of civic moral obtuseness, Yerington town fathers react
to radiation revelations by hiring a PR firm

ZOUNDS.
Mason Valley News/Reno Gazette-Journal 8-5-2004

Barbwire by Barbano: Blast from the Toxic Past
Did Naval Air Station Fallon Bury Live Animals After Huge Jet Fuel Spill?
Jet fuel is one of the suspect links being investigated as a possible cause
of the Fallon area childhood leukemia cancer cluster (links below)
Daily Sparks Tribune 1-19-1990 and 1-22-1990

Nevada's Cancer Kids

 

 

Lack of information concerns Yerington residents
Locals worry about mine pollution
By Kristin Larsen

Sparks Tribune
Published January 5, 2005
Updated 9-8-2006

While agencies evaluate possible workers’ safety risks at the Yerington mine, some residents wonder if radioactive contaminates could be infiltrating their well water or blowing into their community during dust storms.

How much radiation is too much?

   The average dose nationwide is approximately 360 millirems per year.

   The EPA standard for radiation from man-made sources for the public is 15 millirems per year.

   The OSHA and Nuclear Regulatory Commission standard for workers appropriately trained and equipped is 5,000 millirems per year.

   Atlantic Richfield’s standard for workers on the Yerington site is 500 millirems per year. That is 10 percent of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standard.

According to preliminary evaluations and former mine owner Atlantic Richfield's Worker Health and Safety Plan, contractors can safely work in most parts of the mine, but there are different safety standards for residents. Little has been done to evaluate those risks.

"The problem with this site is that we don't have enough information," said Jim Sickles, Environmental Protection Agency remedial project manager. "In a year or two we should be a lot smarter."

Sickles said agencies have different standards because they are evaluating different risks and some are more conservative than others. Agencies like OSHA look at what is an acceptable momentary dosage, whereas the EPA evaluates health risks over a 30-year period.

Sickles compares these different processes to evaluating the health risks of a person who walks through a smoke-filled room verses someone who lives in a smoke-filled house. The acceptable annual dosage for a person living in a smoke-filled house should be much lower because it is a long-term risk that could accumulate in a person’s body.

Yerington resident and former mine worker Brian Gibbs said he would appreciate more information about possible health risks to residents and former workers.

"I think people deserve to know the truth about the site, especially those who own property," Gibbs said. "The town needs to know the truth for the future of the community."

But Gibbs said the residents of Yerington have mixed feelings about finding contamination on their property and some might prefer not to know because they are afraid of property values plummeting.

There is a large community surrounding the site. According to an NDEP document from 2000, "The local groundwater is the sole source of drinking water for the approximately 3,000 people living within four miles of the site."

The document also said the mine was repeatedly cited in 1983 for polluting the groundwater and that drainage ditches north of the site were being"degraded, possibly by the groundwater seeps emanating from the mine." The groundwater on the mine site is still contaminated but pumps designed to keep the groundwater on the site are still in operation.

Well results from September 2004 show all the domestic wells on the Yerington Paiute Campbell Reservation are eligible for free water due to uranium contamination. This is an increase from previous months.

However, there has been no direct link made between the mine and the wells' high content of uranium.

To investigate these issues Peggy Pauly and others are organizing the Community Action Group for Yerington.

Pauly said they are attempting to ensure the safety of the community by fighting for proper testing.

"We have been called chicken-littles," Peggy Pauly said. "Prove to me the sky is not falling. Some people are acting like ostriches."

To date Atlantic Richfield, owned by British Petroleum, has installed six air monitors, conducted quarterly water samples, capped 80 percent of mining tailing to prevent it blowing away, said Dan Ferriter, ARCO environmental business manager.

British Petroleum has spent $6 million in cleanup costs and evaluation for the site since they became a potentially responsible party in 2000, said B.P. spokesman Don Cummings. In spite of the current cleanup and evaluation efforts, some residents said they are not communicating their discoveries effectively to those living in the community.

"They have to do a lot more," Don Shepman said. "They need to be honest with us and that's a thing they haven't been. They need to tell us if there is a threat to our health and where it is."

Copyright © 2005 Daily Sparks Tribune. Used by permission.

BACK TO ANACONDA/YERINGTON INDEX

Yerington residents have contamination concerns
By Kristin Larsen
Sparks Tribune
Dec. 12, 2004
Updated 9-8-2006

Yerington Paiutes living on the reservation may have been surprised to discover on Friday that the mining company Atlantic Richfield will offer them bottled water to drink as a safety precaution.

—Tribune/Debra Reid



Douglas McBride measures radiation near vats used to extract copper at the former Anaconda mine. McBride is developing a safety program for workers sampling the mine's soil and groundwater. Residents near the mine worry contamination has endangered their health.

 

Well results from September show the entire Yerington Paiute Campbell Reservation is eligible for free water due to uranium contamination. This is an increase from previous months.

Uranium in the wells at levels greater than 25 parts per billion has prompted the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection to direct ARCO to supply water to interested residents.

Some residents are concerned that contaminates like the uranium found in the wells are escaping from a nearby mine known to be radioactive. Radioactivity is so high in some parts of the mine that a worker could have received a dose of radiation in one eight-hour shift that surpasses the EPA's standard of a yearly dosage for a person without protective gear.

On Wednesday, 56 residents gathered to discuss the mine's contaminates and possible health risks. Former mining employee Pamela Bengochia-Muñoz is concerned that her poor health is work-related.

"I'm not in good health," she said. "That's why I'm at this meeting."

—Tribune/Debra Reid

Peggy Pauley, right, asks neighbor William Wubbenhorst to fill out a health survey she's circulating throughout the community. Wubbenhorst's well water has an unsafe level of uranium, so he and his wife must use bottled water provided by the Atlantic Richfield Company.

Whistleblower fuels neighbors' fears near polluted Nevada mine (Associated Press 11-25-2004)

She worked for three different mining companies on the Yerington site since 1976 and whether she was cleaning the sulfuric acid vats, the spills, or working in the iron launder her uniform has always been the same: regular clothes, steal-toed boots, gloves and a hard hat.

It wasn't enough to protect her from the burns she would get on her eyes and skin or from the red dust she inhaled. She wondered if it has caused her intestinal polyps, liver failure and the almost complete shut down of her kidneys.

"I want to be told the truth - if I was working with dangerous chemicals," Bengochia-Muñoz said.

Dayna Anglin is more concerned about the possible contaminates currently infiltrating their community. Her well tested three times above the standard. NDEP told her not to brush her teeth with her water. If uranium is consumed in high doses it can cause congestive kidney failure and she said she worries for her family and two children.

Dietrick McGinnis, the Yerington Paiute Tribe's environmental attorney said, "We’ve assessed this from the technical side for years. I share you’re frustration – thank God I don’t share your water."

Until now little has been done to discover if contaminates from the mine have reached into the community beyond testing private wells. Only recently have the locations of off-site monitoring wells been agreed on by the three agencies involved in the clean-up, the NDEP, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management.

To investigate these issues Peggy Pauly and others are organizing a Community Action Group for Yerington.
They are pushing for two courses action to evaluate the dangers to those who have lived around the mine and worked on it.

     - First, they are asking Federal agencies to conduct a aerial survey for radiation on and off the site.

     - Second, they are asking interested residents to fill out a health survey and be screened for exposure to radioactive materials.

If contaminates are found in the community, there will be a larger area of clean-up and potential compensation to those affected.

During an aerial survey a sodium iodide detector hangs from a helicopter 150 feet above the ground. It flies in a grid formation that will be calculated and recorded into a computer. This same method is used to find dirty bombs.

The agencies regulating the site clean had initially proposed to conduct an aerial survey, but decided to instead conduct on-site soil testing.

—Tribune/Debra Reid


Whistleblower Earle Dixon warned of radiation hazards at the Anaconda mine during a community meeting this week.

Foes accuse Rep. Gibbons, R-Nev., of not aiding Anaconda whistleblower
Las Vegas Review-Journal 9-7-2006

Whistleblower Earl Dixon wins case against BLM
Associated Press 9-1-2006

Whistle-blower claims BLM firing over polluted mine. Federal complaint seeks damages of more than $1 million
Las Vegas Review-Journal 11-11-2004

Earle Dixon, a recently-fired BLM worker, claims that he was wrongfully terminated for blowing the whistle on inadequate testing.

Dixon said the survey could help to answer many questions about the spread of contamination.

Marc Picker, an attorney for the group that is compiling health information, said agencies like BLM, NDEP and EPA are not set up to evaluate health problems in the community that may be a result of contaminates from the mine.

That’s why he recommends that those who worked on the mine or lived near it get tested for high levels of chemicals like thorium or radium, which stay in the body.

"Federal agencies are designed to clean up water and land, but they don’t solve health problems," Picker said.

"None of them will say here’s $1,000 to get tested or for your medical bills. I guarantee Atlantic Richfield Company, BLM and the state start listening when you start suing them."

Picker said thorium, which was found on the site, has been linked to joint pain and bone pain.

Radium, also on the site, has been linked to thyroid cancer, certain types of breast cancer, chronic fatigue and other symptoms.

Unless residents are tested, there is no way to determine a connection between the chemicals and health problems.

"We’re at the very beginning," Picker said. "We’re not guaranteeing results or a lawsuit, but we can help them investigate avenues for compensation."

One of the group's goals has already been met. The state has requested that the EPA be named the lead agency in the clean-up of the site.

This was also the hope of the Yerington Paiute Tribe, the City of Yerington, and Lyon County.

Previously, the BLM, EPA and NDEP had to agree to approve work plans and NDEP organized the effort. NDEP's website refers the themselves as the lead agency.

Wayne Garcia, the Yerington Paiute tribal chairman, said, "This is a giant step toward dealing with the issues of community health for many generations to come. It's nice to get a Christmas present early."

 

Copyright © 2004 Daily Sparks Tribune. Used by permission.

BACK TO ANACONDA/YERINGTON INDEX

Yerington woman starts petition drive
By Kristin Larsen

Sparks Tribune
Published Sept. 21, 2004

"We’re not allowed to go under our house without full HAZMAT suits on," said Misty Stevens, a resident on the Yerington Paiute’s tribal land. Radon above Environmental Protection Agency standards was found in 45 percent of buildings tested on Yerington's Campbell Reservation and her house was one of them.

CAPTIONS TO ADDITIONAL PHOTOS NOT DISPLAYED WITH THIS STORY

Photo courtesy of Misty Stevens —
This is one of the evaporation ponds on the site where chemical solutions used to break down metals have accumulated.

Photo courtesy of Misty Stevens —
This is the entrance to the room featured above. Parts of the stairs and railing have been disolved by the solution.

Photo courtesy of Misty Stevens —
She says this room has been sealed by NDEP for the safety of the public, but the room continues to hold chemicals that have eaten away at the stairs and fixtures in the room. She speculates the floor may be gone or decomposed. Since the room has been sealed there has been no testing. Stevens asks how do they know it's not getting into the ground water?

 

"The EPA said it’s safe to live there, but I don’t buy that," Stevens said.

EPA Remedial Project Manager Jim Sickles said foundations of many houses on the Campbell Reservation were constructed from mine tailings from a nearby mine. The soil around Yerington is naturally rich in uranium and chemical processes miningcompanies use can condense other radioactive materials into higher concentrations.

"I’ve got elevated levels of radon in my house and a new baby and I can’t get an answer from any of the agencies of what they’re going to do to help us," Stevens said.

That's why she and her husband have decided to start a petition asking for the site to become a Superfund site instead of continuing under state control.

The mine, which sits less than a mile from some homes, has qualified for Superfund status. Radioactivity is so high in some parts of the mine that a worker could have received a dose of radiation in one 8-hour shift that surpasses the EPA's standard of a yearly dosage.

But Governor Kenny Guinn and local county commissioners are against the listing because they are afraid of a Superfund stigma and lower property values.

Stevens already sent 200 signatures to Governor Guinn but over the weekend she got 150 more. She said she'll continue to send them until Guinn changes his mind.

Of the 358 people she's asked she said only 8 haven't signed. She said the two main responses she has gotten from those who sign the petition have been, "Nothing is being done." or "What cleanup?"

"I think the petition signatures show that the County Commissioners stance doesn’t represent what the people want," Stevens said. "The people want a real clean-up, federal dollars and jobs. A Superfund clean-up creates jobs."

But others have different opinions of the site clean-up.

Lyon county commission candidate Don Tibbals and his wife Joy own the Weed Heights Development, with 231 homes, located just uphill from the mine. The Tibbals said they have no health problems and their water always tests clean.

The Tibbals believe any contamination should be cleaned up but Superfund status for the mine would be unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers' money.

Great Basin Mine Watch Program Associate Christine Whiteside said GBMW just wants to see the site cleaned up and have no preference for how it happens. She said she believes most residents are against a Superfund listing, but there seem to be many misconceptions about what having it listed would mean.

"I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what Superfund is," Whiteside said. "I think it would help to clear up the misunderstandings that swirl around Superfund."

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the clean-up is taking a long time.

"The state has been dragging its feet," Whiteside said. "We’re unsure if it’s because the state lacks the authority to force ARCO to clean up the site, or if they just lack the manpower and money for an effective clean-up."

The longer it takes to clean up the site the more opportunity contaminates have to spread.

Some private wells contain levels of uranium above drinking-water standards, according to the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection. The uranium found in private wells above drinking-water standards has not been linked to the mine, said BLM and NDEP officials, but the former Anaconda mine owners estimated in 1976 that the Yerington mine could produce as much as 50,000 pounds of uranium oxide annually.

Some residents have been advised not to brush their teeth with the water that comes out of their faucets. NDEP supplies bottled water to those who test above a certain amount but not enough to supply water to crops or livestock.

County Commissioners have proposed connecting the city's water line to the houses but many homeowners can't afford metered water.

Stevens said she is outraged that so little is being done to look out for citizens’ well-being.

"Let’s round up all the Indians, put them on a little plot of land, poison their water and offer to sell them good water," Stevens said.

Stevens would like to form a community action group. She asked the EPA for funding in the form of a technical assistance grant, which would allow them to hire their own technical advisor that is not employed by any of the agencies, but was turned down because the site was not a Superfund. The EPA said they would donate an employee’s time to help with assessing the site but Stevens believes the employee might be unfairly influenced by their connection to the EPA.

She said the NDEP has been negligent in handling the site. She has pictures of underground tunnels that have filled up with chemical solutions the mine used to process copper from the soil. Those underground rooms have had fixtures, railings and stairs eaten away by chemical processes.

Stevens said NDEP has done nothing to make sure it is not leaking into the ground. Instead they have put a hatch on the room to prevent people from entering the room for their safety. But the result is that no one has tested the substance in the room or ensured that it is not contaminating the ground water.

Stevens said she is demanding a change in the site’s handling because these problems have not been addressed.

"These agencies should be ashamed of themselves," Stevens said.

Copyright © 2004 Daily Sparks Tribune. Used by permission.

BACK TO ANACONDA/YERINGTON INDEX


Reid: ARCO should pay for miners’ health care

by Kristin Larsen
Sparks Tribune
Published 8-20-04

Yerington miners exposed to radioactive materials should have their medical bills paid by the mining company responsible for cleanup, Senator Harry Reid said Wednesday.

CAPTION TO PHOTOS NOT DISPLAYED WITH THIS STORY

In the highly radioactive process area, the leach pond contains the remains of a process used to extract copper from Yerington soil. The sulfuric acid used to dissolve metals and break down minerals has drained from the leach pond into a nearby basement and eaten away the base of a handrail. Photos were taken in 2002. Photos courtesy of B. Dietrick McGinnis.

Radioactivity is so high in some parts of the mine that a worker could have received a dose of radiation in one 8-hour shift that surpasses the EPA’s standard of a yearly dosage for those without protective gear.

The workers were not informed of the presence of radioactive material and were not protected against it even though documents from 1979 claim "radiological contamination" had become a problem in areas of the site.

"Health care should be included as part of ARCO’s responsibility for the cleanup," Reid told the Sparks Tribune. "ARCO should identify and notify workers who may have been endangered. They should be screened for resulting illnesses and compensated for their health problems."

Cancer has become a concern as documents from Nevada's Center for Health Data and Research reveal a higher incidence of lung and bronchus cancer in Mason Valley — the area surrounding Yerington — than the national average.

Yerington averages 91.7 cases of lung or bronchus cancer for every 100,000 individuals according to Health Department findings from 1996-2000. The national average is 62.8 cases for every 100,000.

Elevated rates of cancer could result from an environmental cause, health officials say.

Reid said not enough progress had been made on the site in the four years that cleanup has been a priority. Reid advocated that it should become a Superfund site. The Yerington Paiutes agree.

"The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection has no obligations to the tribe unlike federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and BLM," said Johanna Emm, a water quality coordinator who lives a quarter mile from the mine’s pit lake. "That’s why we think (a Superfund designation) would better protect tribal interests."

She said the federal agencies had been more responsive to the tribe’s concerns. In 1999 the tribe asked the EPA to investigate the site and in 2000 the EPA said the site was eligible for Superfund status. The tribe first asked the agencies for an assessment of radioactive material onsite in December 2001 and asked eight more times before receiving a limited assessment in 2003 from NDEP, said Tribal Chairman Wayne Garcia.

Instead of listing the site, the NDEP coordinates the cleanup efforts of BLM and EPA according to an agreement. Stakeholders in the site can only make suggestions. All parties agree progress has been slow, but disagree about the cause of the delay.

"The public perception in newspapers is that ARCO (the mine owner) drags its feet, but really the delay is a result of the process (of coordinating cleanup efforts)," said Chuck Zimmerman, a hydrogeologist with NDEP.

"I think we’d disagree with that," said EPA Remedial Project Manager Jim Sickles.

After four years of analysis, many of the site’s potential health risks remain unassessed. Project directors in all agencies say they don’t know if radioactive materials are escaping the site in dust storms because it’s never been measured.

Some private wells contain levels of uranium above EPA drinking-water standards but the connection to the mine is uncertain. The uncertainty hasn't lessened locals' concerns.

Dayna Anglin has been advised by NDEP not to brush her teeth with the water that comes out of her faucets. Cooking pasta or watering her vegetable garden with it is out of the question.

She is a Yerington resident whose well tested three times above EPA uranium water standards. NDEP gives bottled water to homeowners whose wells are close to violating that standard.

"I'm a diabetic and I can't drink the water because my kidneys could shut down," Anglin said.

If uranium is consumed in high doses, it can cause congestive kidney failure.

Anglin is concerned for her two children, but she relies on the water that comes from her well for showering and her livestock.

The amount of uranium found in her well would seem to be above the natural level found in the area, and the former Anaconda mine owners estimated in 1976 that the Yerington mine could produce as much as 50,000 pounds of uranium oxide annually. Ground water from the mine generally flows north toward her home, yet a link has not been established between the mine and the high levels of uranium found in homeowners' wells.

Those present at the presentation of the new BLM Health and Safety plan raised questions about the kind of data collected.

"With the repeated data collection you're doing, I think there's a limit to what you can learn from that method," BLM Project Manager Earle Dixon said to Dan Ferriter representing ARCO.

Ferriter said he agreed with Dixon, but the company was going to continue its quarterly samplings because that was the agreement.

Yerington residents have differing opinions about the mine. Some are extremely concerned, while others say the mine is the only reason the town of Yerington exists. Most are in the middle and are either unconcerned or uninterested.

Dick Roberson, a Yerington realtor, said only one person in the last six months canceled her escrow on a house because of news about the mine. The other 100 customers he's sold to in that time haven’t been bothered by it.

"To be honest I can’t keep up with the real-estate sales," he said.

Copyright © 2004 Daily Sparks Tribune. Used by permission.

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Potential cancer cluster in Yerington
by Kristin Larsen
Sparks Tribune
Published 7-27-04

Residents of Yerington have a higher incidence of lung and bronchus cancer than the national average according to Nevada's Center for Health Data and Research.

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Residents of Weed Heights live next to copper ore tailings at the former Anaconda Mine. The community was built by Anaconda to house hundreds of employees.

Elevated rates of cancer could result from an environmental cause, health officials say.

Yerington, 55 miles southeast of Reno, seems to have no shortage of possible suspects:

     * Radon above Environmental Protection Agency standards was found in 45 percent of buildings tested on Yerington's Campbell Reservation. Radon is a radioactive gas and the second leading cause of lung cancer nationwide.

     * Elevated levels of radioactive materials were discovered on a nearby mine according to the Bureau of Land Management.

     * Some private wells contain levels of uranium above drinking-water standards according to the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection.

Statisticians aren't the only ones who noticed an abnormally high rate of cancer. Robert Boyce, Tribal Manager of the Yerington Paiutes, said the number of cancer diagnoses in his community disturbed him even before the state's findings.

"It just seems like every time we turn around, we're encountering somebody that has emphysema, or some type of cancer," Boyce said. "We've had what I think is an above normal incidence of people dying of cancer out there."

Yerington averages 91.7 cases of lung or bronchus cancer for every 100,000 individuals Health Department findings from 1996-2000 indicated. The national average is 62.8 cases for every 100,000.

Dr. Wei Yang, Director of Health Center Data and Research, cautions that cancer epidemics can be harder to spot in small towns like Yerington because the statistical certainty is less, but even with Yerington's population of 2,883 factored in the occurrence of cancer is above average.

But no causes have been linked to the cancer cases. EPA studies indicate that nearly one in 15 homes in America has a high level of indoor radon, but tribal officials wonder what has caused nearly half of reservation homes to test at a dangerous level. It could be a matter of location and building materials.

EPA Remedial Project Manger Jim Sickles said foundations of many houses on the Campbell Reservation were constructed from mine tailings. The soil around Yerington is naturally rich in uranium, and chemical processes mining companies use can condense uranium and other radioactive materials into higher concentrations.

As Shannon Berumen, the Yerington Paiute Tribe radon program coordinator said, "Uranium is naturally occurring in this area, but the higher the concentration of uranium the higher the concentration of radon."

Radon is not the only cancer-causing agent in close proximity. A 3,500-acre mine sits less than a mile from some homes and has tested positive for thorium and radium, elements that can glow in the dark and have been linked with causing a variety of cancers. Radioactive material has been found in one area on the site 31 times above EPA clean-up standards while other areas average much lower.

People can be exposed to them through inhalation and consumption so dust blowing off the site is a concern to locals.

"There are areas on the mine that are obvious sources of fugitive dust," Art Gravenstein with NDEP said. "A Yerington work group is working on a temporary cap for the site while it's being studied."

BLM and NDEP officials say they don't believe contaminates are getting off the site, but currently there is no air monitoring at the site.

"We have not had any information to lead us to believe that it is escaping offsite," said Bob Abbey, Nevada director of the BLM.

The uranium found in private wells above drinking-water standards has not been linked to the mine said BLM and NDEP officials, but the former Anaconda mine owners estimated in 1976 that the Yerington mine could produce as much as 50,000 pounds of uranium oxide annually.

The highest level of contamination in a private well was 108 parts per billion and nine other wells tested at or above the EPA standard of 30 ppb. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection has tested the wells of all homeowners in the area who asked for it and offered free bottled water to those who test above 24 ppb of uranium.

Residents of the area and the Yerington Paiutes hope the site is cleaned up sooner rather than later.

"The (Tribal) Chairman and I have the responsibility to look out for our people," Boyce said. "And we're exploring every option we can to see if there's not some wa
y to speed the process up."

Copyright © 2004 Daily Sparks Tribune. Used by permission.

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