Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Sandoval Agrees To List Yerington Mine For Superfund Cleanup - With Conditions

(AP Photo/Debra Reid)

Penny Bassett takes a radiation reading at the former Anaconda copper mine near Yerington, Nev., Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2004. After more than a decade, the site will finally be put on the Superfund Priority List.

Citing a failure of the state to "secure an agreement for a public-privately funded solution," Governor Brian Sandoval Tuesday acceded to the request of the Environmental Protection Agency to allow the former Anaconda mine site near Yerington to be put on the Superfund Priorities List.

The move will open up more than $30 million in federal Superfund money to clean up vast ponds that contain toxic material.

Dietrick McGinnis, an environmental engineer who represents the Yerington Paiute Tribe, told KNPR's State of Nevada that as more research was done on the site, more people realized just how bad the contamination was and how far it had reached. 

“The more data we get on it. The worse it looks to be honest,” McGinnis said.

He also credited the EPA with doing a great job of explaining to state and local officials and local residents seriousness of the problem and what the department was going to do to fix it. 

That federal spending is only for a small portion of the 3,500 acre site. The rest of the cleanup will be done by BP, which currently owns the site.

Previously, according to McGinnis, the EPA had trouble holding BP to its cleanup responsibilities.

This listing on the Superfund National Priorities List comes with some big incentives - including the ability to assess triple damages to BP if it does not clean up the site in good faith.

BP will be responsible for testing and cleaning up ground water, which is the subject of some controversy. McGinnis raised questions on KNPR's State of Nevada in February when he noted that there has been very little testing on farm produce in the area.

Governor Sandoval's letter makes clear that, "there is no evidence that contamination from the site has affected any agricultural products in the area."

Yerington is home to a number of farmers, including Peri Farms. The Paiute Tribe also grows crops.

Laurie Tom is the chairman of the Yerington Paiute Tribe. She said the listing will help clean up a problem that has been around for years.

“The residents on the Yerington reservation have been on bottled water for approximately nine years and so this is a situation that has been looming over the residents on the reservation for a long time,” Tom said. 

The letter from Sandoval to EPA Region IX Administrator Jared Blumenthal sets in motion a chain of events that will likely lead to the allocation of federal funds by March of next year.

The state, though, is worried that those funds might not come through. Sandoval made clear that he expects EPA to come up with the funds by any means.

“They continue to want assurances that the funding will come,” McGinnis explained, “Superfund is a competitive process although this is a very competitive site.”


Dietrick McGinnis, environmental engineer who represents the Yerington Paiute Tribe;  Laurie Tom, Chairman of the Yerington Paiute Tribe

Stay Connected
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)