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EPA Director Speaks Out On The Yerington Superfund

By Kelapstick - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,/Creative Commons

A flooded open pit at the abandoned Anaconda Mine near Yerington.

Last week, Governor Brian Sandoval announced that he has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to list the contaminated mine site around the town of Yerington on the Superfund National Priorities List.

This announcement has been 15 years in the making.

The site was already a Superfund site, but Nevada’s governors had blocked it from going through the final step that would unlock federal funds.

When Gov. Sandoval made his announcement, he credited Jared Blumenfeld for personally meeting with him, local farmers and other stakeholders. Blumenfeld is the director of Region IX of the EPA.

“The issue of the Anaconda Mine has been one that I’ve been focused on since I got in office, which was seven years ago now, and it has been one that has been pretty vexing and difficult to resolve,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Blumenfeld said there was a lot of anxiety and some misinformation among stakeholders.

The biggest anxiety was that the Yerington site would be put on the National Priorities List, but wouldn't get funded.

“So you would get the negatives attributes of Superfund designation with none of the positive benefits of getting it cleaned up,” he said.

Blumenfeld assured stakeholders - and KNPR - that after 15 years of close study of this site, funding is almost guaranteed.

On the other side, Blumenfeld echoed the governor's statement that contaminated water was a NOT threat to farmland in the area.

A representative from the Paiute tribe in Yerington, Dietrick McGinnis, pointed out on KNPR on two separate occasions that neither the state nor the EPA have done much soil testing.

Blumenfeld pointed to the 300-plus wells in the area that monitor the plume of water coming off the Yerington site. He also said with a Superfund priority designation there will be more monitoring to see if the soil in the surrounding area has been impacted.

The EPA will also use the money to build more holding ponds or heap leach ponds. The current ponds are running out of space.

“They’re filling up quickly so we need to make sure that there is a remedy in place," Blumenfeld said. "That urgency is something that we communicated in the letters to the governor.” 

One of the Arimetco Heap Leach Ponds/Courtesy: EPA 

While people who live in Yerington, like Peggy Pauly, a community activist and founder of the Yerington Community Action Group, do have contaminated water in their wells, Blumenfeld said most people in Lyon County do not, and their continual monitoring of test wells confirms that.

Now that the site has been listed, a panel of scientists will vote in September on funding.

The federal government is asking for $30 billion to clean up the portion of the site that has no responsible party. The majority of the site is under the ownership of BP. Putting the site on the NPL will give EPA more powers to ensure that BP cleans up the rest of the site.

More from KNPR's State of Nevada: Govenor May Block Yerington Superfund Site from Cleanup, But Why?


Jared Blumenfeld, director of Region IX of the Environmental Protection Agency

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