Atlantic Richfield will have to cleanup mine |

Atlantic Richfield will have to cleanup mine

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

With overflow problems at Leviathan Mine under control, a former owner has been ordered to continue the cleanup.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday ordered Atlantic Richfield Corp. to devise an interim cleanup plan for the mine, located 25 miles southwest of Gardnerville in Alpine County, Calif. The 250-acre mine was declared a Superfund site in May, which means it’s one of the most polluted places in the country.

Arco bought the mine from Anaconda Corp. in 1978 and the state of California took over the site in 1983. The mine produced copper sulfate and sulfur between 1863 and 1962, but now produces toxic runoff that has devastated downstream creeks, including one that drains into the Carson River’s east fork.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, based in California, treated 13 million gallons of acid mine drainage this summer, and officials hope the work will eliminate toxic overflows in spring 2001.

The EPA order requires Arco to continue that work, said Kathi Moore, chief of the Northern California section for the EPA.

“We’ve taken care of the most immediate problem of the ponds,” said Moore. “We do know there are other sources of drainage. Those are what they are to look at.”

Arco will be required to produce a site management plan with a schedule for meeting various goals. The company has to provide a plan for catching remaining acid mine drainage, to be implemented in 2001.

The order also requires Arco to compile new and old information to gauge the effectiveness of earlier actions and do analysis that will lead to a long-term plan.

Moore said that information will be incorporated into a long-term cleanup effort at the site. She didn’t have a cost estimate for the work Arco has been ordered to do but said it could be “significant.”

The initial plan is to be done in 30 days, with implementation expected to take two or three years, an EPA statement says. Because of the mine’s mountain location, work is limited to the warmer months.

“I think (Arco) will probably be there for a long period of time,” said Moore. “The way we see it at this point, Arco and the state will always have some sort of involvement at the site.”