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Forum planned for Leviathan mine

by Christy Chalmers

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials plan to host the first of several public forums on the impact of Superfund status for Leviathan Mine Thursday.

The event will be held at Turtle Rock Park outside of Markleeville. Leo Kay, an information officer for the EPA, said residents will hear about the Superfund listing process, as well as time frames and the factors considered with the proposal.

The EPA proposed listing the Leviathan Mine area as a Superfund cleanup site in October, kicking off a 60-day public comment period. Superfund status would give officials access to special tools and resources for cleaning the area, but it would also mark the 400-acre site as one of the most contaminated in the nation.

The mine operated intermittently from 1863 to 1962. Acid mine drainage now produced at the site has obliterated aquatic life in Leviathan and Bryant creeks, which drain into the Carson River’s east fork.

Kay said the EPA is planning to address the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and hold other meetings in Douglas County in January. Those events would occur after the end of the public comment period, but Kay said that’s not an indication that Superfund status is certain.

“We do feel it’s in everybody’s interest to go forward with the listing, but we will wait and see what the comment period (brings),” said Kay. “I’m not sure if folks can ask for an extension (for the comment period). I’m pretty sure we will be coming out with the final decision on Dec. 22.”

Douglas County leaders are publicly supporting Superfund status, as is the Carson Water Subconservancy District board. The Subconservancy District covers the Carson River watershed in Nevada.

The mine site is located entirely in Alpine County, Calif. Leaders have been told Superfund status won’t harm Douglas County, though the Carson River is a major water source for the area.

Anyone interested in commenting on the Superfund proposal can contact Carolyn Douglas at (415) 744-2343. Thursday’s meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at Turtle Rock Park, 17300 Highway 89, Markleeville.