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US: Neighbors of toxic mine want ARCO to pay for fence; EPA agrees

by Scott SonnerAssociated Press
November 13th, 2005

Neighbors of a toxic mine site in Nevada want to know why an oil company responsible for its cleanup won't fence off nearly 6 square miles of mill tailings and ponds.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed that Atlantic Richfield Co., a subsidiary of BP America Inc., erect fences at the former Anaconda copper mine and pay for 24-hour security to keep people off the site that's contaminated with uranium, arsenic and various heavy metals.

While the company has agreed to put up only a limited amount of barbed wire, Atlantic Richfield's project manager told residents he would reconsider their requests.

ARCO has argued any security costs should be covered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM, which issued a federal closure order in April that subjects trespassers to a $1,000 fine, owns about half the 3,600-acre mine site.

Tests last summer found unusually high levels of radiation in soil samples at the mine that borders Yerington 65 miles southeast of Reno.

Earlier groundwater tests showed high concentrations of uranium, apparently from the chemical processing of the copper.

Atlantic Richfield has been providing free bottled water to more than 100 households.

More fencing and round-the-clock security are proposed in a unilateral order EPA is preparing as the first step toward cleanup after it assumed the oversight role from the state this year.

Atlantic Richfield, a former owner of the mine, is responsible for the cleanup because the most recent owner, Arimetco Inc., filed for bankruptcy in 1997 and abandoned it in 2000.

The company plans to install 2.2 miles of barbed wire fence around the most contaminated areas but has rejected residents' calls for an 8-foot-tall cyclone perimeter fence, which BLM estimates would cost at least $1 million.

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