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EPA Proposes Adding California Mine Site To Superfund List

U.S. EPA

Soil removal during the excavation of a vacant lot in Jackson; the grey materials are arsenic and lead-contaminated mining tailings.

U.S. EPA

An old gold mining site in the Sierra foothill town of Jackson could soon be eligible for federal funds to clean up high levels of lead, arsenic and mercury.

The US EPA is proposing to add the Argonaut Mine Site to its list of federal Superfund sites.

The Argonaut Mining company shut down in 1942. But its mining waste remains. More than a million cubic yards of highly contaminated soil sits behind a 100-year-old dam.

A million cubic yards is a huge amount for this kind of area and it's everywhere,"says Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

"Literally, you can look at the site from people's homes and yards. It's right across the street," Blumenfeld says. "That's one of the things that led the state to ask EPA to get involved is because of the proximity to homes and schools. This takes on a different level of urgency."

Last year, the EPA cleaned up 11 homeowner's yards, a vacant lot, and installed a protective cover on soils at Jackson Junior High School. Putting the Argonaut site on the Superfund list would make it eligible to receive tens of millions of dollars for long-term permanent cleanup.

EPA will take public comment on the proposal until June 7. The site could be put on the list by September.