RENO, Nev. — Fifteen years after federal regulators started assessing damage and health risks at an abandoned Nevada copper mine, the Environmental Protection Agency is moving to designate the contaminated land a Superfund site, a step the state could still oppose.
Rural neighbors of the World War II-era mine that has leaked toxic chemicals for decades won a $19.5 million settlement in 2013 from companies they accused of covering up the contamination to drinking water wells near Yerington, about 65 miles southeast of Reno.
The E.P.A. sent a letter to Gov. Brian Sandoval this week announcing its intention to place the mine on the Superfund’s National Priority List of the nation’s most polluted sites to “mitigate exposures that are a substantial threat to the public health or welfare or the environment.”
“If we do not receive a written response from the state by Jan. 29, we will assume that Nevada is in agreement with E.P.A. and will proceed with proposing the site for addition to the N.P.L.,” Jared Blumenfeld, the agency’s regional administrator in San Francisco, wrote in a Dec. 22 letter obtained by The Associated Press.
State officials said they needed to review the letter and determine their next steps. “We’re not going to worry about turf,” said Leo Drozdoff, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “What we want is the best and quickest remedy for the site.”
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