Technical Support to the U.S. EPA for Leviathan Mine, Alpine County, California

Science Center Objects

The Leviathan Mine, located in Alpine County is one of the worst sites in California for acid mine drainage. The site is on the National Priority List for CERCLA (Superfund) (U.S. EPA, 2011) and U.S. EPA is working with ARCO/BP (the Responsible Party) on designing and implementing site remediation. The USGS did research there during the 1980s on geochemistry (e.g., Nordstrom and Ball, 1986). The USGS CAWSC Carnelian Bay Field Office currently does surface water gaging for the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (Lahontan Region).

Map Showing Location of Leviathan Mine, Alpine County, California

Location of Leviathan Mine, Alpine County, California (from US EPA, 2011).

(Public domain.)

As the investigation of reference areas for the assessment of incremental human health and ecological risks at the site has progressed, concern has grown over natural background (pre-mining conditions). Natural background of element abundance in mineralized areas is a subject that USGS has researched in several other areas including Iron Mountain, California (Alpers et al., 2000) and Questa, New Mexico (Nordstrom, 2010). The U.S. EPA has requested that Dr. Alpers (USGS) participate in a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on Leviathan Mine. Dr. Alpers has done extensive water-quality research on the environmental geochemistry of metal contamination from historical mining and the resultant environmental effects of historical mining (seeĀ, including research on acid mine drainage at the Iron Mountain Superfund site and other Superfund sites in California.

The objective is to provide the U.S. EPA with technical support regarding the Leviathan Mine Superfund site.

Dr. Alpers will participate in a Technical Advisory Committee by providing objective scientific advice on estimation of pre-mining conditions of trace metals in mineralized areas of the region around the Leviathan Mine Superfund Site. This includes comments on the strengths and weaknesses of existing information such as published papers and reports, summaries of the state of knowledge, and compiled data sets, as well as reviewing proposed methods or approaches to answering agency questions.

Dr. Alpers will not conduct any new interpretive work as part of this project, write any new summaries of the state of knowledge, or advocate any policy stance.