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Randsburg & arsenic.

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I was talking to "Rhino Roof" this morning and he said there was a write up in

the LA times about arsenic around the Randsburg & Spangler area and of concerns and the BLM spending lots of money to clean up.Hope this doesn't become something worst like Clear Creek or another excuse for the Greenies.

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That's been a topic out in the randsburg and spangler areas for a while now. They fenced the sand hill climb just outside randsburg and rerouted the trail to avoid the area a little over a year or so ago, saying that the levels of arsenic were too high and unsafe.

Here's a video of me riding the sand hill just a couple of months earlier

:)

EDIT: I just found this and a few other posts on this topichttp://www.thumpertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=367861&highlight=arsenic

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I say leave it open. What part of "the herd" that doesn't get thinned out by gas prices can get thinned out by arsenic!!! :):D:worthy:

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Ahh yes...the killer Arsenic in Randsburg that has NO DOCUMENTED SICKNESS

Another biased artical from PE

Attacking Arsenic

Steps being taken to protect people's health, but cleanup effort would be massive, costly

Download story podcast

10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, August 13, 2008

By DAVID DANELSKI

The Press-Enterprise

Cleaning up arsenic on federal land in a cluster of old gold and silver mining towns near the northwest corner of San Bernardino County could take decades and cost as much as $200 million, according to federal estimates.

More than $2 million already has been spent tackling the high arsenic levels found in soil samples taken in Red Mountain, Johannesburg and Randsburg about two and half years ago, said Richard T. Forester, an environment projects specialist and project manager for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The agency, concerned about some 300 residents and hundreds of off-roaders who kick up dust in the area, has moved arsenic-laden mine waste away from homes, cut new dirt roads to divert dirt bikes, and fenced piles of processed ore, known as mine tailings, with warning signs: "Arsenic Poison Hazard Stay Out." None of the work has included mine tailings on private land, where the bureau has no jurisdiction.

Story continues below

William Wilson Lewis III / The Press-Enterprise

Richard T. Forester, with the Bureau of Land Management, surveys processed mine ore that was carried miles in Fiddler Gulch.

A comprehensive cleanup on the public land in the area depends on the outcome of an environmental study and on funds being available.

Forester envisions a thorough cleanup that would put back into the ground about 300,000 tons of tailings unearthed in a century of mining. A 2006 estimate put the cost at $187 million, said Forster, 74, who came out of retirement to oversee the work.

It could become the largest environmental cleanup the BLM has undertaken in California, Forester said. But far from embracing the effort, some residents dismiss the cleanup as a waste and say the arsenic has never bothered them.

Causes Cancer, Death

Arsenic occurs naturally and is often found in precious-metals ore, which becomes a hazard when it is dug up and left on the surface. Long-tern exposure can cause cancer. Ingesting sufficient quantities can be fatal.

Piles of mine tailings, abandoned equipment and played-out mine shafts are part of the landscape around all three towns. Worn homes are scattered among the hills and alongside Highway 395, which leads northwest toward Ridgecrest, 20 miles away and the nearest town with a major grocery store.

The bureau's cleanup doesn't cover huge quantities of tailings that sit on privately owned land in the towns. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has jurisdiction over the private property, is aware of the contamination but has no plans to order or undertake removal of the tailings, EPA spokesman Francisco Arcuate said.

The arsenic-laden tailings blow in the wind and form piles against hillsides and other barriers. They are kicked up by off-road vehicles, creating a breathing hazard. And they have washed as far as six miles in creek beds, leaving the banks caked with a thick, tan-colored coating that resembles plaster.

Some of the mine tailings have arsenic concentrations 10 million times higher than the levels allowed in drinking water. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is evaluating the health risks to people in the three mining towns. A report is expected to done in a couple of months.

In October, four air quality stations in the area will be operating to monitor the arsenic in wind-blown dust, Forester said.

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'Just Leave It Alone'

Some of the people the bureau is trying to protect dismiss the danger and the cleanup.

Robert Clair lives near the defunct Kelly Mine. In its heyday from 1919 to 1942, the mine produced about $20 million in silver. Clair said he appreciated the 20-foot-tall mound of tailings because it buffered his home from the fierce desert wind.

The bureau recently hauled away the 43,000 cubic yards of silver-mine tailings and dumped it farther from people's homes as a temporary measure.

"All they did was spread it around," Clair said. "If they just leave it alone, they can use a hundred million dollars to help homeless people ... We've been here for 40 years and never had a problem with arsenic."

Forester said the bureau is required by several laws, including the Clean Water Act, to deal with the contamination. He acknowledges that he knows of no one who has become ill from the arsenic.

A large-scale cleanup would protect the people who live or play in the area and also make the land safe for future generations and for wildlife. Some of the tainted dirt and waste rock could go back into the mines, such as a 100-foot-deep pit at the Kelly Mine in Red Mountain.

The pits would be sealed to prevent arsenic from escaping with dust in the wind or seeping into groundwater with rain.

Efforts So Far

The Bureau of Land Management so far has used funds set aside for abandoned mines and hazardous waste programs to deal with the arsenic.

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Mine tailings laced with arsenic from the Yellow Aster gold mine near Randsburg are picked up by the wind and blown against hillsides and other barriers.

This month, the agency will install 13,000 feet of chain-link fence to keep people away from tailings scattered north of the Yellow Aster Mine.

"See that gray stuff?" asked Forester, pointing to sandy material near twisted metal remains of equipment once used in the Yellow Aster. "That's all mill tailings, and that's arsenic laden. We just can't go there and roam around."

The gold mine opened in the 1890s and ceased operations in 2004 after extracting an estimated 1 million ounces of gold.

All the mines have shut down, although some companies have rights to resume operations or start new ones. A major cleanup will have to wait until after 2010 when a Portland, Ore.-based consulting firm, Ecology and Environment Inc., completes a feasibility study.

Federal law requires the bureau to go after mining companies to pay their share of cleanup. But some of the companies may no longer exist or have no assets. The Kelly Mine, for example, was abandoned during World War II.

The owners of the Aster Mine, Vancouver, B.C.-based Gold Corp., did not return calls this week. Two years ago, a company spokesman said most of the contamination occurred long before the company acquired the mine in the mid-1980s.

Bureau officials plan to research property records to identify potentially responsible parties, including the former owners of the Marigold Mine on the east side of Highway 395.

Jennie Olson, 80, an artist who has lived in Randsburg for 15 years, said arsenic wasn't a problem until off-roaders flocked to area and started churning up dust.

"There is arsenic everywhere around here, and there always has been," she said from her front porch. "But if you don't stir it up, it's not hazardous."

Cleaning it up is just too big a task, she said.

"It's an impossible situation," Olson said. "I don't think they can do it."

Forester acknowledged it will be difficult to get funding for a full-scale cleanup.

"We are going to have to get Congress interested in it," he said.

Reach David Danelski at 951-368-9471 or ddanelski@PE.com

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