(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2009) Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) officials said that its department was too busy with more important matters to make sure that a pesticide container site in Antelope Valley was properly cleaned and closed. Residents in the area have reported an unexpected number of rare cancers and immune diseases in the valley over the last decade and have long suspected contamination from the dump site for the outbreak.
An investigation last month by the Reno Gazette-Journal documented that an abandoned pesticide container dump was ordered closed, sealed with clay and local water wells were to be monitored for contamination in 1993. Documents show that state and federal officials directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to take action but the work was never done and the toxic dump was forgotten for 16 years.
Federal and state documents reported that the site poses “no significant hazard to human health or environment … (However) the shallow groundwater table conditions, high to moderate permeability of soils, and the extremely fractured bedrock in the study area make the groundwater vulnerable to contamination. It is suggested that the existing and any future disposal pits on the site be lined with impervious layers to prevent leaching into the groundwater system.” The documents also recommend the need for well water monitoring and monitor wells for five years. Although some liquid pesticide residue was removed from the site in 1992, the dump was never properly sealed and closed. The site was fenced off and signs posted.
Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and former administrator of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, wrote on a state website that the site posed “no risk or threat whatsoever.” He said the NDEP was too busy with more important matters to make sure the site was properly cleaned and closed. Mr. Biaggi’s comments angered Antelope Valley residents who noted that environmental reports from the 1980s document the potential that poisons from the site could leach into well water supplies. They want to know why the matter has been forgotten for 16 years and why the requirements for site safety were such a low state priority.
“It’s outrageous,” said Liz Wear, who lived about a mile from the dump for six years and now suffers from lupus, an immune system disease. “For 16 years, (NDEP) couldn’t pick up a phone and find out if the pesticide dump was closed properly? They were too busy?” she said.
Since the investigation, BLM submitted a budget request for cleanup funds and made plans to test soil and possibly water wells for contamination. The abandoned dump site came to light in June after couple went looking for an environmental cause for what they perceived as a disease cluster in Antelope Valley. They documented two cases of rare brain cancers, two rare forms of stomach cancer, a fatal case of a soft-tissue cancer and a case of pancreatic cancer among valley residents over the last 10 years.
Source: Reno Gazette Journal
Photo: Photo by David B. Parker/RGJ
Rusting barrels are visible at the Antelope Valley Toxic Waste Site on Tuesday, June 16, 2009.