UPPER SOUTH EAST COMMUNITIES COALITION, INC - Environmental Preservation Group in Washoe County
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Letter to the Editor from Mary Anderson

July 31, 2013
      
Dear Editor,
 
The Southeast Connector project, though it flows through federally protected wetlands which are contaminated with methyl mercury and arsenic as a result of past mining, does not require an Environmental Impact Report.
 
There were 75 mills in the Comstock region in 1863 of which 9 were in Washoe Valley and Steamboat Springs and Galeena Creek.
 
In 1861 the Ophir Mining Company erected a mill for the reduction of ore from the famed Comstock Ophir mine (one of the most productive).  The Ophir Mill was built on Washoe Lake's west shore and was reached by an elevated causeway across what was then Washoe Marsh.   The Ophir reduction works had 72 stamps.
 
The Washoe process (which Ophir used) ,is  a variation of pan amalgamation, and was developed in the 1860s by Almarin Paul and others, to work the ore from the Comstock Lode in Nevada, United States (Washoe was an early name for the area; see Washoe Valley). In the Washoe process, the copper pans were replaced by iron tanks with mechanical agitators. Each tank ("pan") was circular, and commonly held 1,200 to 1,500 pounds of ore that had been crushed to sand size. Water was added to make a pulp, and 60 to 70 pounds of mercury, along with one-half to three pounds each of salt (sodium chloride) and bluestone (copper(II) sulfate) were also added. Mercury Overview By Wikimedia Foundation
 
The loss of mercury in amalgamation processes was generally one to two times the weight of silver recovered.  The loss of mercury and arsenic along with other chemicals went into Little Washoe Lake and Steamboat Creeks. History of the Comstock Lode by Grant H. Smith.
 
Methyl mercury is the more toxic form of mercury which affects the neurological system and may be bioaccumulated. Understanding those environments where methyl mercury is most likely to be produced is important for protection of aquatic ecosystems and human health within the state. As the state continues to grow and populations encroach upon these aquatic systems, the potential for anthropogenic exacerbation of mercury contamination issues must be addressed. This project provides for beginning to develop the necessary laboratory capabilities to understand processes that may affect methyl mercury production. USDA Research/UNR/Methyl Mercury http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0187502-mercury-sources-and-methyl-mercury-production-in-nevada-streams-and-rivers.html
 
Several studies indicate that methylmercury is linked to subtle developmental deficits in children exposed in-utero such as loss of IQ points, and decreased performance in tests of language skills, memory function and attention deficits.[12] Methylmercury exposure in adults has also been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attack. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methylmercury
 
Arsenic is a natural element found in soil and minerals. Arsenic compounds are used to preserve wood, as pesticides, and in some industries. Arsenic can get into air, water, and the ground from wind-blown dust. It may also get into water from runoff.
 
Due to human activities, mainly through mining and melting, naturally immobile arsenics have also mobilized and can now be found on many more places than where they existed naturally. Humans may be exposed to arsenic through food, water and air. Exposure may also occur through skin contact with soil or water that contains arsnic.
 
Exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause various health effects, such as irritation of the stomach and intestines, decreased production of red and white blood cells, skin changes and lung irritation. It is suggested that the uptake of significant amounts of inorganic arsenic can intensify the chances of cancer development, especially the chances of development of skin cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and lymphatic cancer.

A very high exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause infertility and miscarriages with women, and it can cause skin disturbances, declined resistance to infections, heart disruptions and brain damage with both men and women.
Finally, inorganic arsenic can damage DNA

Read more:
http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/as.htm#ixzz2afaCOuzn
 
The SEC proposes to use soil from Steamboat Creek area, UNR and Butler Ranch to build the roadway to a height of 12 feet and 180 feet across.  The arsenic will be air born when the soil is dug up and released downstream when RTC reroutes Steamboat Springs through Double Diamond and to the Truckee.
 
An Environmental Impact Study Report is definitely needed as all these areas mentioned above are contaminated with methyl mercury and arsenic along with other mining waste elements.  What effects  will  methyl mercury and arsenic have in the Truckee River and in Pyramid Lake  and surrounding areas and wildlife not to mention human life and water supplies?  Then there are all the other environmental impacts the SEC will have to the surrounding area and people – flood plain capacity, noise, pollution, traffic, safety, loss of home value, etc. , which need to be taken into account in a thorough Environmental Impact Report.
 
Thank you for reading my letter and hopefully publishing it.
 
Sincerely,
 
Mary Anderson

1 Comment to Letter to the Editor from Mary Anderson:

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Jerry Cruitt on Tuesday, August 13, 2013 3:28 PM
Beautifully written and very much appreciated
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