Mill City - Heavy Metal Contamination - June 2018 Update

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 Mammoth Lakes: Mill City stamp mill. 

Mammoth Lakes: Mill City stamp mill. 

In late May of 2018 I reached out the US Forest Service for an update on the Mill City closure area, with USFS citing heavy metal contamination. Below is the update I received. In short, the Mill City cleanup tab jumped from $1.6M to $4.8M because of the increased contaminate estimate. 

Union Bank is listed as the Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) and has not followed the cleanup order by USFS. Additional soil and contamination analysis is set for this summer (2018).   

USFS comments below:

In Oct 2017, the Forest Service conducted additional sampling in the Cabins Area to better delineate the horizontal and vertical extent of contamination.

  • Sampling was scheduled for the area surrounding Cabins 7,8,9,12,13, and 26, comprising of approximately 3 acres.

  • Initial sampling results indicated that contamination beyond the initial 3 acre boundaries. As a result the sampling area was expanded to incorporate an additional 5 acres, going down to beyond Cabin 10 and the Water Tank.

  • Sampling results indicated elevated levels of mercury and arsenic is present in much of the area that is associated with the operation of the former mill.

The original Cabins Area remedy envisioned excavation and off-site disposal of the contaminated material. This was based on approximately 3360 cubic yards of material with a projected clean-up cost of approximately $1,640,000.

The current volume estimate of contaminated material in the expanded Cabins Area is approximately 11,430 cubic yards. If off-site disposal were to be implemented the new cost for the Cabins Area would be in excess of $4,880,000.

Based on the data collected to date and the change in field conditions, the Forest Service needs to reassess the proposed remedy for the Cabins Area to determine what is the most cost effective and protective remedy. To do this additional characterization work and risk assessment is planned for the summer.

As for the settlement negotiations

  • Efforts are still on-going to negotiate a settlement with the PRP (Union Bank).

  • A unilateral enforcement order was issued to the PRP(Union Bank) on November 6, 2017, Directing the party to implement the CERCLA clean-up in the Mill Area.

  • To this date the PRP(Union Bank) has refused to comply with the enforcement order.

  • Forest Service is frustrated at the lack of progress, but the matter is largely out of our hands and with the attorneys.