On the Road with DTSC and the Mining’s Toxic Legacy Initiative

NEVADA CITY, 2 April 2009 – Last week, The Sierra Fund and Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) joined forces for a trip through Madera, Mariposa, Fresno, and Kern counties.  This team outreach tour brought crucial information to help communities protect the environment and public health, as well as links to possible federal funding to Southern Sierra communities in need of solid information and “Green” jobs. 

We made presentations to local government officials and the public on TSF’s Mining’s Toxic Legacy Initiative, funding opportunities for assessment and cleanup, and technical assistance from the US Environmental Protection Agency to help communities impacted by legacy mining activities.  We also brought fresh information on funding for legacy mine cleanup included in the economic stimulus bill, and ways that mine cleanup efforts can benefit California’s rural economies.

Like many places in the Sierra, residents of the southern counties have more of a problem with legacy mines than they realize.  For example, maps being distributed by the historical center in Mariposa County show only 300 mines, while information from state agencies identify more than 1,000 in the county.  At county libraries in cities of Madera, Mariposa, Fresno and Bakersfield and we brought concrete information to concerned citizens, Environmental and Public Health Directors as well as Economic Development specialists.

As a result of partnering with DTSC, we were able to bring not only a clearer vision of the scope of legacy mine problems, but concrete assistance to the communities we visited. Staff has been laid off from almost every county Environmental Health Department in the state, so the news of available EPA funding to work on these long-neglected issues was well received. Madera County was particularly interested in getting more information, and the day after meeting with their Environmental Health department, we were invited to come back and make a presentation to the Madera County Advisory Water Commission. 

Teaming with DTSC on this “tour” was mutually beneficial.  DTSC’s support of our Initiative showed county officials that the issues we are bringing up are legitimate, and we can also offer technical resources to deal with them. The Sierra Fund provides DTSC with a vehicle to inform communities about available funding and technical support from Federal and State agencies as well as our expertise on community outreach and engagement.  

What has jokingly become the “ride along with Mike” tour continues with presentations coming up this month in Truckee at Sierra College on April 10, at City Hall in Alturas (Modoc County) on April 13, at the Lassen County Library in Susanville on April 14, at Earth Day in North Tahoe (Squaw Valley) on April 18, in Mammoth Lakes (sponsored by the Sierra Club, Range of Light group) April 21 and at the Bishop High School library in Bishop (Inyo County) on April 22.

For more information contact Mining Project Community Organizer, Mike Thornton at 530-265-8454 X10, 530-262-7335 (cell) or via email mike.thornton@sierrafund.org.

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