Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rare Whistleblower Victory

This a matter of local interest. I'm a local and I'm interested. Yerington NV is maybe 70 miles southeast of here. Somehow, the toxic soup at the edge of town was left off the official city website promoting real estate and tourism. The little community of Weed Heights just above the site is rarely mentioned.

Click to embiggen, or...

...access the photo here. Purty lake, huh? Don't dip any part of your body in it that you want to pull back out of it. From Earthworks:

Nevada: Yerington Mine
The Anaconda Mine is a copper mine bordering the town of Yerington Nevada, and covering more than 3,400 acres. At the mine, acid run-off and waste rock containing low levels of uranium, thorium, and other exposed metals were disposed in unlined ponds.[8] Testing has revealed uranium-contaminated groundwater and residential wells.[9] Groundwater is the sole source of water for over 5,000 people in the area.

That's the background for this news release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

Labor Department Confirms Retaliatory Firing in Violation of Anti-Pollution Laws

Washington, DC — A federal review panel has ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management illegally dismissed a manager overseeing the cleanup of the Anaconda Mine for raising serious worker safety, as well as serious radiation, air and water pollution problems, according to a final order released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This decision represents a rare pro-whistleblower verdict from Bush administration appointees.

“I'm glad to have this vindication and achieve closure on this matter,” stated Earle Dixon, who continues to oversee toxic clean-up operations for a state agency. “Significantly, the Board found the true reason behind BLM’s retaliation and recalcitrance was to avoid sampling that would show mine operations profoundly contaminated soil and water with acid, metals, and radionuclides.”

The substance of Dixon’s concerns was validated when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and took control of the site in 2005, shortly after Dixon was removed, under the Superfund law.

“It has taken Earle Dixon nearly four years to win some small measure of justice in a system that is clearly broken,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization litigated the case with Dixon’s lead counsel, Mick Harrison. “The federal government desperately needs more courageous public servants like Earle Dixon in its ranks.”

The ruling for Dixon is also notable because under President Bush, the U.S. Labor Department has become a graveyard for the vast majority of eco-whistleblower complaints.

It appears that Mr. Dixon was fired because he was about to cost a Big Mining Co. lots of money in direct contravention of Bush and Repug policy. You and I are paying to clean it up now, although ARCO did have to kick down $2.7M to the Feds recently.

I'm glad he got a rare small measure of justice in spite of this administration.

We need more courageous public employees and less corporate-owned ruling elite.

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