By Duane Craig
|New Idria mine a new Superfund site?|
California is having trouble tracking down the owners of a property that is spewing mercury contamination into rivers and streams. Some people assume it is even making its way into San Francisco Bay.
The New Idria mine provided mercury for more than a 100 years but then closed up quickly in 1972 when the public started suspecting mercury-contaminated runoff was leaving the property. Now the EPA is considering adding the mine to the Superfund list.
Eighty miles south of Santa Clara the New Idria was named after the world’s second largest producer of mercury, Idrija, Slovenia. When the mine closed in 1972, so did the town with its namesake. The town grew up with the mine when miners discovered cinnabar in “them thar hills,” and began to crush it and then roast it in rotary furnaces to extract the mercury. Mercury was especially prized in California in the 1850s because it was required to get gold from ore. That in turn meant America didn’t have to rely on European imports of mercury to move the gold rush along.