Eureka, N.V. soil just got a whole lot healthier. In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the completion of a $20 million residential and commercial soil cleanup in the town.

The EPA has removed more than 56,000 cubic yards of arsenic- and lead-contaminated soil in Eureka. The process started in 2012, when the EPA and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection found high levels of lead and arsenic in surface soils.

As a result, the EPA sampled 287 parcels of land in Eureka, and ultimately cleaned up 183 properties. The restoration was completed over six construction seasons, and included placing rock covers over four historic smelter locations, switching up landscaping, and installing fencing.

An Institutional Control Plan was put in place to help ensure the properties do not become re-contaminated.

Eureka Smelter

Considered the birthplace of silver-lead smelting in the U.S., Eureka’s smelter boom ran from 1870 to 1885. In 1873, 17 furnaces housed in eight smelters were in operation. Falling silver prices caused the smelters to close in the 1890s.

Ore processing and smelting work created slag waste material that contained lead and arsenic. Additionally, smelter fumes from the furnace stacks also contained lead. These were deposited downwind, which likely caused the lead and arsenic to be transported to other parts of town, due to wind, water, and human redistribution of smelting process byproducts.

Lead Exposure Testing

Under the terms of the Institutional Control Plan, Eureka County will provide a free basic annual blood test or lead screening at the Eureka Clinic for children 18 years old and under. The county has budgeted $5,000 per year for these tests through 2024.

The test will allow parents to determine whether their children will have any health impacts from lead exposure. Kids ages six months to six years are most susceptible to lead poisoning, according to the EPA, so parents are highly encouraged to get their children tested. Some of the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children include developmental delay, learning difficulties, and irritability, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Not just for kids, the EPA advises all residents to get tested. Among the symptoms of lead poisoning in adults, the Mayo Clinic cites high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, and difficulties with memory or concentration.

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