Eureka is considered the birthplace of silver-lead smelting in America. Eureka’s boom years lasted from 1870-1885. As early as 1869, lead smelters operated in Eureka. By 1873, 17 furnaces located in eight smelters were operating, with the Richmond Company and Eureka Consolidated smelters being the two largest and accounting for most of the production. In 1890 and 1891, the Richmond and Eureka smelters closed due to falling silver prices. In 1906, the Richmond and Eureka smelters merged to form the Richmond Eureka Consolidated, although a disastrous flood in 1910 ceased smelting operations.
Ore processing and smelting activities produced slag waste material containing lead and arsenic. Smelter fumes emitted from furnace stacks also contained lead and arsenic and were deposited downwind. After smelting operations ceased, additional transport of lead and arsenic to other parts of town has likely occurred as a result of wind, water and human redistribution of byproducts from the smelting process.
EPA is currently investigating lead and arsenic soil contamination in the town of Eureka, NV. In October 2012, EPA and NDEP conducted soil sampling at more than 100 residential properties in the town of Eureka and at the Eureka public schools. The results of this sampling effort were communicated to individual property owners in January 2013 and a report summarizing the sampling results was released in March 2013. In May 2013, EPA and NDEP conducted soil sampling at 19 additional properties in the town of Eureka, results were communicated to property owners and a report summarizing the additional sampling results was released in October 2013.
In the Fall of 2013 and in the Spring of 2014, EPA conducted removal actions in Eureka. As part of these removal actions, 43 residential properties and a small portion of the Eureka Elementary School were remediated. This work primarily focused on properteis that had soil contamination in excess of 3,000 mg/kg lead or 600 mg/kg arsenic in residential soil. The work generally involved removal of the top one foot of soil, placement of clean backfill and replacement of any landscaping features that were impacted. The excavated soil was placed in a temporary storage areas located in Eureka. During performance of these removal actions, EPA sampled additional residential properties, bringing the total number of properties sampled to more than 250.
EPA also conducted an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) which evaluated the feasibility and cost of various cleanup alternatives for five separate Operable Units. These Operable Units included residential properties, slag piles, undeveloped parcels within or adjacent to former smelter and mill sites, Eureka Creek and contaminated material disposal. The EE/CA was finalized on 2/29/2016.
EPA removal actions continued in Eureka in 2016 and 2017 and are currently underway in 2018. To date, EPA has cleaned up more than 140 properties and conducted sampling at nearly 300 properties.
In order to evaluate whether health impacts resulting from lead exposure exist in Eureka, NDEP and EPA have offered free blood lead level testing for all Eureka residents. The test involves a simple finger prick and results are available within a few days. Because young children are most susceptible to lead poisoning, testing is highly recommended for those between 6 months and 6 years of age. Testing is encouraged for all Eureka residents. Testing is available at the Eureka County Health Clinic.
Copies of all plans and reports relating to the EPA work in Eureka are available at the Eureka Public Library and in documents tab of this web page.