Toxic waters

Nevada placed sixth in the nation in the toxicity of materials dumped in its waterways, according to Environment America, a research and policy organization.

Nevada did not place in the top 10 states in the volume of toxic releases. It was when the releases were gauged for level of toxicity that the state went up near the top.

Nevada scientist Glenn Miller said the annual report of toxic releases in the states by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—which usually ran Nevada near the top—are not all that useful, because they rank states by sheer volume, and some substances pose little threat. In February, the EPA ranked Nevada second in its annual list.

But Miller said while raw numbers on volume of releases may not be helpful, more detailed numbers can be.

For instance, Environment America also reported that Nevada's North Fork Humboldt River Watershed was the third worst in the United States when weighted by toxicity of releases. That watershed received the largest release of carcinogens among local watersheds in the United States and the most toxicant releases that foster developmental damage.

This is of greater concern, he said, noting that mining waste dumps play a role.

“You've got waste rock dumps, high elevation, lots of water,” he said, pointing to the Jerritt Canyon mine and waste site as an example.

The result is that water carries toxins away and they migrate into waterways at lower elevations.