BLM Whistleblower Wins Appeal Over Toxic Nevada Mine

For Immediate Release

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Contact: 

Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337

BLM Whistleblower Wins Appeal Over Toxic Nevada Mine

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

WASHINGTON - 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.

Earle Dixon, the Project Manager for the Anaconda Mine at
Yerington, Nevada, clashed with top Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
officials for raising issues that were being ignored because they would
drive up clean-up costs and raise political hackles. As a result, BLM
removed Dixon from his position in October 2004, one day before his
probationary period ended, over objections of his direct supervisors.

Following a hearing before a federal administrative law judge, Dixon
was awarded back pay, $10,000 in moving expenses, attorney fees and
costs. That ruling has now been affirmed by the Secretary of Labor's
Administrative Review Board.

The Anaconda Mine is an abandoned copper mine covering more than
3,600 acres where acid run-off and waste rock containing low levels of
uranium, thorium and other toxic metals have been deposited in unlined
ponds. The mine has also had a succession of owners, including, most
recently, the Atlantic Richfield Company owned by British Petroleum.
Dixon pursued persistent clean-up failings, including -

  • Radiation readings well above background levels that pose risks to the health of workers onsite;
  • Higher than expected contamination of soil, groundwater and drinking water wells; and
  • Non-compliance with a number of federal pollution standards, including
    public and worker exposure to radioactive and toxic metals in air-borne
    dust.

"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.

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Read the Labor Secretary Administrative Review Board "Final Decision and Order"

Learn the background of the Dixon case

See the underlying ruling in Dixon's favor that has been affirmed

Review BLM attempts to cover up problems at Yerington before EPA stepped in

 

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