The California wing of the Bureau of Land Management took steps within the last few days to close access to 48 square miles of the Clear Creek Management Area due to health concerns. A popular site, especially with the off-road-vehicle set, the agency says measurements of asbestos shot off the acceptable scales, turning the area into what one news account calls, "A virtual death zone."
The management area, located in California's Diablo Mountains, and encompassed by portions of San Benito and Fresno counties, is now locked down indefinitely until the BLM can get a handle on how to deal with the deadly pollutant. Clear Creek, which registers 35,000 visits a year, has long been known as the largest U.S. deposit of asbestos, a natural mineral and known human carcinogen. It harbors an EPA-designated toxic Superfund site, the former Atlas asbestos mine. Previous studies over several decades found high levels of asbestos in the area, but the results were not as conclusive as in the new 160-page assessment, EPA officials said Thursday.
How dangerous? According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, visitors who've come five times a year over a 30 year period could be facing lung cancer. While the area has been closed down temporarily during dusty months, the BLM move now stops all visitation year-around.
For a map of the affected area, click here for a pdf file from the BLM.
Photo courtesy salinasramblersmc.org