Safety is Reason Behind American Flat Mill Demolition - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Safety is Reason Behind American Flat Mill Demolition

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The United Comstock Merger Mill at American Flat closed in 1926.

Over the years, the buildings have started to deteriorate and concrete walls have collapsed. Some are being held up by just rebar. Now, liability issues have the Bureau of Land Management moving forward with demolishing it.

Built in 1922, the mill operated for just four years, processing gold and silver ore from the Comstock.

Demolishing them could cost anywhere from $1.5 million to $3 million.

"You see the obvious hazards of the concrete falling and things of that nature," Leon Thomas, BLM Field Manager said. "But once you get inside the structures, there are hazards that you can't see. There are crevices where people can fall down into standing water."

The walls have become a canvas for graffiti, with many people spray painting at night when it is hard to see.

Officials say they worry about it being far away from medical help.

"We've had a death out there already and we want to be proactive in ensuring that we don't have something like that happen again," Thomas said.

That death happened in 1996 when an ATV rider tried driving on a stairway, which collapsed.

To prevent any more deaths or injuries, the BLM has put up fencing.

They also patrol the area.

"It's an attractive nuisance," Dan Erbes, BLM Geologist said. "We really try to keep it available for the public to view but it goes without saying that the public would rather be inside the building."

People have also used the site to dump trash, even burning cars and television sets, creating environmental hazards like lead residue.

People visit the site for a variety of reasons.

"Folks that like to come out and paintball and the like," Erbes said.

"We have people going up there and partying and such, but people go up there to take photos as well, and it's dangerous," Thomas said. "So people can go up there with good intentions but they can still find themselves in harm's way."

Along with razing the buildings, work will also be done to fill in possible tunnels and the buildings' footprints before replanting the area.

"There are benefits and there are people that would like to see it remain but really the liability comes first," Erbes said.

The BLM says they don't have a timeline of when the demolition will begin, but they do say that it could be up to two years before they receive funding for it. 

Written by Paul Nelson
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