Site Inspection and Cultural Resource Evaluation: Great Basin National Park

Location: Great Basin National Park, NV

National Park Service


  • Avatar conducted a Site Investigation under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) at four sites within the Great Basin National Park (GRBA) for the National Park Service (NPS).
  • Avatar provided National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)-compliant cultural resource support including a cultural resource survey and inventory and a cultural/archaeological resource report at four sites within GRBA.
  • Primary contaminants of concern (COCs) included lead, dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
  • Project required Nevada State Historic Preservation Office (NV SHPO) approval due to the sensitive and confidential nature of the cultural and archeological investigations.
Avatar Environmental Great Basin National Park Hike


Avatar performed work for the NPS as prime contractor at four sites (Boneyard Wash Dump Site, Bonita Mine Mill Site, Gravel Pit Dump Site, and Johnson Mine Mill Site) within GRBA to investigate impacts of historical mining and dumping activities and the resultant releases of COCs. Avatar’s scope of work included 1) preparation of a cultural resource report, including a NV SHPO review, 2) development of a health and safety plan, sampling and analysis plan, and a work plan for all four sites, 3) performance of surface and subsurface soil sampling at all four sites, and 4) production of a Site Inspection for all four sites in order to determine the scope and focus of future investigations and remedial options.

One of the sites, Johnson Lake Mine Mill, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The remaining three sites are each eligible for placement on the list based on their contributing elements to the historic mine district. Due to the historic and cultural elements present, all environmental sampling had to be completed by hand in order to preserve and avoid disturbing archaeological deposits. A professional archaeologist was required to be present at all times in order to monitor sampling activities and to ensure that the cultural integrity of the sites was maintained.

The remote location and high elevations within the GRBA created logistical difficulties for field activities. Given these elements, Avatar was able to efficiently perform field activities in less than the anticipated timeframe, maintain sample integrity while meeting all holding times for laboratory analysis, and maintain budget and schedule constraints, all while preserving the cultural integrity of each of the four sites.

Based on concentrations of COCs exceeding human health and ecological screening criteria, Avatar has recommended the preparation of an Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EE/CA) of each of the four sites. The EE/CA evaluations will determine the need for future investigations and remedial actions needed for each site.

Because of its remote location and unique cultural and archaeological features, The GRBA Site Inspections required cooperation from several state and governmental agencies to ensure that the cultural integrity of the GRBA was maintained while the sites were adequately characterized for potential contaminants of concern.