$9 MILLION SETTLEMENTS REACHED FOR SUPERFUND ASBESTOS MINE SITES
$9 MILLION SETTLEMENTS REACHED FOR SUPERFUND ASBESTOS MINE SITES SAN FRANCISCO, June 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) today announced that two settlements totalling nearly $9 million have been reached at two asbestos mine Superfund sites near Coalinga, Calif. The agreements in the form of legal documents called consent decrees were lodged in the federal district court for the Eastern District of California and will be available soon in the Federal Register. Atlas Corp. and Vinnell Mining and Minerals Corp. (VMMC) have agreed to a settlement valued at $6 million that includes $1,620,748 for U.S. EPA's past costs at Atlas Asbestos Mine Superfund site. Pine Canyon
Land Co., Santa Fe Pacific Corp. and Catellus Development Corp. signed a $2.8 million agreement that includes $995,765 for past U.S. EPA costs at the Johns-Manville Coalinga Asbestos Mine Superfund site (JM Mill site) located three miles away from Atlas.
"These settlements are representative of one of the fundamental principles of the Superfund program: that those responsible for contamination should bear the expense of cleaning it up," said Jeff Zelikson, director of U.S. EPA's regional hazardous waste management division. "Reaching these agreements reflects U.S. EPA's commitment to protect the health and environment of the citizens who live near these federal Superfund sites." Under the Atlas agreement, Atlas and VMMC are required to build dikes and diversion ditches to divert streams around the mine sites to prevent contamination from the asbestos waste and mill tailings at the site. Sediment retention dams will also be built to reduce the transport of sediments. Regrading will improve the surface drainage and stability of the mine and stockpile areas. These actions will minimize the release of asbestos from the Atlas mines into local creeks. A mill building will be dismantled and disposed of. Pine Canyon, Catellus and Sante Fe Pacific will be taking similar actions at the smaller JM Mill site. The road through the Atlas Mine area will be paved to reduce airborne asbestos emissions, and the mines and stockpile areas will be fenced to restrict access and prevent disturbance by off highway vehicles (OHVs). Signs will be posted at entry to the mine area to warn of an asbestos hazard. Access will also be restricted to the JM Mill site. With this action, responsible parties in Region 9 have agreed to settlements valued at over $700 million in cleanup work at Superfund sites. Almost 90 percent of cleanups in the western region are being funded by the private sector. Nationwide, over 60 percent of all cleanups underway are being undertaken by responsible parties and the total value of private party commitments now exceeds $5 billion. "These settlements demonstrate the progress the Superfund program is making in getting sites cleaned up and health risks reduced significantly," said Zelikson. "The very powerful enforcement and liability provisions serve as an inducement for the private sector to voluntarily agree to perform cleanup actions, rather than litigate." Asbestos mining and milling at the Atlas Mine occurred from 1967 to 1979. Asbestos milling at the JM Mill site at Coalinga Asbestos Mine occurred from approximately 1962 until mid-1974. In 1980, elevated levels of asbestos were detected in water samples from the California Aqueduct near Los Angeles. Subsequent investigations identified the
Atlas and Coalinga Asbestos Mines as sources of waterborne asbestos in the California Aqueduct and as a probable source of airborne asbestos in the surrounding area.
During the investigations of the two sites, asbestos was discovered in the city of Coalinga. The asbestos had been brought from the two mines and other sources to a depot in Coalinga for eventual shipment out of Coalinga by rail and truck. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (SPTC), under a 1989 settlement, agreed to clean up the asbestos contamination which is concentrated in a 107 acre parcel of land in the southwestern corner of Coalinga. The $2.5 million cleanup required that the soil be consolidated and buried in an on-site landfill. This action has recently been completed. U.S. EPA is reviewing whether the actions of other agencies have adequately protected the public health and environment at two other areas of contamination associated with the two superfund sites: The Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) and the Arroya Pasajero Ponding Basin west of the California Aqueduct. The ponding basin contains asbestos sediment which releases airborne asbestos. The California Department of Water Resource in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has purchased 1,900 acres of land and plans to purchase an additional acreage in order to control the release of asbestos by expanding the basin and restricting land use. The CCMA, 45-square mile area of public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is located 18 miles northwest of Coalinga. It has been included as part of the Atlas Asbestos Mine site because asbestos mining and milling waste from the mine has been transported throughout the CCMA by wind, water and vehicular traffic. The BLM is amending its CCMA Land Use Plan and is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement. The Atlas Asbestos and Coalinga Atlas Mines were placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1984. The NPL is U.S. EPA's list of the hazardous waste sites potentially posing the greatest long-term threat to health and the environment. U.S. EPA identifies and ranks NPL sites according to threats to humans through actual or potential contamination of groundwater, surface water or air. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which has a fibrous crystalline structure. Asbestos is known to cause lung cancer; mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the chest and abdominal membranes; and asbestosis, a chronic disease of the lungs that makes breathing progressively more difficult. -0- 6/18/92 /CONTACT: Paula Bruin of U.S. EPA, 415-744-1587/ CO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ST: California IN: SU:
MM -- SF010 -- 1571 06/18/92 14:41 EDT
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|Date:||Jun 18, 1992|
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