In response to the Superfund Task Force recommendations issued last summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a list of Superfund sites that Administrator Scott Pruitt has targeted for immediate and intense attention. Of the 21 sites on the list, three are mining related: Anaconda, Bonita Peak and the Colorado Smelter.
“By elevating these sites, we are sending a message that the EPA is, in fact, restoring its Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s mission,” Pruitt said. “Getting toxic land sites cleaned up and revitalized is of the utmost importance to the communities across the country that are affected by these sites.”
Two sites in Montana are on Pruitt’s Superfund list for emphasis, including the Anaconda Smelter and Silver Bow Creek/Butte Area (SBCBA).
At the Anaconda Smelter site, the EPA has directed Atlantic Richfield Co. to complete residential and commercial property sampling and cleanup of lead and arsenic on a rigorous schedule. As many as 1,000 homes have been addressed since 2015, and another 1,000 homes will be addressed over the next three years. The EPA will start sampling, and where necessary, cleaning up school grounds for lead and school interiors for lead and arsenic in the next few months.
The EPA has taken steps to accelerate the enforcement negotiations for implementation of the Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit Record of Decision and has set the end of January as a date for parties to reach an agreement.
The Bonita Peak Mining District (BPMD) site in Colorado was added to the administrator’s Superfund list for emphasis. It has received a lot of public scrutiny. Readers might recall the debacle the EPA created two years ago when they pierced a seal at the Gold King mine without a backup plan and released millions of gallons of mine water into the Upper Animas watershed polluting tributaries all the way to Lake Mead. The agency is currently working with the state of Colorado as well as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to develop a five-year plan that outlines cleanup activities and remediation objectives for the site. The site includes 35 mines, seven tunnels, four tailings impoundments and two study areas where additional information is needed to evaluate environmental concerns.
“We are heavily invested in achieving tangible water quality improvements in the Upper Animas watershed,” said EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento. “The EPA has a unique responsibility at this site and by placing it on this list, we are recognizing that responsibility and ensuring the community that it is going to be a priority.”
While long-term planning continues, the EPA is using an adaptive management approach at the site that supports early actions to improve water quality, stabilize mine features and address priority areas that pose a risk to human health. Through his hands-on engagement at the BPMD site, Pruitt said the agency will advance progress on site cleanup without expending additional taxpayer dollars.
“The decision to add Bonita Peak to the EPA’s Superfund ‘Emphasis List’ is an important step forward,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “We visited the site with EPA Administrator Pruitt in August and are encouraged by his follow through with resources and support to the agency’s cleanup efforts.”
The EPA continues to work with state and local partners to investigate and address contamination concerns at the Colorado Smelter site in Pueblo, Colorado. Ongoing EPA site activities, including a removal action at Benedict Park, continue to address potential site risks associated with lead, arsenic and other heavy metals.
The list of sites can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-sites-targeted-immediate-intense-action.