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Mining Giant Joins Fight Against EPA in Land Contamination Suit Involving Lead

In a dispute between the Environmental Protection Agency and the railroad company Union Pacific over which party should clean land contaminated by lead, the mining company Asarco wants to join the fight. The land at issue is near Omaha, Nebraska and was formerly the location of a lead smelting operation run by Asarco. The focal point of the dispute is Environmental Protection Agency emails that indicate the agency deleted documentation that contained the cause of the environmental land contamination.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Union Pacific have been trying to settle the suit between them for multiple years. The original issue in the suit between the railroad company and the Environmental Protection Agency was who should pay the large amount of money to clean 5,600 properties contaminated by lead near Omaha. The mining company Asarco settled with the Environmental Protection Agency for $200 million dollars. Though the mining company did not admit fault in the settlement, the company did conduct lead smelting in Omaha for over 50 years. The smelting operation run by the mining company closed in 1997.

The mining company, Asarco, joined the lawsuit because the Environmental Protection Agency documents may demonstrate that other companies were involved in the contamination. Therefore Asarco may be able to recover money from the companies involved in the land contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency believes industrial sources of lead such as Asarco’s smelting activities are responsible for the contamination. Union Pacific argues the lead contamination is from house paint containing lead.

The Environmental Protection Agency has designated much of eastern Omaha as a superfund site and the expected cost to clean the site is estimated at $400 million.

Source: abcnews.go.com, “Asarco Wants to Join Legal Fight Over EPA Records,” Josh Funk, 10/19/10

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