The American Smelting and Refining Company (Asarcoa), a mining company, has paid the federal government a record $1.79 billion to settle claims for hazardous waste pollution across 19 states. This is the nation’s largest environmental bankruptcy settlement. The money came from a subsidiary of the mining conglomerate Grupo Mexico, Asarco’s parent, and will be used to repair extensive damage from the mining operations.
Asarco, a 110-year-old copper company based in Tucson, was accused of gross environmental misconduct at numerous sites, including illegally burning hazardous waste instead of disposing of it properly. As a result of the company’s actions, lead and other toxic metals traveled downstream, polluting water and soil in many places. The Justice Department, along with the Interior and Agriculture Departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency worked on this litigation. The settlement provides full payment plus interest for allowed claims to the government.
The settlement money is already being distributed to pay off cleanup and restoration at more than 80 contaminated sites. The largest single payment, $436 million, went to clean up a toxic mine site in the Coeur d’Alene Basin in Idaho. A trust for overseeing the cleanup of a smelter site in Omaha that spewed lead over 27 square miles of surrounding water and soil received $219 million. According to Mathew V. Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response at the EPA, the money will cover the cleanup of 10.5 million cubic feet of soil and 5 million cubic yards of water.
Source: New York Times
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