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Coalinga Asbestos Mine Case Study

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Photo of Coalinga site.
Before: Asbestos was mined in the mountains above Coalinga and sent into the city for storage.
Kmart photo

After: Coalinga's new Kmart employs over 100 people and serves 2,000+ shoppers a day.

site map

PROBLEM
  • Asbestos migrating from storage areas threatened the health of Coalinga’s residents.
SOLUTION
  • Buildings dismantled
  • 26,000 cubic yards of soil and debris removed and stored in an underground unit
  • Fence and warning signs installed
PARTNERS
  • U.S. EPA
  • City of Coalinga
  • California Department of Health Services
POSITIVE ECONOMIC IMPACTS
Short-term
  • 60 jobs per year during the one year cleanup effort
  • $1.4+million in annual income from short-term cleanup jobs
Long-term
  • 100 permanent/full-time jobs at K-Mart
  • $1.6 million in total annual income from permanent jobs
Property Value
  • Roughly $380,000 potential increase in residential property values within two miles of site
ENVIRONMENTAL & SOCIAL BENEFITS
  • Residents and workers protected
  • Asbestos spread halted and contamination eliminated
  • Attraction of new businesses
  • New housing
  • Creation of wildlife management area
Last Updated April 1999

Coalinga Asbestos Mine
Coalinga, California

BEFORE
Buildings contaminated with asbestos

AFTER
A K-mart store and two new housing complexes

IMPACT
Local jobs and income, new homes, and increased public revenues

Since the discovery of asbestos ore in California’s Diablo Mountain Range, miners have flocked to the area to extract ore from the State’s rich deposits. This migration had caused dozens of small towns to spring up, only to fall victim to the boom-and-bust mining economy. Despite these ups and downs, the small community of Coalinga survived by carving out a unique identity as the prime asbestos ore storage area for the nearby Coalinga and Atlas asbestos mines. After years of storage, EPA discovered that the City of Coalinga itself was contaminated with asbestos. Once a gain faced with the prospect of economic decline, the city seized the opportunity to work with EPA to redevelop contaminated properties following their cleanup. What follows is the story of how a portion of this Superfund site was cleaned up and brought back into productive use, and of the economic impacts and environmental and social benefits that resulted.

Site Snapshot

As you approach the City of Coalinga from Interstate 33, the patches of snow-like asbestos on the peaks of the Diablo Mountain Range are a stark reminder that this region has one of the richest asbestos deposits on the planet. From 1957 to 1977, milling operators mined the Coalinga and Atlas asbestos mines and shipped asbestos ore to the City of Coalinga for storage.

EPA discovered that the mines were contaminated, and that decades of asbestos storage in Coalinga had polluted several buildings and soil throughout the city. The asbestos also threatened to contaminate the California Aqueduct, Southern California’s main water supply. In 1984, EPA placed the mines and the City of Coalinga on its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup.

From Storage...

As part of the City-wide effort, EPA demolished the storage buildings and excavated asbestos-contaminated soil. This material was placed in a specially built underground storage unit with a total capacity of 26,000 cubic yards. Once the asbestos contaminated debris was housed safely, the area above the storage unit was covered with an impermeable clay cover, revegetated, and secured the area with a fence. After EPA declared the cleanup complete, the City of Coalinga spread the word in hopes of attracting new businesses.

...To Commercial and Residential development

The availability of clean land near the center of town was a lure for developers. Kmart entered and won a bidding war with a competitor for this prime property. The Kmart opened its doors in 1992. In addition, members of the Coalinga community call two of the former asbestos storage areas “home” following the construction of a 43-unit apartment complex and a 47-lot subdivision. These residences are helping to meet the housing needs of the Coalinga population, which has doubled since 1980.

Community Benefits

The destruction of old asbestos storage buildings and the removal of contaminated soil eliminated the threat to the people of Coalinga and allowed the construction of Kmart and two major housing areas. The redevelopment eased the growing need for housing and provided a new source of jobs and revenue. This revenue will help the city fund its proposed city-wide redevelopment plan. One part of this plan is the creation of a 30-acre wildlife management area that will serve as a safe habitat for native birds and animals.

Keys to Success

The partnership between EPA and the City of Coalinga led to the successful cleanup and redevelopment in the city. EPA eliminated risks from asbestos, making the contaminated areas suitable for development. The city promoted the newly clean and available land, catching the attention of developers. This property now supports a Kmart and residences, and will soon provide a sanctuary for area wildlife.

For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the Coalinga site, contact:

Richard Procunier, Project Manager
U.S. EPA Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 744-2219