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U.S. EPA places Superfund lien on land at former Northern California mine; Agency hopes to recover $27 million in cleanup costs

Release Date: 5/13/2005
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, (415) 947-4297

B The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed liens on six parcels of property totaling 554 acres at the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine where the agency has been performing a Superfund cleanup of hazardous mine wastes since 1990.

Owned by the Bradley Mining Company and Worthen Bradley Trust, the mine site is located in Clear Lake, Calif. The area was mined for sulfur from 1865 to 1871 and mercury ore was mined there intermittently from 1873 to 1957. Once one of the largest producers of mercury in California, it has been inactive since 1957.

The lien was placed on the mine land in an effort to recover an estimated $27 million in cleanup costs that the EPA has already spent at the site. The agency also anticipates that it will spend as much as an additional $40 million in future cleanup costs.

“The Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine has contaminated nearby communities and ecosystems for decades,” said Keith Takata, the director of the Superfund Division at the EPA’s Pacific Southwest regional office. “By placing these liens we hope to not only recover some of the millions this agency has spent cleaning up the mine, but make it clear that this agency will take the steps needed to enforce the nation’s pollution cleanup laws.”

Waste piles located at the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine are contaminated with mercury, arsenic and antimony. In addition, an open pit mine, the Herman Impoundment, is now filled with acidic water containing mercury, arsenic, cadmium, copper, nickel and zinc. Mercury from groundwater migration and surface water run-off from the mine site area has been accumulating in the adjacent Clear Lake ecosystem.

The Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine has a long history of environmental contamination. In 1990, the mine was added to the agency’s National Priority List, a listing of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites that require long-term EPA cleanup action. Throughout the 1990s the EPA took steps to stabilize waste piles at the mine, including excavation, reinforcing the waste piles and sealing geothermal exploration wells.

Mercury is toxic to humans, particulary young children and youth. Arsenic is a known poison and carcinogen that can cause skin and lung cancer. Exposure to antimony can cause irritated nose, throat, skin, and mouth and nausea.

Also known as Superfund, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act establishes requirements for cleaning up hazardous sites; liability of persons responsible for releases of hazardous substances at these sites; and establishes a trust fund to provide for cleanup when no responsible party can be identified.

For more information on Superfund, please visit: