ASARCO, Inc. Mining Corporation Multimedia Settlement
On January 23, 1998, the U.S. EPA announced that it reached a settlement agreement with ASARCO, Inc. that requires the national mining and smelting company to invest over $50 million for environmental cleanup and to correct alleged hazardous waste and water pollution violations at two of it facilities in Montana and Arizona. This agreement also marks the first time that a company has agreed to establish a court-enforced environmental management system (EMS) that is applicable at all of its active facilities nationwide -- 38 operating facilities with over 6,000 employees in seven states.
The national settlement agreement is also the first for which the federal government has entered into a consolidated settlement that resolves violations of different environmental statutes at more than one of a company's facilities. It is contained in two different consent decrees that were lodged in federal district courts in Montana and Arizona. Under these two decrees, ASARCO is to pay a total of $6.38 million in penalties -- $1.5 of which is to be paid to the State of Arizona -- and will expend over $50 million to reduce releases go groundwater and surface water of heavy metals, such as arsenic, mercury and lead, which are carcinogenic or can be toxic to both humans and wildlife. Cleanup at the Montana operation, the largest ever undertaken by a mining and smelting company under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), will address environmental damage resulting from 100 years of smelting activities.
"This is an innovative and comprehensive settlement that is designed to produce fundamentally new way to protect public health and the environment," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "It requires ASARCO to carry out its environmental responsibility to correct current violations and remedy harm to the environment. This settlement should serve as a model for other companies in addressing their environmental responsibilities."
The United States alleged that ASARCO's East Helena, Montana facility violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by illegally discharging industrial waste water without a permit, and violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by illegally storing, treating and disposing of certain hazardous wastes. In the second matter, the United States and the State of Arizona alleged unauthorized discharges under the CWA at ASARCO's Ray Mine Complex, near Kelvin, Arizona, as well as inadequate storm water containment and violations of state surface water quality standards.