ASARCO’s Arizona Copper Smelter Fined $33,000 for Failing to Comply with EPA Settlement
HAYDEN, Ariz. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received $33,000 in stipulated penalties from ASARCO LLC for not complying with a fugitive dust plan central to a 2015 settlement for violations of the federal Clean Air Act. The dust plan is designed to address the release of lead, coarse dust, and other hazardous air pollutants at ASARCO’s Hayden copper smelter.
“Controlling fugitive dust is critical to minimizing hazardous air pollutants in nearby communities,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Director of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Amy Miller. “EPA will continue holding companies accountable for complying with the terms of settlements reached with the agency.”
Wind-blown dust from the facility has been found to contain lead and other hazardous pollutants.
Managing fugitive dust in the area is particularly important because the area does not meet health-based air quality standards for coarse dust and airborne lead.
Under the settlement’s dust plan, ASARCO is required to operate water sprayer systems at various sites to abate fugitive dust emissions. After reviewing ASARCO’s records, EPA identified 33 days during which water was not sprayed on certain required fugitive dust sources. Under the terms of the 2015 settlement, ASARCO is liable for $1,000 each day the water sprayers were not operating, resulting in $33,000 in stipulated penalties.
A more complete account of the 2015 settlement can be found online at https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/asarco-llc-settlement. The resulting consent decree may be viewed at https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/asarco-llc-consent-decree.
The ASARCO Hayden site is a copper ore processing, concentrating, and smelter facility located adjacent to the Arizona communities of Hayden and Winkelman. Copper smelters emit large quantities of coarse dust, lead, and other hazardous air pollutants such as arsenic. Health concerns associated with smelters include:
- Certain types of dust, especially inhalable particles, can cause coughing or difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, and even premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
- Exposure to lead can cause negative effects on the nervous, immune, renal, and cardiovascular systems.
- Exposure to arsenic can cause skin problems, stomachache, and nausea. Over many years, arsenic exposure also raises the risk of skin, bladder, lung, and/or liver cancer.