EPA to Use First $1B from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to Clear Out the Superfund Backlog, including Funds for Argonaut Cleanup in Jackson, Calif.
SAN FRANCISCO (December 17, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $1 billion investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to initiate cleanup and clear the backlog of 49 previously unfunded Superfund sites—including Argonaut Mine in Amador County, Calif— and accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country. Until this historic investment, many of these were part of a backlog of hazardous waste sites awaiting funding. Thousands of contaminated sites exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. These Superfund sites include manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills and mining sites.
“We are pleased that Argonaut Mine will be the first Superfund site in America’s Pacific Southwest to receive a boost from the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Deborah Jordan, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This is an important step to address the mine’s toxic legacy and protect the health of people and natural resources in Jackson.”
Argonaut Mine, located west of downtown Jackson, is a hard rock gold mine that operated from the 1850s to 1942. The now-defunct mine was added to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List in 2016. Historic gold mining operations deposited high levels of arsenic, lead, and mercury in soil and mine tailings. EPA expects to start cleanup work at the contaminated mine tailings on January 11, 2022 and continue through 2024. The work will prevent exposure to contamination by the surrounding community and restore the land to its natural condition.
“I look forward to seeing the Argonaut Mine project moving forward, said Bob Stimpson, Mayor of Jackson. “My team and I are excited to continue working with EPA on this project.”
The $1 billion investment is the first wave of funding from the $3.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help clean up polluted Superfund sites in communities. The backlog of previously unfunded sites that will now be receiving funding are in 24 states and territories and all ten EPA regions, including some close to communities that have been waiting for cleanup for more than four years.
EPA is committed to carrying out this work in line with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative by advancing environmental justice and incorporating equity considerations into all aspects of the Superfund cleanup process. This will help ensure that historic and ongoing impacts of contamination on overburdened communities are fully considered and addressed.
The funds will supercharge the Superfund program to address the toll contaminated sites have on communities. EPA is finalizing cleanup plans and preparing funding mechanisms to get construction work started as soon as possible. More information about funding for backlogged sites and accelerated cleanup sites will be available in the coming weeks.
In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as the Superfund Law, was passed. The novel law gave EPA the authority and funds to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up the most contaminated sites across the country. When no viable responsible party is found or cannot afford the cleanup, funds appropriated by Congress are used. A tax on chemical and petroleum industries provided funds to the Superfund Trust fund for Superfund cleanups up until 1995. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law reinstates the chemical excise taxes and invests an additional $3.5 billion in environmental remediation at Superfund sites, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address the legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities and neighborhoods.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation investment that will create millions of jobs modernizing our infrastructure, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, and put us on a path to win the economic competition for the 21st century.
For more information and to see a list of the 49 sites to receive funding for new cleanup projects, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-sites-new-construction-projects-receive-bipartisan-infrastructure-law-funding
For more information on the Argonaut Mine Superfund Site, please visit: http://epa.gov/superfund/argonautmine