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EPA Proposes to Add Cibola County Mine to National Priorities List of Superfund Sites - Nine hazardous waste sites added, 10 proposed

Release Date: 03/13/2012
Contact Information: Dave Bary or Jennah Durant at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

(DALLAS – March 13, 2012) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine in Laguna Pueblo has been proposed to be added to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites, a list of sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country.

About 40 miles west of Albuquerque in Cibola County, the mine lies in an area of canyons and arroyos near the village of Paguate. Anaconda Minerals Company operated the 7,868-acre site from 1953 to 1982, leaving open pits, waste dumps, and ore stockpiles. Contaminants found at the site include uranium, arsenic, barium, chromium, and lead. While previous attempts clean up the site have been made, an assessment in 2007 determined these were not enough.

“Today we’re taking an important step toward restoring contaminated property and protecting people’s health and our environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. “Cleaning up hazardous waste in our communities and returning properties to environmental and economic vitality are EPA priorities.”

The nearby Rio Paguate and Paguate Reservoir have shown elevated levels of isotopic uranium, which could affect cultural and ceremonial uses of these water bodies. Although the site had undergone reclamation previously, a 2007 report concluded that effort left several issues unaddressed.

The EPA will seek public comment on adding the Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine site to the NPL for 60 days. Comments will be considered as the agency completes the final decision process.

Since 1983, 1,661 sites have been listed on the NPL. Of these sites, 359 have been cleaned up resulting in 1,302 sites currently on the NPL (including the nine sites added today). There are 62 proposed sites (including the 10 announced today) awaiting final agency action.

With all NPL sites, the EPA works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, the EPA will investigate the full extent of the contamination before starting significant cleanup at the site. Therefore, it may be several years before significant EPA cleanup funding is required for these sites.

More information on the Superfund NPL is available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

More about activities in EPA Region 6 is available at http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

EPA audio file is available at http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/podcast/mar2012.html

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