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EPA Begins Cleanup at Dona Ana County Site

Release Date: 10/28/1997
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun site cleanup at an abandoned mine and mill near Organ, New Mexico, in Dona Ana County.

The former Stephenson-Bennett Mine property is being cleaned under the national Superfund removal program. Established by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, Superfund is our country's program for cleaning uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

"For many citizens, EPA's Superfund program is their only protection from the health hazards of toxic wastes. Heavy metals from this site, mainly arsenic and lead, have affected about 70 households in three residential areas. These pollutants pose a particular health risk for our most vulnerable citizens, our children," EPA Regional Administrator Jerry Clifford said.

Heavy metals accumulate in body tissues and cause a variety of health problems including nausea, dizziness and memory loss. Lead exposure can result in permanent learning disabilities in young children. Tests have identified a dozen children with elevated lead levels living in the areas affected by this site.

Some domesticated animals in the contaminated areas also have elevated lead levels. In addition to the housing areas, a Federal Wilderness Study Area down-slope from the former mill site has been contaminated.

Crews began building an access road into the site October 11. Contaminated soil will be transported to the site and consolidated. EPA expects to excavate and move about 160,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, or enough to fill about 865 railroad boxcars. The consolidated soil will be capped to ensure the pollutants are contained and the area will be graded to prevent erosion and pooling of rainwater.

Cleanup of the almost 70-acre site is expected to cost about $3.4 million and take about eight months.

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