Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mining Company Implicates Railroad

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mining Company Implicates Railroad

Article excerpt

Hundreds of miles of railroad lines in three Missouri counties will continue to spread lead contamination, making a $70 million cleanup a waste of time and money, say lawyers for the mining company that footed the bill through a bankruptcy settlement.

Arizona-based American Smelting and Refining Co. agreed in 2009 to pay nearly $1.8 billion to 19 states to settle pollution claims in the largest environmental bankruptcy case in U.S. history. More than $234 million was allocated to Missouri, with roughly $70 million of that going to cleanup efforts in St. Francois, Iron and Madison counties.

But in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, attorneys representing Asarco claim the millions spent in those three counties will be wasted unless the Union Pacific Railroad does its part to clean up contamination it created.

Unless EPAs remediation addresses this source of ongoing contamination, EPA will not achieve its goal of making these counties and communities safe, the Sept. 21 letter states.

Asarco filed a federal lawsuit against Union Pacific and other companies last year seeking reimbursement for a portion of its costs. The suit does not seek a specific dollar amount.

The letter goes on to state that Union Pacific hauled lead and other ores throughout the three counties for more than 160 years in rail cars with open tops and hinged bottoms.

It also used mining waste as the foundation of the railroad, where crossties and ultimately the rails were laid, said Gregory Evans, an attorney who represents Asarco.

That waste ends up in streams and lakes by way of erosion and high water, and the metals release into the water and become part of the sediment, Evans said.

But Union Pacific says there is no evidence that it shares a common liability with Asaraco, said Donna Kush, a company spokeswoman. She also said Asarco has initiated more than a dozen cases around the country regarding sites for which it settled claims with the government in its bankruptcy on the questionable basis that it overpaid for its liability at these sites. …

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