EPA - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

02/27/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/27/2024 13:08

EPA announces new cleanup projects in California as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda

EPA announces new cleanup projects in California as part of President Biden's Investing in America agenda

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is continuing to boost Superfund cleanup efforts across California

February 27, 2024

Contact Information
Audrey-Olushola Momoh ([email protected])
415-652-0424

San Francisco, CA-Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a third and final wave of more than $1 billion for cleanup projects nationwide at over 100 Superfund sites as part of President Biden's Investing in America agenda. This funding is made possible by the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and will launch new cleanup projects at 25 Superfund sites nationwide, including California's Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine in Clearlake Oaks, Lava Cap Mine in Nevada City, and Southern Avenue Industrial Area in South Gate.

"Thanks to unprecedented funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is delivering significant investment to achieving the goal of long-term protection for communities living closest to contaminated sites," said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. "With our Superfund cleanups, we are taking firm action to protect the health, safety, and environment of communities throughout California and the Pacific Southwest."

"Californians shouldn't have to worry about the safety of their drinking water, soil, or food supply, but residents near mining and manufacturing sites face significant health risks," said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla. "Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, millions of dollars are coming to California to help clean up hazardous waste in these communities - and I will keep fighting to hold polluters responsible so that taxpayers aren't footing the bill for cleanups."

"The EPA's announcement today is wonderful news for communities that have been impacted by Superfund sites," said U.S Representative Nanette Barragán (CA-44). "In my district in Southern California, the contaminated Southern Avenue Industrial Area in South Gate has been on the Superfund Program's National Priorities list for over a decade. Today's funding announcement is the first step to cleaning up and improving this site. The Infrastructure and Jobs Act that I voted for and President Biden signed into law will continue to help clean up these toxic Superfund sites that contaminate soil and groundwater in frontline communities."

Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding announced today, three new cleanup projects in California will start.

Today's announcement will fund mining waste cleanup at the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine site in Clearlake Oaks, located on Elem Colony of Pomo Indians land. This cleanup will help protect nearby residential areas, safeguard residents' long-term safety and health and make on-site mine areas safe for limited use by Elem Indian Colony residents for hunting, fishing, foraging, and transit to nearby lands. The site was mined intermittently for sulfur and mercury between 1865 and 1957 and now contains about 2.5 million cubic yards of mine waste, which stretches along 1,300 feet of shoreline in the Oaks Arm area of Clear Lake. Mine waste at the site has contaminated soils, surface water, and groundwater and has left mercury in sediments at the bottom of Clear Lake that have built up in fish.

At the Lava Cap Mine site in Nevada City, California, funding will be used to construct a wetland treatment plant to treat water discharging from the former mine area. The chemicals of concern at this site are arsenic, manganese, and iron. Arsenic is a known carcinogen. Iron and manganese are not considered risks to human health but can cause taste, odor, color, and staining problems when carried in water. The treatment plant will use processes, including metal precipitation, settling ponds, and lime addition, before downstream discharge. Lava Cap is a 33-acre former gold and silver mine just east of Grass Valley, California, operated from 1861 to 1943.

Finally, cleanup will begin at the Southern Avenue Industrial Area site in South Gate, where approximately 1,400 cubic yards of contaminated soil pollute the soil and groundwater. For decades, the now sectioned-off parking lot served as the site of an industrial facility for hot-melt carpet adhesive tape, contaminating the nearby soil with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like lead and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These VOCs linger in the soil to this day. Cleanup will prevent future VOC exposure, which can cause a variety of health effects including: eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches and loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system. Some VOCs are suspected or proven carcinogens. PCBs exposure can alter thyroid and reproductive function and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular and liver disease and diabetes.

In addition to the new cleanup projects, this investment supports the continued operation of a cleanup effort initially funded by prior Bipartisan Infrastructure Law -investment at the Argonaut Mine Superfund site in California.

At the Argonaut Mine site in Jackson, California, mining operations occurred from the 1850s to 1942. Portions of the site's soil still have high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, and other metals and remain off-limits to the public. Since 2013, EPA has been working to understand and address the contamination at the site, removing the soil from a nearby lot and several residential yards in 2013 and removing soil in addition to capping a slope at Jackson Junior High School in 2015. Thanks to earlier funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA undertook a short-term cleanup known as a Removal Action at Argonaut from June 1, 2022, to November 2023. This removal action addressed the highest concentrations of contamination, which posed a risk to nearby community members if they accessed the site. That prior cleanup cost approximately $25 million and moved 130,000 cubic yards of mine waste and contaminated soil/bedrock. The area of work covered 28 acres and consolidated all tailings and contaminated soil into a landfill on top of existing tailings and was capped with layers of clay, rodent barrier (gravel or stainless-steel wool), and composted soil that is 3.5 feet thick. Other areas not part of the landfill were also capped to prevent water percolation into the subsurface and as a barrier to remaining place waste.

Thousands of contaminated sites exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. These sites can include toxic chemicals from manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining and can harm the health and well-being of local communities in urban and rural areas.

Today's investment is the final wave of funding from the $3.5 billion allocated for Superfund cleanup work in the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. So far, EPA has deployed over $2 billion for cleanup activities at over 150 Superfund National Priorities List sites. EPA has been able to provide as much funding for cleanup work in the past two years as it did in the previous five years while delivering on President Biden's Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.

EPA is committed to continuing this work, advancing environmental justice, and incorporating equity considerations into all aspects of the Superfund cleanup process. More than one in four Black and Hispanic Americans live within three miles of a Superfund site. These investments are restoring the health and economic vitality of communities exposed to pervasive legacy pollution. Thus far, nearly 80% of the funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has gone to sites in communities with potential environmental justice concerns. Out of the 25 sites to receive funding for new cleanup projects, more than 75% are in communities with potential environmental justice concerns based on data from EJSCREEN.

To see a list of the 25 sites to receive funding for new cleanup projects, visit EPA's Superfund webpage.

To see highlights from the first two years of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding at Superfund sites, visit EPA's Cleaning Up Superfund Sites: Highlights of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding website.

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