Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | June 8, 2010

Kentucky environmental attorney Sanders looks ahead to US EPA enforcement priorities for next years, including mining and mineral wastes.

Mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector, based on EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.  Many of these facilities have impacted surrounding communities and continue to pose high risk to human health and the environment.  For example, 95 mining and mineral processing sites are on the Superfund National Priorities List and more sites are being added every year, including operating facilities.  EPA has spent over $2.4 billion to address the human health and environmental threats to communities, such as exposure to asbestos and lead poisoning in children, as a result of mining and mineral processing.  In some cases, EPA had to relocate families because of these threats, especially those to children in low income communities. 

EPA has inspected 65 mining and mineral processing sites that pose significant risk to communities and found many to be in serious non-compliance with hazardous waste and other environmental laws.  Contamination of groundwater and potable water has occurred at many sites, sometimes requiring alternative drinking water supplies or removal of lead-contaminated soil from residential yards.  In other cases, toxic spills into waterways from mining and mineral processing caused massive fish kills and impacted the livelihood of low income communities. 

Some workers at mining and mineral processing facilities have been exposed to spills and mismanagement of toxic and hazardous waste.  EPA will continue its enforcement initiative to bring these facilities into compliance with the law and protect the environment and nearby communities.  This does not bode well for eastern and western Kentucky mining sites.  So call me if you need to discuss these environmental regulatory issues before Lisa Jackson comes banging on your office door.

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