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EPA targets arsenic, old lead cleanup using infrastructure funds at Utah mining site

Jacobs Smelter in Tooele County is Superfund site

SHARE EPA targets arsenic, old lead cleanup using infrastructure funds at Utah mining site
Environmental Chemical Corporation cleaning up in the town of Stockton near a toxic superfund site.

Environmental Chemical Corporation is pictured in this June 1999 file photo cleaning up in the town of Stockton, Tooele County, near a toxic superfund site.

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The Environmental Protection Agency has targeted a smelter site in Utah for cleanup using money from the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The funds will be used to remove about 70,000 tons of lead and arsenic contaminated surface and subsurface soils from old mining operations at the Waterman Smelter area of the Jacobs Smelter Superfund Site in Stockton, about 38 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. 

The Tooele County site is among 49 across the country that will benefit from a $1 billion investment to initiate cleanup and clear the backlog of previously unfunded Superfund sites and accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country.

Utah Department of Environmental Quality executive director Kim Shelley said cleanup of the Jacobs site is long overdue. Cleanup of the area dates back more than 20 years.

“The funding will help us better protect the health and environment of the Stockton community while bringing the Jacobs Smelter Superfund Site closer to completion,” she said in a statement. “This funding fills an important cleanup need and at a critical time as we were previously unable to secure funding through a highly competitive priority process.”

Utah will receive the money through a cooperative agreement with EPA to conduct the cleanup activities, which are expected to be completed within a year to 18 months, once groundwork is started.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who helped negotiate the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, applauded the EPA announcement.

“Because of this legislation, we will be able to deliver long-needed resources to communities like Stockton, which have been awaiting funding to address environmental and health issues as a result of contaminated land,” he said in a statement.

Romney, the only member of Utah all-Republican congressional delegation to vote for the bill, said it will better position Utah to meet transportation challenges, mitigate drought conditions, prepare for and respond to wildfires, extend broadband to rural communities and fulfill critical water needs.

“This is a big victory for the health and safety of Stockton residents and visitors,” said Stockton Mayor Thomas Karjola. He and the Tooele County Council thanked Romney for ensuring the project was included in the bill.

Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as Superfund, in 1980.

The law gave EPA the authority and funds to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up the most contaminated sites across the country. When no viable responsible party is found or cannot afford the cleanup, funds appropriated by Congress are used. A tax on chemical and petroleum industries provided funds to the Superfund Trust Fund for Superfund cleanups up until 1995.

The infrastructure bill reinstated the chemical excise taxes and invests an additional $3.5 billion in environmental remediation at Superfund sites, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities and neighborhoods.