EPA Orders Mining Company to Cut Toxic Emissions at 103-Year-Old Copper Smelter

Toxic Emissions

EPAThe US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice has announced a settlement with ASARCO that requires the company to spend $150 million to install new equipment and pollution control technology to reduce emissions of toxic heavy metals at a large copper smelter in Hayden, Arizona.

The company will also fund local environmental projects valued at $8 million, replace a diesel locomotive with a cleaner model for $1 million, and pay a $4.5 million civil penalty.

The federal enforcement action targeted hazardous air pollutants, including lead and arsenic, in particulate matter (PM). With the controls in place, the hazardous air pollutants should be reduced by at least 8.5 tons per year, and PM emissions are expected to be reduced by 3,500 tons per year. The new equipment and controls will slash the facility’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 19,000 tons per year, a reduction of more than 90%, according to EPA estimates. Currently, the ASARCO smelter is the largest source of SO2 emissions in Arizona.

The EPA’s investigation found the company violated federal Clean Air Act standards by failing to adequately control emissions of hazardous air pollutants, such as arsenic and lead, from the Hayden smelter.

Under the settlement announced today, ASARCO will install new and upgraded ventilation hoods to capture hot flue gases from its furnaces to better capture the PM, which includes the hazardous air pollutants, and SO2. The company will also replace an aging electrostatic precipitator with a new, cleaner baghouse and inject high performance lime to reduce SO2 emissions.

To reduce wind-blown dust from the facility, which contains varying levels of heavy metals, the company will implement an improved dust control plan, including the use of wind fences, upgraded water sprayers and the installation of concrete pads. In addition, ASARCO will operate five ambient air monitors in and around the Hayden and Winkelman communities to track levels of pollutants, including arsenic, lead and PM, and will make additional improvements to dust controls if levels are high.

The settlement requires ASARCO to spend $8 million to fund two environmental mitigation projects. Of this, $6 million will be used on a road paving project in Pinal County that will reduce dust pollution on local dirt roads close to the towns and residents exposed to PM emissions.

In addition, $2 million will be provided to the Gila County Environmental Health Services to conduct lead-based paint testing and abatement in homes, schools and other public buildings in the towns of Hayden and Winkelman.