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California Mercury Mine Could Join Superfund List for Environmental Cleanup
After operating continuously for over a century, the New Idria mercury mine in southern San Benito County closed in 1972 amidst concerns over contaminating runoff and the prohibitive costs of environmental cleanup efforts. Today, mercury pollution from the mine continues to overflow into nearby rivers and streams, possibly even reaching the San Francisco Bay.
Local officials have had substantial difficulty in identifying just who currently owns the New Idria land, causing significant delays in cleanup. However, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") is now considering adding the site to its National Priorities List. The addition of a site like New Idria to the list makes related cleanup efforts eligible for monetary support from the Superfund environmental program.
The Superfund Program
After a series of expensive toxic waste site cleanups in the 70s, a law was created that empowers the EPA to clean up hazardous waste sites and to force parties responsible for pollution to contribute to or pay for government efforts.
Under what is commonly known as the Superfund Program, a tax on chemical and petroleum businesses generates revenue for a trust fund that is dedicated to cleaning up abandoned land containing hazardous material.
In addition to providing for cleanup of abandoned sites, Superfund established a system for finding and holding liable parties responsible for environmental damage. And, even if those responsible for hazardous pollution are readily identifiable, when they fail to act expeditiously, Superfund allows the EPA to step in, take immediate action, and compel polluters to foot the bill.
Forcing Polluters to Pay
Unfortunately, Superfund's monetary resources are limited: New Idria and sites like it only become eligible for cleanup if extensive studies deem them a priority.
If you have been harmed by pollution on your land or adjacent properties, you do not have to wait for governmental action. Speaking with an experienced environmental law attorney I recommended. Your attorney can advise you on possible recourses against polluters.