NEW YORK Copper producer
Asarco LLC has asked regulators in Washington, Nebraska and
Kansas to examine whether Union Pacific Railroad Co.
contributed to hazardous lead pollution along its rail lines in
areas where Asarco paid nearly $2 billion in clean-up
Tucson, Ariz.-based Asarco, a
subsidiary of Grupo Mexico SAB to CV, paid $1.79 billion in
bankruptcy settlement charges in December 2009 to clean up
pollution in 19 states. The largest single sum, $436 million,
went to clean a toxic mine in the Couer dAlene Basin in
amm.com, Dec. 11, 2009).
Asarco alleges that Union
Pacific is responsible for continuing lead contamination along
some of its railways in areas where Asarco previously paid to
help clean up.
"Asarco paid billions to clean
up the environment and they want to make sure that money is
spent wisely and appropriately," Greg Evans, founder of Los
Angeles-based Integer Law Corp. and the lawyer representing
Asarco, told AMM. "Union Pacific is continuing to
release very high levels of lead and other harmful metals
throughout the U.S. on its abandoned and active rail lines. And
as there is continuing out-of-sight contamination where Asarco
has spent all this money to clean it up, Asarco feels obligated
to let regulators know of these continuing sources of
A Union Pacific spokesman said
that Asarco is simply "rehashing allegations in pending
litigation" that the company believes are "completely without
"After Asarco discharged
environmental and other liabilities in a 2009 bankruptcy,
Asarco initiated a number of lawsuits against Union Pacific and
others seeking contribution for the amounts Asarco paid for
these liabilities, alleging that it overpaid for its
environmental liabilities and (sought) reimbursement from the
defendants," the Union Pacific spokesman told AMM.
"Union Pacific has responded in court and plans to vigorously
defend against Asarcos allegations."
Asarco said in letters to
environmental regulators that independent laboratory tests of
samples from the Union Pacific rail sites showed high levels of
lead, zinc, copper, silver, cadmium and chromium.
Asarco said in a Feb. 28 letter
to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality that Union
Pacific built rail beds using ore tailings and slag which
contained high levels of lead and zinc.
wastehistorically used by railroad companies because it
was cheap and readily available"is negatively impacting
the environment (and) is one of the sources of continuing
pollution that Union Pacific is unwilling to acknowledge,"
It is uncertain if Asarco would
recoup any of the $1.79 billion clean-up costs, Evans