$7.9 Million Cleanup Settlement Reached For Oregon Superfund Site

Several areas of mineralized waste rock and materials near the White King mine in Southern Oregon's Fremont National Forest will be consolidated and capped with clean fill material, thanks to a settlement reached on Oct. 26 between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), EPA, Kerr-McGee Chemical Worldwide LLC, Western Nuclear Corp. and Fremont Lumber.

As part of the deal, the nearby acidic White King pond also will be neutralized with lime, federal officials said. The entire site also will be monitored and evaluated every five years to insure the remedy remains protective.

The White King/Lucky Lass Superfund site, also known as the Fremont National Forest Uranium site, is located on the Fremont National Forest approximately 15 miles from the town of Lakeview. Under the settlement, Kerr-McGee, Western Nuclear and Fremont Lumber have together agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty and to perform additional mitigation, including the construction of a wetland on the site. EPA estimates the (total) cost of the clean up remedy to be approximately $7.9 Million.

According to Dan Opalski, EPA regional Superfund cleanup director in Seattle, the settlement is expected to be lodged in federal court as a "consent decree" or legally-binding cleanup agreement between the federal government and the parties responsible for the pollution.

"We've achieved an agreement that makes sense both environmentally and economically," Opalski said. "Cleaning up this former uranium mine site will provide a significant benefit to the community and the environment."

A significant portion of the cleanup work by Kerr-McGee Chemical, Western Nuclear Corporation and Fremont Lumber already is underway as part of a unilateral order (UAO) issued by EPA in 2003.

If the settlement moves ahead as proposed, Kerr-McGee Chemical, Western Nuclear Corp. and Fremont Lumber agree to clean up the site and pay for oversight costs as outlined in the September 2001 record of decision (ROD) for the White King/Lucky Lass Superfund site.

The White King/Lucky Lass Superfund site was listed on EPA's National Priorities List in April 1995. White King and Lucky Lass, two abandoned uranium mines are located approximately one mile apart in rural Lake County, Ore. Uranium mining between 1955 and the mid-1960s resulted in contamination of the site with arsenic and radionuclides. Hazardous substances at the site are associated with water-filled excavation pits (ponds) and stockpiled mineralized waste rock/materials.

The consent decree may be accessed online at DOJ's Web site: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

Additional information on the White King/Lucky Lass Superfund site can be accessed at EPA's Superfund Web site: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/locate.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.