by Duane Craig
In what appears to be an interesting twist in a lead contamination case in Omaha, Nebraska, the company that paid millions in settlement money to the EPA is now going after the EPA for fraud and misconduct. Asarco LLC, a unit of Grupo Mexico SAB, has asked a federal judge to reopen its public records lawsuit against the EPA because it has obtained “compelling evidence” that EPA employees were told to intentionally destroy records that would cast doubt on the extent of Asarco’s role in the contamination.
Asarco operated a smelter in the area for many years. The operation was on Union Pacific Railroad property under lease to Asarco until 1946 when Asarco bought the property and continued smelting operations there until 1997. Union Pacific has also been embroiled in the contamination problem because of the time it owned the property. It has not settled, however, and continues to insist the contamination is from lead-based paint used on most of the homes. The railroad maintains that 80 percent of the homes in the area were built before 1950 when lead paint was commonly used.
Asarco paid $200 million toward the cleanup costs for 5,600 properties. So far the EPA has overseen the cleanup of approximately 6,000 properties of an estimated 16,000 total.