Asarco Inc. will pay $436 million to cleanup decades of mining waste in the Coeur d’Alene Basin, officials from the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.
The money is part of a $1.79 billion settlement addressing 80 contaminated Asarco sites in the nation’s largest environmental bankruptcy suit. The award is also the largest for environmental damages in U.S. history, Justice officials said.
“The biggest winner today is the environment,” said Mathy Stanislaus, the official overseeing Superfund programs at the Environmental Protection Agency. “…This demonstrates that the polluter pays.”
Asarco began operating in Idaho’s Silver Valley in the early 1900s. It’s among multiple firms responsible for heavy metals pollution that continue to endanger both human health and wildlife. The resulting Superfund site stretches from the Coeur d’Alene River to Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River.
East Omaha, where Asarco operated a lead smelter, received the second largest amount of money in the settlement - $219 million. The money will be used to cleanup a 27-square mile area contaminated by lead emissions.