Six months after a federal agency proposed listing the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter as a Superfund site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officially added the site to the National Priorities List, or Superfund list.
Wednesday's listing on the NPL will enable the EPA to investigate the sources of contamination and determine the best cleanup approach to protect human health and the environment.
Being previously listed as a proposed site has not kept EPA scientists and engineers from beginning their investigation into possible arsenic and lead contamination in Humboldt. They are already three weeks into an eight-week process that involves taking samples of soil, groundwater, ambient air, sediment and surface water.
In addition to collecting physical data, EPA officials will conduct a Section 106 Review next week, which will document the historical significance of landmarks such as the smelter site in Humboldt.
Residents have had concerns about hazardous metals in the mine tailings on the west side of Highway 69, and in the ash and slag piles at the smelter site on the east side of the highway, which the EPA combined into one site.
Mayor Earl Goodwin called the EPA's decision to list the site as positive for the town if the agency proceeds as planned and doesn't stumble or slow down during the cleanup process.
"It was inevitable once it got on the path towards listing," Goodwin said.
Both the federal and state agencies work closely with the town and conduct public meetings on a regular basis. The EPA also offers grant money to communities to hire independent scientists that help residents decipher technical reports.
Town Manager William Emerson said there is no standard solution for either site, but now that the site is officially listed, the EPA can move forward with the feasibility study. That study will lead to proposed cleanup solutions.
Councilman Len Marinaccio is the liaison with the town's Environmental Issues Advisory Committee and has followed the investigation process closely.
"It will be some work for the town to go through this because nobody wants to be a Superfund site," Marinaccio said.
"We want to end this problem now and do it right, and make this place safe and more profitable for everyone in the future."
The EPA added five other sites to the NPL:
Nelson Tunnel/Commodore Waste Rock (Creede, Colo.)
Flash Cleaners (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Aberdeen Contaminated Ground Water (Aberdeen, N.C.)
East Troy Contaminated Aquifer (Troy, Ohio)
Old Esco Manufacturing (Greenville, Texas)