Government Sues Superfund Property Owners Over Hazardous Mining Waste

The United States of America filed suit on Wednesday in the Western District of Missouri Southwestern Division against defendants Patricia R. West, Ronald West (doing business as RGW Sales & Service), and Randy C. Pendergraft. The suit was filed by the plaintiff at the request of the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The defendants, according to the government, control properties that are part of the Oronogo/Duenweg Mining Belt Superfund Site, which is a “large Superfund site that is contaminated with mining waste.” Mining waste carries many potential health and environmental hazards due to its potential to contain significant levels of lead, cadmium, and zinc.

The EPA has been conducting clean-ups of other parts of the Oronogo/Duenweg Mining Belt Superfund Site that are owned by separate companies in the interest of protecting human health and the environment from the risks posed by mining waste. Despite the EPA’s repeated attempts to gain permission to clean up the mining waste on the defendant’s property, they have yet to allow the EPA to access the area.

The aforementioned properties were previously used as waste disposal sites, meaning they all have levels of waste that designate them as “contaminants of concern.” The plaintiff asserts that the repeated refusals by the defendants “prevents needed cleanup on the Properties and allows the wastes from the Properties to contaminate a downstream owner’s previously-cleaned property, which is increasing the total cost of the cleanup.” The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) specifically authorizes the EPA to access properties that are necessary to cleaning up mining waste.

The United States of America is seeking access to the properties owned by the defendants due to their reasonable conclusion that “there may be a release or threat of release of a hazardous substance or pollutant or contaminant at the Properties.”