EPA Files Lawsuit for Tailings Removal Near Leeds

Published on April 24, 2013 at 09:26AM

For more than three decades, a contaminated tailings pile sat unprotected on the outskirts of the southern Utah community of Leeds, exposed to the wind and possibly used for fill in nearby developments. The pile contained mercury levels more than twice that of the national public health threshold. Although the Environmental Protection Agency tried to force the owner to clean up the site, its efforts were rebuffed, with the company refusing to comply with an administrative order that sought removal of the tailings. The federal agency was forced to step in and have the tailings capped itself, spending about $334,000 for the cleanup process. In a suit filed this month in U.S. District Court, the EPA is demanding its money back, civil penalties and punitive damages equal to at least three times its cleanup costs.