Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 30, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, June 30, 2022
Bipartisan infrastructure law provides $21 million of EPA funding for Callahan Mine Superfund Site
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing work to address contamination issues at the Callahan Mine Superfund Site in Brooksville will be significantly expedited thanks to an additional $12 million made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is in addition to $9 million already designated under the law for ongoing activity at the site. The Callahan Mine site is one of 49 Superfund sites nationwide singled out by EPA for additional resources to address a backlog of hazardous waste sites awaiting funding.
“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and President Biden’s leadership, EPA is especially pleased that important work to address hazardous waste contamination at Callahan Mine will gain momentum this summer,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David Cash in an EPA press release. “It’s a priority for EPA to get this site off the Superfund backlog list. Cleaning up this site is key for the Brooksville community to develop alternatives for potential future uses in this area.”
The Callahan Mine Superfund Site was earlier authorized approximately $9 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to ensure an ongoing phase of construction would proceed. The additional $12 million has now been authorized to address a new phase of construction activity that had been on a backlog list of Superfund construction activities for which funding had been unavailable. Without the additional funding, there would likely have been a substantial delay between the completion of the current work to consolidate and cap waste rock piles and the start of the sediment cleanup. This delay would have required EPA to expend time and resources to hire a new contractor and remobilize equipment and resources to the Site, extending the time required to complete the cleanup. This funding will enable EPA to continue the ongoing cleanup activities and complete the sediment cleanup sooner than anticipated, and in a manner that maximizes use of resources.
The Callahan Mine site is one of thousands of contaminated sites nationally that have been given Superfund status due to the nature and extent of hazardous wastes at the site, and the cost and logistics associated with cleaning them. Superfund sites can include former manufacturing facilities, industrial locations, processing plants, landfills and mining sites. The $21 million allocation for Callahan Mine Superfund Site is part of a $1 billion “first wave” of funding from $3.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help clean up polluted Superfund sites in communities across the country.
The Callahan Mining Corp. Site, added to the National Priorities List in 2002, has been awaiting funding to complete the current phase of cleanup at the site since 2019. The site, located on the northwestern side of Cape Rosier on Penobscot Bay in Brooksville, is a former copper and zinc mine that operated from 1968 to 1972. The site includes a (now submerged) 300-foot-deep open pit mine, former mine operations area, a series of waste rock piles and a tailings impoundment. Arsenic and lead contamination are found in the site’s soil and rock. Copper, lead and zinc are present in the sediments at concentrations above levels that are acceptable for ecological receptors. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were found in the area where the former Callahan Mine operations facilities were located as well.
EPA has studied and designed groundwater and sediment cleanup options for the site, but more work to implement the cleanup still needs to be done. Past work at the site included stabilizing the tailing dam and closing the tailing impoundment. Future work at the site will focus on the sediment cleanup activities, which will include sediment excavation and dredging for the salt marsh, Goose Pond, Dyer Cove and Goose Cove.
“From roads and bridges, to water systems and environmental cleanups, the bipartisan infrastructure law is making historic, overdue investments in Maine,” said U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King in the press release. “Long a challenge for the Brooksville community, the acidic drainage from the Callahan Mine poses a threat to the health of Hancock County residents and to Penobscot Bay. Thanks to this major funding and the hard work of the town, we can accelerate the remediation of the Callahan Mine—keeping Maine people safe, protecting our environment, and making a significant investment in Brooksville. This is just the beginning of the investments coming from the bipartisan infrastructure law, and we look forward to seeing continued benefits for our state.”
“This new Superfund investment to clean up the Callahan Mine Site is good news for Brooksville and Hancock County. By continuing the EPA’s work with the State of Maine, this funding will help clean up the mine site and protect the community around it from polluted discharges,” said U.S. Congressman Jared Golden. “This project was funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which I was proud to help pass. I’m glad to see this and other important project funded by this law get underway across Maine.”
EPA is finalizing clean-up plans and preparing funding mechanisms to get construction work started as soon as possible. More information about funding for backlogged sites and accelerated cleanup sites will be available in the coming weeks.
In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as Superfund, was passed. The novel law gave EPA the authority and funds to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up the most contaminated sites across the country. When no viable responsible party is found or cannot afford the cleanup, funds appropriated by Congress are used. A tax on chemical and petroleum industries provided funds to the Superfund Trust fund for Superfund cleanups up until 1995. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law reinstates the chemical excise taxes and invests an additional $3.5 billion in environmental remediation at Superfund sites, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address the legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities and neighborhoods.