ATLAS ASBESTOS MINE
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The Atlas Asbestos Mine site covers 435 acres near Coalinga, California. The mine operated from 1963 until 1979 and included the asbestos mine, a processing mill, support buildings and extensive asbestos mine tailings. During operation, some milling and mining products from Atlas and the Coalinga Asbestos Mines were transported to the city of Coalinga. Deposits of milling and mining products in Coalinga led to air, surface water, sediment and soil contamination. Following construction of the site’s long-term remedy, operation and maintenance activities and monitoring are ongoing.
What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?
The site is being addressed through federal and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions.
The site was addressed in two long-term remedial phases directed at cleanup of two separate operable units (OUs). An OU is a focused study area that allows EPA to take discrete actions as part of an overall site cleanup. At the Atlas Asbestos Mine OU, activities focused on remediating surface asbestos/mine tailings. At the City of Coalinga OU, activities focused on remediating contamination associated with storage and milling asbestos.
A Five-Year Review for the Atlas Asbestos Mine Superfund site in 2006 found that EPA policy had changed regarding the protectiveness of the 1% asbestos cleanup level for soils in the area outside the WMU and recommended additional work to ensure the cleanup is protective. EPA subsequently conducted further soil and activity-based air sampling to determine whether the City of Coalinga OU presented any exposure issues of concern. The results of the sampling showed that the cleanup of the site continued to be protective of human health and the environment and that no further remedial action was necessary.
The third Five-Year Review, completed in September 2011, determined that the remedy at the City of Coalinga OU was functioning as intended and is protective of human health and the environment.
What Is the Current Site Status?
Atlas Asbestos Mine OU: The selected remedy for the final cleanup included diverting the stream flow away from the mine surfaces and tailing piles by building stream diversions, minimizing the release of sediments containing asbestos by building sediment trapping dams, stabilizing the slopes of the waste piles by regrading and limiting access to the site by erecting fences, and placing deed restrictions on private property at the mine area. Cleanup construction activities began in 1994 and finished in 1996. A revegetation pilot study finished in 1999.
A Five-Year Review, completed in 2011, noted that the selected remedy at the Atlas Asbestos Mine OU was functioning as intended, and remained protective of human health and the environment. For the remedy to remain protective over the long term, revision of the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Manual for the OU was recommended, to include an aerial inspection during each Five-Year Review period. Aerial inspections would allow for thorough examination of the site boundary to determine whether migration of asbestos laden materials is occurring.
EPA’s Record of Decision (ROD) for the OU also required that potential human health risks associated with recreational activities in the surrounding Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) be addressed. The CCMA consists mainly of public lands located on a serpentine ore body, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Naturally occurring (unprocessed) asbestos in air is generated by off-highway vehicle riding, hiking and camping activities. The Clear Creek Management Area Asbestos Exposure and Human Health Risk Assessment was released May 1, 2008. The assessment found an increased long-term cancer risk from engaging in many of the typical recreational activities at CCMA. In particular, motorcycle riding, ATV riding and SUV driving created the highest asbestos exposures. Many CCMA activities were found to have lifetime excess cancer risks above the range EPA considers to be acceptable. Based on EPA’s assessment, the BLM issued an immediate temporary closure of CCMA pending completion of an updated Resource Management Plan.
City of Coalinga OU: In 1989, EPA selected a remedy to clean up the 107 acres of contamination in Coalinga. It included excavating and consolidating 20,000 cubic yards of asbestos, chromium and nickel-contaminated soil and building debris; building an underground waste management unit (WMU) to contain and dispose of contaminated soil and waste on site; covering the WMU area with an impermeable cap; regrading the excavated area; decontaminating the debris; monitoring soil, groundwater and air; and implementing deed restrictions on the use of the land.
The parties potentially responsible for site contamination began cleanup activities under EPA oversight in 1990 and completed activities in 1993. The City of Coalinga OU is also part of the overall cleanup of the Coalinga Asbestos Mine Superfund site, which contains two operable units: the City of Coalinga and the Coalinga Asbestos/Johns-Manville Mill. The Coalinga Asbestos Mine site was formally deleted from the NPL in April 1998. EPA based its decision to delete the site on the criterion that the responsible parties have implemented all appropriate response actions required for the site.