February 15, 2011 / 4:27 AM / in 7 years

BP's Atlantic Richfield to pay $6.7 mln Idaho settlement

SALMON, Idaho, Feb 14 (Reuters) - A BP affiliate will pay over $6.7 million for cleanup and damages stemming from mining and smelter operations that caused heavy metal pollution in Idaho, the U.S. Attorney in the state said on Monday.

The federal government sued Arco in 1990 for contamination from the now defunct Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex near Kellogg in the Silver Valley, a historic lead, zinc and silver mining area along the Coeur d‘Alene River.

The settlement between the U.S. government and BP-owned Atlantic Richfield Co, or Arco, calls for about $5 million to reimburse the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for cleaning up the Superfund site, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said.

Some $1.7 million will go to Idaho, the Coeur d‘Alene Tribe and federal land agencies for damage to natural resources, Olson said.

Daren Beaudo, a spokesman for the energy company BP, on Monday hailed the end of negotiations, saying in an email that Arco “is pleased” to have “reached this settlement agreement with federal, state and tribal governments.”

The oil company Arco bought out Anaconda Mining Co, the owner of the complex, in 1977 in an effort to generate revenues from a broad array of natural resources.

BP in 2000 acquired Arco. Under the Superfund law, BP assumed part of the environmental liability for any cleanup and damages linked to the defunct Bunker Hill operation.

Bunker Hill’s smelter releases, waste piles and processing caused water, air and soil contamination by such toxic metals as lead and arsenic, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

EPA documents say residents near the Bunker Hill complex were exposed to dangerous levels of lead, which can affect the nervous system and cause developmental abnormalities.

The EPA estimates that between 70 million and 100 million tons of mining waste is spread throughout the area’s streams, flood plains and lakes, with contaminated sediments found in Lake Coeur d‘Alene and the Spokane River.

A cleanup effort, one of the largest in the nation’s history, has restored inland sockeye salmon to Coeur d‘Alene River stretches that, for decades, were devoid of life because of heavy metals, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Blood testing indicates lead levels have been dropping in children who live near the site, the agency said. (Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)

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