|Mining activity east of Chihuahua "B" Hill|
|Diagram showing tested areas.|
I decided to ask those who have had their soil replaced about how they feel toward Freeport-McMoRan’s soil program. Everyone seemed to be very pleased with the outcome. I asked them specifically where is the replacement soil is coming from. They didn’t know and didn’t think to ask. The reason I felt that is was an important question is that the smelter operations in Bisbee eventually relocated to Douglas in 1904, just 23 miles away, and operated until 1987. At one time, tons of sulfur dioxide was released into the atmosphere daily, a primary cause of acid rain. I am skeptical that the soil within trucking distance is any healthier than what we have. My partner had a conversation with the folks at the Remediation Program office but the office staff didn’t seem to know anything about that aspect of the program. They did know that we couldn’t count on our soil being replaced within the next year and it may be two more years (note: notification about the test results was received in Mar. 2010) before that takes place .
The 2010 the Bisbee soil program update literature, supplied plenty of photos of happy, young, and hard working team members in the field. The EPA was mentioned in one section because they indicated that there could be natural occurring radon in the area. Soil samples were collected and analyzed to determine the background levels. The evaluation of the data found that “none of the 261 properties had radionuclide levels in soils that exceed levels that the Arizona Department of Radiation Control has determined to be protective of human health (my bold). Freeport-McMoRan’s programs are conducted under the oversight of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). I’m supposed to feel assured, right?
Taking a step back, our 1920s house probably has lead paint buried under several layers of acrylic based paint. Being nearly 90 years old, the layers of paint have built up over time. This means that the first coats of paint are old and brittle and the paint randomly chips free. Another consideration is that the troubled patch of dirt in the back yard is a prime spot for dumping household chemicals, historically a popular practice among many people. Since lead levels are their only concern here, I’m not inclined to solely put the blame on the mining operations. The stated Freeport-McMoRan cleanup level for lead is 425 ppm. The new EPA standards states lead is considered a hazard when equal to or exceeding . . . 400 parts per million (ppm) of lead in bare soil in children's play areas or 1200 ppm average for bare soil in the rest of the yard (Last updated on 11/08/2010).
After serious consideration, I’m thinking that I do not want to participate in the soil remediation program but my partner is concerned about the property value. The test levels for our backyard seem not high enough for us to be overly concerned about our health and we don’t have young children living with us to worry about.
|Morning Snow, February 2011|
New York Times: Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste
DailyKos.com: By Heathlander
Douglas Smelter Environmental History:
The Arizona Republic: Abandoning Clean Cars Program not fair for Ariz.