From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):
Asarco wants the Union Pacific Railroad Co. to pay for part of the cleanup of a Superfund site where arsenic leached into Denver groundwater from rail tracks.
A lawsuit before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Union Pacific should reimburse Asarco for some of the $1.5 million environmental cleanup of 4 square miles near Vasquez Boulevard and Interstate 70 known as the Vasquez site, where gold, zinc, lead and other metals were smelted.
Asarco, a Phoenix-based mining and refinery company, has paid a total of $1.8 billion at 20 Superfund sites around the country, including the much larger Globeville site in north Denver.
In its lawsuit, Asarco claims that Union Pacific used mine tailings in rail beds traversing the Vasquez site. The tailings used to support the rail lines leached into surface and groundwater, resulting in elevated levels of arsenic and lead, the lawsuit says.
But Union Pacific met all of its financial obligations related to the Vasquez site in a court-approved June 2009 settlement between the railroad, the government and Asarco, said attorney Carolyn McIntosh, who represents the railroad.
“It was a full resolution,” McIntosh told a panel of three circuit court judges in Denver on Wednesday morning.
Pepsi-Cola Metropolitan Bottling Co., a New Jersey company that owns some of the property on the Vasquez site, also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed in December 2012.
Asarco attorney Gregory Evans said the Vasquez site is just one of many around the country that Union Pacific polluted. He estimated that cleanup costs for all the sites would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. “Union Pacific has negatively impacted human health and the environment through its use and abandonment of mining waste along (railroad tracks),” Evans said Wednesday.
Federal District Magistrate Judge Michael Watanabe previously has ruled that Asarco failed to file its lawsuit within the statute of limitations.
Asarco attorney Duncan Getchell said Watanabe erred because the effective date of the settlement involving Union Pacific and Pepsi-Cola is Dec. 9, 2012, when Asarco’s bankruptcy was finalized.
More water pollution coverage here.