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PCB-Tainted Buildings Spark EPA Fine

Monday, September 23, 2013

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Allegations of PCB contamination and waste mismanagement at two buildings will cost an Arizona-based copper mining company $146,600 to resolve, according to federal authorities.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say Asarco LLC, of Tucson, has agreed to pay a $30,900 fine and spend $115,714 to reduce PCBs at its copper operations in Hayden, AZ.


Asarco LLC, headquartered in Tucson, AZ, was fined for PCB contamination and improper management in its copper operations in Hayden, AZ, EPA says. The company’s website says the Hayden smelter produces almost half a billion pounds of copper anodes annually.

Asarco, founded  in 1899 as American Smelting and Refining Company, is a copper mining, smelting and refining company with about 2,600 employees throughout Arizona and Texas.

2011 Inspection

The case stems from a 2011 inspection in which EPA officials discovered two buildings contaminated with PCBs, the agency said.

Asarco employees were alleged to be using the buildings in violation of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, according to the agency.

The company, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, said in an e-mailed statement that during the EPA inspection "wipe samples indicated low levels of PCBs at two different transformers."

The PCBs were promptly cleaned up and a labeling issue was immediately rectified, the company added.

"Asarco has been replacing PCB transformers on a regular basis (over 50 to date) and will continue to do so," the company said.

As part of the agreement, Asarco has agreed to replace three PCB transformers.

EPA documents in the case were not immediately made available for review.

PCBs and Worker Health

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are man-made organic chemicals used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and cooling oil for electrical transformers, according to the EPA.

“Exposure to PCBs is a concern whenever facilities are handling materials containing these toxic chemicals,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

“Our goal is to safeguard worker health and nearby communities by ensuring that Asarco takes the necessary steps to improve the safety of their recycling and disposal practices.”


EPA classifies PCBs as probable human carcinogens. The TSCA limits the manufacture, processing and distribution of PCBs.

More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned the production of this chemical class in 1978.

Many PCB-containing materials are still in use today, the agency said.

Probable Human Carcinogens

Once released into the environment the chemicals remain for decades, EPA noted.

“Tests have shown that PCBs can cause cancer in animals and are suspected carcinogens to humans. Acute PCB exposure can also adversely affect the nervous, immune and endocrine systems as well as liver function,” the federal agency said.

More information on PCB regulation and TSCA enforcement is available here.


Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; Construction chemicals; Copper; Enforcement; EPA; Maintenance + Renovation

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