Cleaning up NV and CA "superfund" sites

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Toxic, hazardous and contaminated sites. There are thousands of them across the United States.

Anaconda Copper Mine in Lyon County, Nevada and Leviathan Mine in Alpine County, California were once thriving businesses now they're abandoned. The federal government has designated them as superfund sites.

Sulfur at Leviathan has been contaminating mountain creeks outside of Lake Tahoe and Anaconda has polluted groundwater with multiple toxins, including uranium.

"Hundreds of sites that have been on the list and languishing and ways that they shouldn't we should have more priority and more focus to achieve better outcomes for those citizens across the country," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

Pruitt is working to make the superfund program a priority. He created a Superfund Task Force to breath new life into the decades old program. Now the task force is releasing its recommendations to expedite cleanup, encourage private investment in that clean up and promote redevelopment of the sites.

"Those individuals that are responsible to clean up are going to get accountability and we're going to define the clean up, and then have a time line that's going to be accountable as far as getting it remediated," Pruitt added.

Environmentalists find problems in the plan to get those companies to pay up. That's because some of the companies are no longer around.

"The company that is responsible for the mess should be held responsible for cleaning it up. And unfortunately in many cases you see this a lot in abandoned mines, there is no company left to do the clean up," Matt Lee-Ashley with the Center for American Progress said.

Lee-Ashley said it's the EPA's job to step in. He doesn't see the agency making the changes they are touting because of proposed Superfund administrative cuts in President Trump's budget.

"Cutting a third of the budget of the superfund program does not reflect a commitment to clean ups it's an abdication of the EPA's responsibility."

Both mines are on the EPA's national priority list, which means cleanup costs will be covered by federal funding.

Congress, however, will make the final decision on funding. Lawmakers are set to return in a few weeks from August recess.

The EPA shared this statement in response to the Center for America Progress:

"Despite additional funding, the previous administration saw an increase in the number of Superfund sites across the country. Under Administrator Pruitt, EPA is streamlining the Superfund program to make it more efficient, which will yield real results towards protecting our environment," EPA spokesman, Jahan Wilcox said.

To learn more about how Superfund works and to find locations, you can visit https://www.epa.gov/superfund.