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EPA and USDA Reach Agreement to Redelegate CERCLA Authority at the Historic Matterhorn Mill Near Telluride, Colorado

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WASHINGTON (September 30, 2020) — Today, the Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Land and Emergency Management announced that EPA will redelegate the Agency’s cleanup response and enforcement authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the Matterhorn Mill site in San Miguel County, Colorado. 

“This redelegation is the type of efficiency in the use of remedial resources and commitment to making progress on mining sites that motivated the establishment of the new Office of Desert, Plains, and Mountains,” said Assistant Administrator Peter Wright of the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management. “The result will be an efficient and effective use of both agencies’ Superfund program resources.”

“Cleaning up this site is a priority for the Forest Service,” said Director Scott Davis of the USDA’s Office of Property and Fleet Management. “The agreement with EPA will allow an efficient site-wide cleanup.”

The Matterhorn Mill site has a mixed ownership structure consisting of both public and private land, which, absent this redelegation, would require both the EPA’s and the USDA’s CERCLA authority to conduct a complete cleanup. This redelegation of authorities is an example of how offices can work together to reduce duplication of efforts, increase federal consistency and efficiencies, and expedite cleanup of the site.

The Site includes the historic Matterhorn Mill, a structure placed on the San Miguel County Historic Register, the National Register of Historic Places, and the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties. The Site is not listed on the National Priorities List. The contamination at this site, heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, nickel, and selenium, are found in the mill building, tailings piles, the former tailings pond located adjacent to the mill building, and a settling pond located downgradient of the tailings pile area.

Expanding cleanup capacity by designating one agency as the lead for a cleanup project in order to reduce overlap and duplication was identified as a recommendation of the EPA’s Superfund Task Force. Recommendation 19 brought together the EPA and the federal land management agencies to discuss the use of Executive Order 12580 (Superfund Implementation) to reduce duplication of efforts and increase federal consistency and efficiencies.

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