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EPA proposes removing Butler Mine Tunnel from contaminated sites list

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World Coal,

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it is seeking comments on the proposed deletion of the Butler Mine Tunnel in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, from the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is a list of the nation’s most contaminated hazardous waste sites.

The EPA deletes sites or parts of sites from the NPL when no further clean-up is required to protect human health or the environment. Years, and sometimes decades, of complex investigation and clean-up work have gone into getting these sites to the point where they can be deleted from the NPL.

“Deletions from the NPL can revitalise communities, raise property values, and promote economic growth by signalling to potential developers and financial institutions that clean-up is complete,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Acting Regional Administrator, Diana Esher. “This can be especially impactful for disadvantaged and over-burdened communities.”

The Butler Mine Tunnel Site was created by the illegal disposal of oily waste into abandoned underground coal mines during the late 1970s. Waste oil discharged from the mines in 1979, and again in 1985, following heavy rains associated with Hurricane Gloria. In each case, waste oil discharged from the mines into the Susquehanna River via the Butler Mine Tunnel.

The EPA response to the discharges included:

  • Responding to flush outs with construction and equipment.
  • Establishing an Administrative Center to monitor the site.
  • Encouraging more responsible disposal of waste through a community education programme.
  • Closing boreholes.
  • Developing an operations and maintenance plan.

Based on monitoring data collected, further oil flush outs associated with the original disposal activities are not expected. The EPA response at the Butler Mine Tunnel is complete and as a result, the site has been proposed for deletion from the NPL.

The EPA published a Federal Register Notice on 14 May 2021, proposing to delete all or part of 20 sites from the NPL. The agency plans to publish another notice with additional final and proposed deletions this autumn.

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