EPA creates Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains to address mining Superfund sites

September 9, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on September 2 the creation of the Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains located in the EPA’s office in Lakewood, Colorado. This western lands-focused office will address hardrock mining Superfund sites in the West.

The Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains will assume oversight responsibilities for federal hardrock mining clean-up sites west of the Mississippi River; serve as a central contact for other federal agencies, states, and tribes with responsibility for these sites; and develop technologies and management approaches to address legacy pollution. Additionally, the office will support efforts of conservation organizations to voluntarily undertake projects to improve conditions at abandoned mines (Good Samaritan projects).

Born out of lessons learned at sites across the country such as the Bonita Peak Mining District in Colorado and Silver Bow Creek Superfund site in Butte, Montana, the EPA developed this new office to focus on the complex and unique issues related to hardrock mining cleanup and the communities in which they are located. The office will improve the EPA’s ability to respond to the range of special issues and unique needs associated with western mining sites in EPA Regions 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

Mining clean-up cases often involve groundwater contamination and impacts to water quality.

The director of the Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains will report directly to Peter Wright, the assistant administrator for Land and Emergency Management. The office will employ five to nine full-time employees at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado.

Click here to learn more about the Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains.