Atlas and Coalinga Asbestos Mines

In two central California counties, Fresno and San Benito, two asbestos Superfund sites remain on the National Priorities List (NPL). This poses a serious health risk to residents in the area. The former Atlas and Coalinga Asbestos Mines cover a total of 555 acres near Coalinga, California. The sites were placed on the NPL in 1983 and the EPA immediately began development of numerous long-term cleanup phases. Because the initial remedial strategies were developed so long ago, in 2006 the EPA recommended that further work be conducted on the sites.

Lung cancer lawyers warn residents of the Coalinga area of the dangers of any level of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a known human carcinogenic, and inhalation or ingestion of the fibers may result in development of diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, gastrointestinal cancer, and lung cancer.

The Atlas Asbestos Mine operated from 1963 to 1979, when the federal government finally implemented standards of regulation on the dangerous mineral. The site consisted of the mine, a processing mill, extensive mine tailings, and support buildings. The Coalinga Asbestos Mine operated about 16 miles from Coalinga from 1962 to 1977.

Both Atlas and Coalinga mines transported some milling and mining products into the city of Coalinga. The contaminated area in the city encompasses 107 acres, which was used for milling, manufacturing, storage and transportation purposes. The contamination in Coalinga city is also being cleaned up.

Prior to remediation, air, surface water, sediments, and soils were contaminated with asbestos. Soil and building debris in the City of Coalinga also were contaminated with chromium and nickel. People who touched, accidentally ingested, or inhaled contaminated air, surface water, sediments, or soil might have been at risk.

The Atlas mine area drains directly into White Creek, which drains into Los Gatos Creek, a tributary of the Arroyo Pasejaro, a flood area along the California Aqueduct. A detention basin was built in the flood plain to store water during heavy run-off and to allow the asbestos-laden sediment to settle. Sediments carried by floodwaters silted up the detention basin and diminished its storage capacity, so that during heavy floods the waters could potentially be released into the canal through four drain inlets, carrying asbestos into the aqueduct. In the past, elevated levels of asbestos have been found in the aqueduct. However, most of the downstream users of the aqueduct water are protected by filtration and settling pond systems, which trap most of the asbestos fibers.

In addition to specifying the Final Remedy for the mining area, the Record of Decision for the Atlas Asbestos Mine OU required that potential human health risks associated with recreational activities in the surrounding Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) be addressed. The CCMA consists mainly of public lands located on a serpentine ore body, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Naturally occurring (unprocessed) asbestos in air is generated by off-highway vehicle riding, hiking and camping activities.

The BLM completed a risk assessment in 1992 using activity-based air sampling during typical recreational activities to evaluate risks associated with inhalation of airborne asbestos. EPA updated this risk assessment, using state-of-the-art asbestos sampling and analysis techniques. The Clear Creek Management Area Asbestos Exposure and Human Health Risk Assessment was released May 1, 2008. The assessment found an increased long-term cancer risk from engaging in many of the typical recreational activities at CCMA. In particular, motorcycle riding, ATV riding, and SUV driving created the highest asbestos exposures. Many CCMA activities were found to have lifetime excess cancer risks above the range that EPA considers to be acceptable. Based on the EPA assessment, the BLM issued a immediate temporary closure of CCMA pending completion of an updated Resource Management Plan.

The most recent Five-Year Reviews of the remedy at the Atlas and Coalinga Asbestos Mine Superfund Sites were completed in August 2011. The remedies are working as designed and are protective of human health and the environment. EPA noted operational recommendations in the reports that will be completed. The next review for the sites will be completed by September 2016.

Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge residents of Coalinga and the surrounding areas to receive regular medical check-ups and keep up to date on EPA reports. If you suspect exposure from these sites or development of illnesses associated with asbestos exposure, contact our office today for a free legal consultation.