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U.S. EPA, Dept. of Justice reach $10 Million settlement with Department of the Interior, Northern California mining company for cleanup costs and transfer of land to Elem Indian Colony

Release Date: 02/16/2012
Contact Information: Media Contacts: Mary Simms, 415-947-4270,, Rusty Harris-Bishop, 415-972-3140, Dept. of Justice: (202) 514-2007        

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a multi-party agreement to settle cleanup costs for seven mining sites in three states. The parties to the agreement include the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bradley Mining Company, the Worthen Bradley Family Trust and the Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians.

Under the settlement, the Bradley Mining Company and Bradley Trust will transfer nearly all of their land holdings at the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine to a new trust created to retain the lands pending EPA cleanup. The Elem Indian Colony will receive approximately 380 acres of uncontaminated land - adding to its current holdings of 50 acres - as compensation for natural resource damages from mining operations by the Bradley Mining Company.        

Nearly $7 million in federal funds will be used to reimburse EPA’s costs for cleaning up contamination at the Elem Indian Colony and the access road to the Colony.

“This significant settlement took three years to hammer out. The result is a win for Clear Lake and a win for the Elem Colony,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “This settlement will help the Clear Lake ecosystem recover, including reducing the risks due to mercury in fish. It also demonstrates EPA’s strong commitment to supporting the environmental cleanup of tribal lands.”

In addition to the land transfers relating to the Sulphur Bank Mine, the proceeds from insurance policies and any future income from the Bradley Mining Company will be divided among the seven mine sites for future cleanup, with the Bradley Mining retaining a share of the proceeds.

The Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund Site is located at the southeastern end of the Oaks Arm of Clear Lake. The site includes the Elem Indian Colony which is located directly adjacent to the mine property. The site initially was mined for sulfur from 1865 to 1871. Mercury ore was mined intermittently by underground methods from 1873 to 1905, and open-pit mined from 1915 to 1957. The mine, once one of the largest producers of mercury in California, has been inactive since 1957.

Approximately three million cubic yards of mine wastes and tailings remain on the mine site. Mercury is present in the bottom sediments in Clear Lake, and mercury has bio-concentrated in the food chain of Clear Lake. The levels of mercury in fish from the lake led the State to issue an advisory to limit consumption of fish. Clear Lake is the source of water that the Clear Lake Oaks Water District provides for municipal drinking water for 4,700 people.

This cleanup effort is one of several tribal land cleanups in the Pacific Southwest Region. EPA is currently overseeing the investigation and clean up of contamination on Hopi and Navajo lands throughout the southwest.

The settlement, lodged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the settlement document will be available on the Department of Justice website at:

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