SEATTLE - Mining giant Asarco has agreed to pay $1.8 billion to clean up more than 80 toxic sites in 19 states as part of the largest environmental bankruptcy settlement in U.S. history.
Nearly half that money will come to the Pacific Northwest to help pay for environmental restoration work under way outside Tacoma and Everett, Wash., and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Asarco spent a century extracting lead, zinc and copper from around the country and left a trail of hazardous waste that stretched from one coast to the other. The company has struggled on and off for nearly a decade with deep debts that threatened one of the largest cleanup tabs in the country.
The U.S. Justice Department in 2002 even accused Asarco's parent company, Grupo Mexico, of trying to strip the company of all its assets to avoid paying its bills.
Thursday, however, U.S. Department of Justice officials called the Arizona-based copper company's reorganization settlement "a historic day."
"Our combined efforts have resulted in the largest recovery of funds to pay for past and future clean up of hazardous materials in the nation's history," Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli said in a written statement.