Senator says Asarco should pay for hazardous waste cleanup

During a stop Tuesday in Tacoma, Sen. Maria Cantwell urged the U.S. attorney general to ensure that corporate polluters such as Asarco clean up their hazardous messes using their own money, not taxpayers'.

In a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Cantwell requested that he force Asarco Corp. or the company's potential new owner to clean up nearly 100 contaminated sites across 21 states before signing off on the nation’s largest environment-related bankruptcy case.

One of the sites is the former smelter on the Tacoma-Ruston border, where the Point Ruston housing development is being constructed, that Cantwell used as a backdrop to publicize the letter.

"I believe that when you make a mess you need to clean it up, and unfortunately the sad truth is that some companies evade that responsibility," Cantwell said. "And guess who pays? The homeowners, the workers, the local businesses and the American taxpayer."

Arizona-based Asarco, formerly one of the world's largest mining and smelting corporations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005 as it faced more than $11 billion in claims and cleanup costs at sites across the nation. Washington state agreed in April to a $126 million settlement, less than half of what the state initially filed for.

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