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Union Pacific Sues EPA for Omaha Lead Contamination Records

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop destroying any records that Union Pacific has requested about lead contamination in Omaha, reports Star Tribune.

The legal battle between the EPA and Union Pacific centers on the issue of paying more than $200 million to clean up 5,600 lead-contaminated properties in eastern Omaha, designated as a superfund site by the EPA, according to the article.

The EPA says the contamination came from smokestack emissions at two former lead processing operations, on land partly owned by Union Pacific, but the railroad says it shouldn’t be held responsible because it leased the property to smelting company, Asarco, and then sold the land to the smelter in 1946, reports Omaha World-Herald. Union Pacific also believes the contamination was caused by lead-based paint.

Asarco paid the federal government $776 million to cleanup 35 different sites including Omaha out of a $1.8 billion settlement last year to clean up more than 80 sites in 19 states, reports Star Tribune.

Union Pacific said in its lawsuit that it wants the court to help determine what documents pertaining to the Omaha lead contamination case have been destroyed and to force the EPA to produce the records.

Union Pacific said by destroying the messages it prevented the company from seeing information that the EPA used to make decisions for the case, reports Omaha World-Herald.

The EPA has replaced the soil at nearly 6,000 properties in Omaha, and wants to spend about $237 million to replace soil at 10,000 more yards. EPA estimates the total cost of the cleanup at more than $400 million.

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