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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: Superfund Settlement; Kentucky Sues EPA; Cleanup Plan Meeting

Rutgers Organics Settles Kepone Superfund Claims

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection yesterday lodged a proposed settlement with Rutgers Organics Corp. in the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.

The settlement is for reimbursement of costs incurred by EPA, PADEP and the Department of Justice for response costs at the Centre County Kepone Superfund Site in College Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania.

The Kepone site was designated a Superfund site in 1983, after federal and state investigators confirmed chemical contamination of groundwater, surface water and soil at the property. In 1985, Pennsylvania ordered the site owner to conduct an in-depth study of site contamination and cleanup options. EPA assumed oversight of the cleanup in 1986.

In April 1995 EPA approved a plan for the first phase of the cleanup which included cleanup of volatile organic compounds in groundwater, surface water and soils. This phase of the cleanup is called Operable Unit 1, or OU-1.

The settlement lodged in the U.S. District Court concerns costs concerning  the second phase of the cleanup process at Operable Unit 2.

The Centre County Kepone Site was a batch chemical manufacturing plant located near State College Borough, Pennsylvania. Rutgers Organics Corp. manufactured Mirex for Occidental Petroleum Co.  in 1973 and 1974, and Kepone in 1958, 1959, and 1963.

Site wastes were originally disposed of on-site in a spray irrigation field and lagoon and stored in drums. The company later removed the drums and contaminated soil, treated the material in the lagoon to harden it, and buried it on-site. The material from the lagoon failed to harden properly, and contaminants were leaching to ground water and surface water. In 1982, the company excavated and removed the material and started to treat contaminated ground water.

Various volatile organic compounds such as  1,1,2,2, tetrachloroethane, benzene, chlorobenzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and the pesticides kepone and mirex were detected in on-site and off-site ground water, soil, sediments, and surface water. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were also detected in on-site sediments and soils, and petrochemicals were detected in off-site drainage ditch sediment. Threats to human health include accidental ingestion of or direct contact with contaminated surface water, soil, ground water, and sediment, as well as eating contaminated fish, according to EPA.

The proposed Consent Decree (pdf) requires Rutgers Organics Corp. to pay $136,331.98 to EPA in reimbursement of past response costs, and obligates the company to perform the remedy that EPA selected for the surface soils at the Site.  It resolves claims brought by EPA under  the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Kentucky Sues EPA Over Mountaintop Mining Rules

The state of Kentucky and the state’s coal mining industry group have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over how the federal government interprets the rules for granting permits under clean water regulations, the Louisville Register-Herald reports.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, challenges interim guidelines issued earlier this year by the EPA. The guidelines revolve around Kentucky’s issuance of Clean Water Act permits for coal mining operations.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of the EPA blocking 11 state-issued permits related to water discharge at coal mines over concerns they don’t adequately protect waterways from pollution. The 11 permits are for mines in Floyd, Bell, Pike, Knott and Harlan counties.

Earlier this month West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin sued the EPA, seeking to overturn Obama administration policies aimed at curbing large-scale surface mining in Appalachia.

The state and the Kentucky Coal Association want a federal judge to stop the EPA from blocking any further permits until it holds public hearings on new permit rules.

“Once again the EPA is overstepping its bounds and harming the coal industry of Kentucky,” Bill Bissett, Kentucky Coal Association president told the Louisville Register-Herald.

Gov. Steve Beshear said the state has tried to “strike a reasonable balance” with the EPA on mining and environmental issues, but couldn’t reach a middle ground and was compelled to join the association’s lawsuit.

“However, the EPA’s recent arbitrary and unreasonable actions could well have a devastating impact to Kentucky’s economy,” Beshear said.

In March, the EPA approved the issuance of draft permits by the Kentucky Division of Water. The EPA in October blocked 11 permits without citing a significant change in the rules. The EPA sent objection letters to Kentucky officials citing the state’s own assessment of poor water quality in the region where the permits are being sought.

The EPA said state regulators failed to conduct analyses to determine whether the discharge proposals would violate the state’s water quality standards.

Bissett said the EPA had no legal grounds to block the permits and previously had approved 30 similar mining permits after determining they were consistent with the Clean Water Act.

“The EPA is a federal agency and we need them to obey the law,” he said.

EPA to Hold Open House on Cleanup Plan for Zinc Smelting Facility

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 will hold open house-style sessions on Thursday, Oct. 28, to discuss with residents the ongoing investigation and cleanup plan for the former Hegeler Zinc smelter Superfund site in Hegeler, Ill.

There will be two sessions: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Westville High School, 918 N. State St., Hegeler. EPA as well as state and local representatives will be available to talk one-on-one with residents. Additionally, an EPA civil investigator will be present to talk to residents who have leads that may help EPA’s search for all those legally responsible for contamination at the site.

This month, EPA will begin soil sampling on Hegeler and Tilton residential properties near the former Hegeler Zinc smelter site. EPA will test for contaminants such as lead and arsenic. Sampling will be done at no cost to property owners. EPA will incorporate the results into its ongoing investigation of the site.

This 100-acre site was a zinc smelting facility from 1906 until around 1954. The smelter produced large slag piles containing hazardous metals such as lead, arsenic and zinc. The site was added to the National Priorities List in 2005. The NPL is a roster of the nation’s most hazardous waste sites, which are eligible for cleanup under EPA’s Superfund program.

When: October 28, 2010       

Time(s): 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Where: Westville High School, 918 N. State St., Hegeler, Ill.

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