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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: Superfund Settlement; PCB Lawsuit

EPA Settles Oklahoma Cost Recovery Action

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Dept. of Justice lodged a proposed settlement (pdf) today that resolves claims against approximately 300 companies, federal agencies and municipal governments in connection with the Double Eagle Superfund Site in Oklahoma City.

The Double Eagle Refinery Co. has been in operation since 1929. Until approximately 1980, the facility re-refined used motor oils by acidulation, distillation, and filtration. The facility now stores, dehydrates, and sells waste oils.

Approximately 2,500 cubic yards of waste oils contaminated with heavy metals were stored in a surface impoundment and four ponds, some unlined or leaking when EPA first inspecting the site in the 1980s. According to the company, the oils came from truck fleets, garages, automobile dealers, industries, and city, State, and Federal agencies throughout the State. In addition, waste solvents and other products were collected from major industrial companies in Oklahoma such as Western Electric, Dayton Tire and Rubber Co., CMI Corp., 3-M Co., and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., as well as the Federal Aviation Administration.

In 1986, EPA detected barium, lead, and zinc in soil in drainage paths to the east and west of the site and in a pond to the east. These contaminants are probably the result of spills from the lagoons, EPA said in its analysis of the site.

The Double Eagle refinery site was added to the National Priorities List as a Superfund site in 1989.

The Settling Defendants agreed to collectively pay EPA $13,606,241 plus interest for past response costs at the site within 10 days of entry of the consent decree.

Union Pacific, on behalf of the settling defendants, agreed to pay EPA $160,000 plus interest for anticipated future response costs at the site.

The settling federal agencies agreed to pay EPA $384,844 plus interest for past response costs. Of this amount, $137,808 plus interest is to be paid on behalf of the United States Postal Service.

Union Pacific, on behalf of all settling defendants, agreed to pay EPA $274,755.79 for federal natural resources claims.  The company will also pay an additional $163,451.21 plus interest on behalf of the settling defendants to the State of Oklahoma for injury to groundwater resources and $11,793 for damages to the state’s natural resources.

The Consent Decree will be lodged with the court for a period of 30 days for public notice and comment after which it can be entered by the court.


EPA Files PCB Cleanup Suit Against Paper Companies

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency and  Department of Justice’s Environment on Thursday jointly filed a lawsuit naming 10 companies and two city governments that alleges they failed to complete environmental cleanup work at Wisconsin’s Lower Fox River and Green Bay Superfund Site. 

The lawsuit seeks to compel the companies to complete the cleanup work and pay associated government costs and natural resource damages.  The total cleanup costs and damages for the Green Bay Site are expected to exceed $1 billion for remediation and restoration of damages caused by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in bottom sediment, banks, and shoreline areas of the Fox River and Green Bay.

A large amount of cleanup and natural resource restoration work has already been done in the area under a set of partial settlements and an EPA administrative order.   But the parties performing the ongoing cleanup work under that order have protested, and they have not agreed to take full responsibility for completing the cleanup or paying all damages for injuries to natural resources, according to the Justice Department. 

The complaint  (pdf) seeks a court order requiring the responsible parties to continue funding and performing the PCB cleanup without delay.  It also seeks monetary damages for decades of PCB-related injuries to fish and birds and for lost recreational opportunities. 

The defendants in the government’s lawsuit include paper companies that contaminated sediment in the Fox River and Green Bay when they made and recycled a particular type of PCB-containing “carbonless” copy paper.  NCR Corporation and its affiliates produced that paper with PCBs from the mid-1950s until 1971.  The suit also names two municipal sewer system operators that discharged relatively large amounts of PCBs to the Fox River.  In 2009, the United States and Wisconsin reached pre-litigation settlements with several other local sewer system operators and a number of companies that made relatively minor contributions to the PCB contamination at the site.

Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP is the only company to reach a settlement so far.  In the proposed settlement, Georgia-Pacific would agree that it is liable, along with other defendants, for performance of all required cleanup work downstream from a line across the Fox River slightly upstream of its paper mill in the city of Green Bay.  The company also would pay $7 million to reimburse a portion of the government’s unpaid past and future costs.  The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

The lawsuit will proceed against 11 other non-settling defendants, including: NCR Corporation; Appleton Papers Inc.; CBC Coating Inc. (formerly known as Riverside Paper Corp.); City of Appleton; Kimberly-Clark Corp.; Menasha Corp.; Neenah-Menasha Sewerage Commission; New Page Wisconsin Systems Inc.; P.H. Glatfelter Co.; U.S. Paper Mills Corp.; and WTM I Co. (formerly known as Wisconsin Tissue Mills Inc.).   

The remediation plan for the site was selected by the EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  The cleanup effort will remove much of the PCB-containing sediment from the Fox River by dredging.  In other portions of the river, contaminated sediment will be contained in place with specially-engineered caps.  The dredging and capping will reduce PCB exposure and greatly diminish downstream migration of PCBs to Green Bay.  More than $300 million in cleanup work has already been done at the site.  The remaining dredging and capping work could cost an estimated $550 million more, the Justice Department said in a press release.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state and tribal trustees for natural resources in the area also have prepared a related natural resource damage assessment under the Superfund law.  According to that assessment, the additional cost of required natural resource restoration work may approach another $400 million.

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