June 14, 2017

Insurers say Duke Energy knowingly risked groundwater contamination from coal ash

Source:, June 13, 2017
By: John Downey

Insurance companies sued by Duke Energy to recover $1 billion-plus in coal-ash contamination costs deny the claims are covered, alleging the Charlotte-based utility company elected to dispose of ash in ways it knew threatened groundwater.

“Duke’s ash ponds were built without any provision to prevent the contaminants from escaping into groundwater. Some of the ash ponds were designed so that ash was placed in direct contact with groundwater,” the international insurers say in documents filed last week in the N.C. Business Court suit brought by Duke.

“Had Duke taken appropriate measures, it could have avoided the closure costs that it alleges in its complaint,” they go on to say. “The costs Duke seeks are Duke’s cost of doing business and are not an insurable risk.”

Duke (NYSE:DUK) plans to use insurance claims to reduce charges to its customers for what it ultimately expects will be $5.2 billion in costs to clean up its ash sites in North and South Carolina. None of the money would go to compensate Duke for the costs of cleaning up its February 2014 accident that spilled 39,000 tons of toxic ash into the Dan River, making coal ash a front-burner issue.…

June 14, 2017

Red Hook Ballfields Lead Contamination Cleanup Pushed Back Another Year

Source:, June 14, 2017
By: Amy Langfield

NYC Parks officials need more time — and more money — to clean up the five most contaminated ballfields in Red Hook, community members were told Tuesday night.

The city-financed cleanup was previously estimated at $105 million and was expected to be completed by a rolling series of dates, first by the spring of 2018.

But now, officials said, they need another year for the fields — and they may need an unknown amount of additional funds.

“We are looking at that now. We are finalizing the cost,” said Imelda Bernstein, the NYC Parks landscape architect for the first phase, told the dozens of people assembled at the Red Hook recreation center Tuesday night.

Parks designers have nearly completed plans for the cleanup for baseball fields 5, 6, 7 and 8, located on Lorraine Street directly across the street form the NYCHA Red Hook Houses. Those four fields are now expected to open for play in the fall of 2019, instead of late 2018.

Baseball field 9, located on Bay Street across the street from the Red Hook Recreation Center, will be complete in the spring of 2021 instead of spring 2020, they said.…

June 14, 2017

Judge says insurers must cover lead exposure claims against Summit Elementary

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 13, 2017

A federal judge has ruled that two insurance companies are required to cover any potential financial losses tied to a lawsuit against the Butler Area School District surrounding lead-tainted drinking water that came from a well at Summit Elementary School.

U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab ruled that The Netherlands Insurance Co. and Peerless Insurance Co. can’t shirk their coverage duties. Lawyers for both companies contended that they were not obligated to pay or defend the district or former Superintendent Dale Lumley, also a defendant.

“We are pleased with the decision and believe the court properly applied the law,” Butler Area School District solicitor Tom King said Monday.

A federal lawsuit filed in February against the school district contends Lumley and administrators concealed information for months that Summit Elementary’s water supply from a well on school property contained dangerous amounts of lead. An executive summary of an internal investigation noted a possible cover-up or negligence in addressing and communicating the lead problem.

Three school district administrators, including Lumley, resigned during the scandal, and a criminal investigation is ongoing.

After the initial lawsuit, attorneys for the insurance carriers filed a separate action in federal court, arguing both companies are exempt from claims because their policies with the district did not cover lead exposure.…

June 14, 2017

Health officials warn hospitals to do more to prevent Legionnaire’s disease

Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY), June 12, 2017
Posted on:

Health officials last week warned of the lurking dangers that Legionnaires’ disease can pose to the water systems of hospitals and other health care facilities.

In a recent report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed more than 2,800 cases of Legionnaires’ disease from 2015.

Legionnaires’ is a severe form of bacterial pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria is natural to freshwater environments, but grows best in warm water and can cause problems when it spreads to utilities such as showers, faucets, air conditioners and hot water tanks.

To infect people, it must be aerated or spread in droplets small enough to be inhaled.

The CDC found 553 of those cases in 2015 occurred in healthcare facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, where those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to contracting it.

“(Legionnaires’) can be very serious and deadly to elderly populations,” said Barbara Fargo, director of nursing at Samaritan Summit Village assisted living center in Watertown. “It’s important that we ensure we don’t give it to any patient.”…

June 14, 2017

A New Budget, A New EPA Administrator, And New Uncertainty For Superfund Cleanups

Source: Mondaq Business Briefing, June 13, 2017
By: Mr Van Hilderbrand Jr and Marian C. Hwang
Posted on:

When Scott Pruitt took over the post as Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he made it clear that one of his top priorities was to expedite cleanups at contaminated sites across the country. Facing reductions in the agency’s FY2018 operating budget, including cuts to the Superfund program, it has become clear that in order to achieve this goal, Administrator Pruitt will not be able to simply increase spending, but instead must look to overhaul and restructure the cleanup program from within. To that end, he has made several significant decisions recently including centralizing remedy selection decision-making authority at EPA headquarters and creating a regulatory reform task force.

Briefly, What is Superfund?

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), enacted in 1980, and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), enacted in 1986, are the federal statutes that provide EPA with the responsibility and authority to identify and clean up contaminated sites throughout the country that pose harm to human health and the environment. CERCLA holds those responsible, in whole or in part, for releases of hazardous substances at a site through a joint and several, strict liability scheme. Those that can be found liable include current and former site owners and operators, as well as waste generators and those that arrange for the disposal of hazardous substances at the site.…

June 13, 2017

Who pays for one of the costliest cleanups ever?

Source:, June 12, 2017
By: Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder

Lurking under the surface of the lower 8.3 miles of New Jersey’s Passaic River are blue crabs, fish and tens of thousands of pounds of cancer-causing contaminants.

The Passaic is one of the nation’s most polluted rivers. And it’s expected to see one of the costliest cleanups ever under U.S. EPA’s Superfund program.

The estimated $1.4 billion cleanup cost falls on the shoulders of over 100 companies that have contributed to the river’s contamination over the years.

But apportioning the expenses — and forcing companies to pay up — isn’t easy and wades into complicated legal waters.

EPA last year reached a $165 million settlement with Occidental Chemical Corp., or OxyChem, one of the liable parties responsible for the former Diamond Alkali factory on the Passaic in Newark, which produced the Agent Orange herbicide in the 1960s (Greenwire, Oct. 6, 2016).

But OxyChem has accused another one of the responsible parties — Maxus Energy Corp. — of trying to get out of its monetary responsibilities through a bankruptcy declaration.…

June 13, 2017

Superfund to pay for cleanup at abandoned rubber plant

Source: Canton Repository (OH), June 7, 2017
Posted on:

A north-side neighborhood should be a degree safer as federal environmental officials remove hazardous materials from a neglected former industrial site in the 600 block of N. Union Avenue.

The cleanup at the former Crest Rubber plant is under authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is projected to last about four months.

What is being removed is more than 500 55-gallon drums and about 1,000 smaller containers carrying hazardous material. The material includes the carcinogen benzene, tetrachloroethylene (PERC) and other ignitable waste. The hazardous material is in both liquid and solid form.

“It is a pretty large cleanup,” said Michael Settles, public relations officer for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. “They are going to be out there for a while.”

The state EPA alerted the federal EPA of the site, currently owned by C.F. Capital Investment of Ravenna. Crest Rubber ceased operating at the plant in 2015. The plant was abandoned, according to the U.S. EPA.

“They are getting rid of everything that is, let’s say, an environmental hazard,” said Joe Mazzola, city director of planning and development.…

June 12, 2017

Two hotel guests at Las Vegas’ Rio contract Legionnaires’ diseasec

Source: UPI Top Stories, June 10, 2017
Posted on:

Two recent guests at Las Vegas’ Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino contracted Legionnaires’ disease, health officials said.

The guests who contracted the lung infection stayed separately in March and April at the 2,522-room hotel, the Southern Nevada Health District said Friday. The health district and hotel did not identify the names and conditions of the two people.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia that develops when people breathe small droplets of water infected with Legionella bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After the second illness was reported in late May, the hotel found Legionella in the hot-water system of one of the hotel’s two towers during a test, Mark Bergtholdt, the district’s environmental health supervisor told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

On Thursday, the hotel began using chlorine at high temperatures to disinfect the water system and rooms that received water from it, Bergtholdt said.

Guests served by that system were moved elsewhere, he said.

“The company is working closely with the Southern Nevada Health District and taking aggressive remediation actions to ensure the safety of Rio’s water,” said Caesars Entertainment, the hotel’s parent company, in a statement.…

June 9, 2017

Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Liability to Shift From Tank Owners and Operators to Property Owners

Source:, June 8, 2017

Beginning January 1, 2018, Missouri’s Underground and Aboveground Petroleum Storage Tanks laws will shift environmental liability from the “owner or operator of one or more petroleum storage tanks” to the “current legal owner of the site” where aboveground or underground storage tanks were taken out of use by December 31, 1997. Specifically:

After December 31, 2017, the current legal owner of the [tank] site shall be the responsible party for corrective action…of any releases from [aboveground or underground] storage tanks…. Nothing in this subdivision shall in any way be construed to alter, alleviate, or modify in any manner any liabilities that the [Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund] has to pay for in cleaning up the site.

Sections 319.131.9(3) (underground tanks) and 319.131.10(2) (aboveground tanks), RSMo.

This shift in liability was added to Missouri’s statutes in 2008 in an apparent effort to give historic petroleum tank owners and operators a time limit on how long they could be held liable for past operations. Therefore, Missouri law provides that after December 31, 2017, the current legal property owner will become the responsible party for cleanup of any remaining petroleum pollution from aboveground or underground storage tanks taken out of use before December 31, 1997.…

June 8, 2017

Cleanup Remains Slow For Thousands Waiting For Exide Contamination Fix

Source:, June 7, 2017

The Exide battery-recycling plant has been closed for two years.

But many of the millions of dollars set aside to clean up the contaminated land around 20,000 homes has still not been spent.

CBS2’s Randy Paige reports homeowners are beyond frustrated.

LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis is concerned people moving to the area don’t know about the contamination.

In October 2016,  Paige tested the levels of lead in front of one home and found hazardous amounts. He also found huge levels of lead in Terry Cano’s kitchen and her neighbor’s front yard, in the sides of their homes, the flowerbeds. All the usual places kids play.

The lawn hasn’t been touched.

“Saturday, June 10th is a big day for us,” says Solis

In fact, the day will be an unprecedented one. That day, outreach volunteers will begin going door to door at an estimated 20,000 homes within a 1.7 mile radius.

This area encompasses Boyle Heights, where Cano’s family has lived for generations.

“This contamination has taken; it has broken my family, and it’s broken me.” Cano said.

In early 2016, the governor announced $176 million in state money to be set aside to decontaminate the homes.

Today, only a handful of the homes have been cleaned-up.

What would Cano say to Governor Jerry Brown today?

“What’s taking so long?” she asked.

LA County’s director of environmental health is asking the same question.

“We’re going to look at all options available to the county to get it moving. And I wouldn’t rule out anything, We’re strongly committed to standing with the community to get the proper cleanup done. The fact it has to include the interiors of those homes, and the parkways in front of those homes, where children play,” said Angelo Bellomo.…