Company fights toxic legacy of dumping

Company fights toxic legacy of dumping

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 26, 2008
By: Jane M. Von Bergen

In the ’70s, it sent waste to a Bucks farm. Little did it know what happened then, it says, setting aside $21 million for cleanup.

In 1969, a Bucks County chemist bought a farm on Lonely Cottage Road in Upper Black Eddy, a charming rural community not far from the Delaware River, about 20 miles upstream from New Hope.

Then, the chemist, Manfred DeRewal, and his sons proceeded to trash it, a federal judge wrote.
Hired by many companies in the area, they trucked in hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic waste and dumped them at Boarhead Farms.

This summer, the companies have been in federal court in Philadelphia fighting over cleanup costs.
Yesterday, Carpenter Technology Corp., one of the companies whose waste ended up at the farm, said it would increase its $5 million fund for litigation to $21 million.

In announcing the increase, the Wyomissing, Pa., company said it intended to appeal a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Legrome D. Davis holding the firm liable for 80 percent of the past and future cleanup costs at the site in Upper Black Eddy.

In his Aug. 18 decision, Davis found that Carpenter was liable for that much of the cleanup because it kept using DeRewal Chemical Corp. to dispose of its toxic waste even though it knew of DeRewal’s “status as a notorious environmental polluter.”

“This decision was economically motivated,” Davis wrote, having presided over a trial on the matter in July in Philadelphia.

The judge found that between 1973 and 1974, nearly a million gallons of Carpenter waste, including a toxic brew known as “waste pickle liquor,” ended up at the farm – about two-thirds of the total volume of toxicity.
Carpenter spokesman David Christiansen said yesterday that the company had hired DeRewal Chemical expecting the waste to be disposed of properly.

“The court found that the transporter, instead, deposited the materials on his own family farm,” the Carpenter statement said.

Carpenter has not tried to sue DeRewal or his sons. In court papers, DeRewal, 81, is listed as someone with insufficient assets to foot the cleanup tab, which reached nearly $13.7 million by the end of 2007, and is still mounting.

A woman who identified herself as a caretaker at Boarhead Farms said yesterday that DeRewal was in Costa Rica and would not be immediately available for comment.

So far, Carpenter’s share is about $10.9 million and the farm is a Superfund site under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The plaintiffs in the case are other companies who had waste at the site and agreed to take on the financial responsibility of cleaning it up, then suing to recover their costs.

The judge’s opinion is a page-turner, as it lays out how DeRewal’s companies disposed of wastes.
After government regulators began to nose around Boarhead Farms in 1973, DeRewal rented two warehouses in Philadelphia.

In one, on Ontario Street, two blocks from the Delaware River, toxic wastes were dumped into a drain in the floor, sending them into the city wastewater-treatment system. Finally, the city cut the connection.

In the other, at the Wissinoming Industrial Park on Comly Street, the wastes went directly into the Delaware River via a storm drain.

One of DeRewal’s sons, Bruce, drove between Carpenter and the Ontario Street warehouse four times a day “essentially living out of the truck,” the judge wrote. Once a week, though, he would haul the waste to the farm, “so he could get a change of clothes and money for fuel.”

Carpenter’s stock closed yesterday at $37.86, up from a yearlong low of $35 in late July, but down from a high of nearly $80 a share in December.

The company said that shifting more money into the litigation fund would lower its fiscal 2008 net income from continuing operations to $200.5 million, or $4.12 a share, from $216.5 million, or $4.32 a diluted share. The fiscal year ended June 30.

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