MANVILLE: Polluter will millions for cleanup

MANVILLE: Polluter will millions for cleanup

Source: http://centraljersey.com, April 9, 2014

Court settlement paves the way for government to be reimbursed

Federal and state governments will get back some of the money paid to clean up a contaminated site in downtown Manville starting more than 12 years ago.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency says a legal settlement requires a national firm to pay the federal government more than $4 billion in environmental cleanup costs.

Included is $20 million coming to New Jersey to repay costs in cleaning up the Federal Creosote Superfund site in Manville.

After a lengthy cleanup effort, the EPA proposed in March that the Manville site be removed from the Superfund list of the nation’s most contaminated hazardous waste sites.

The site was listed as a Superfund site in 1999, and cleanup began in 2001.

   EPA said it had removed more than 450,000 tons of contaminated soil and cleaned up nearly 100 residential and commercial properties. There were buried lagoons and canals that still contained creosote. Eighteen residential properties were acquired and demolished to better reach the source materials.

The borough is negotiating with the site’s owners on what kind of development will be allowed on the site, which is only a block off Main Street.

N.J. Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said April 3 that Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and its subsidiary Kerr-McGee will pay the state $20 million as part of a wider legal settlement that involves reimbursement for cleanup of the Manville Federal Creosote site off Main Street.

Additionally, $217 million will be paid to the federal Superfund in repayment of costs incurred by the EPA in cleanup, according to spokesman for Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat who represents the borough in Congress.

Mr. Holt said in a written statement: “For decades, taxpayers have been footing the bill to clean up the Federal Creosote site in Manville — at a total cost of $217 million. Now, finally, the polluters responsible will be paying us back.

”This is a victory for Manville, and it’s a victory for the idea that polluters should clean up their own messes. Now Congress needs to act to ensure that polluters pay the price for other Superfund cleanup efforts around the country.”

The $20 million payment to New Jersey is part of a record-breaking $5.15 billion settlement.

&Following a historic trial in 2012, Kerr-McGee was found by a federal bankruptcy court to have engaged in fraudulent corporate asset transfers in an effort to shield its oil and gas assets from liability claims spawned by the firm’s contamination of properties throughout the United States. The contamination spanned decades, as Kerr-McGee earned profits from such businesses as uranium mining and wood treatment.

The bankruptcy court verdict, which essentially invalidated Kerr-McGee’s transfer of environmental and tort liabilities to a spin-off entity known as Tronox, cleared a path for resolution of liability claims pursued by New Jersey and other parties, and for the settlement.

”This settlement reaffirms New Jersey’s commitment to making certain that those who cause pollution do not evade their obligation to pay for its cleanup,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. “We will continue to protect the residents of New Jersey, and their quality of life, by vigorously pursuing those who are legally responsible for contaminating our precious environmental resources.”

The Federal Creosote Superfund Site in Manville was once the home of a coal tar wood treatment facility operated from about 1911 to 1956. During its operation, the facility treated railroad ties with creosote. The most prominent features of the wood treatment operations included two unlined canals that conveyed creosote waste to two unlined lagoons. The lagoons held concentrated creosote waste sludge.

Attorneys for the Division of Law filed proofs of claim related to the Federal Creosote Superfund Site in 2009, seeking past costs and Natural Resource Damages on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Those claims, as well as environmental claims against Kerr-McGee made by 10 other states, the federal government and the Navajo Tribe relative to polluted industrial sites across the nation, have been resolved as part of the wider settlement.

The settlement must now be approved by the federal bankruptcy court. Once the settlement is lodged with the bankruptcy court, it will be subject to a 30-day comment period.

Assuming that the court approves the settlement after hearing any objections that might be filed during the comment period, it may be subject to an appellate review process in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It is anticipated that settlement proceeds could be available for distribution by the trustee by year’s end, depending on the pace of any appeal process.

   Deputy Attorneys General John Dickinson and Richard Engel, both assigned to the Division of Law’s Environmental Enforcement section, handled the Kerr-McGee matter on behalf of the state.

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