Source: Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), December 25, 2017
Posted on: http://www.advisen.com
After decades of pollution that turned Onondaga Lake into a toxic cesspool, Honeywell has agreed to pay $9.5 million in damages and build 20 restoration projects.
The federal Department of Justice filed documents in federal court Wednesday, but the settlement was not announced until after 5 p.m. Friday of the weekend leading into Christmas.
The settlement requires Honeywell to build projects that include trail extensions, habitats for fish and birds, and fishing piers. It ends the decades-long battle to get Honeywell to clean up and restore the damage done to the environment by decades of industrial pollution.
“With this proposed settlement, the communities of Onondaga Lake are one step closer to reclaiming this resource for the people and wildlife that live here,” said David Stilwell, New York field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a news release issued by the state. “These funds would support both habitat restoration and protection for the benefit of fish and wildlife, as well as improved opportunities for people to enjoy Onondaga Lake.”
The news release from the federal Department of Justice says the total value of the settlement is $26 million, but does not explain how it arrived at that number.
The court filing says Honeywell will make direct payments of up to $9.5 million to the state and federal governments for oversight and project costs. Most of that – about $8 million – will be for maintenance of the projects. Honeywell has already paid the federal government $2.3 million in “assessment costs,” the filing says.
The projects were developed by Honeywell and the federal and state governments. The Onondaga Nation had initially been part of the process, but withdrew in 2015 when it became clear the nation’s historical and cultural losses were not going to be compensated, nation attorney Joe Heath said
The settlement won’t be final until it’s approved by a federal judge after a 30-day comment period. The exact dates of that comment period were not provided.
Honeywell and the Environmental Protection Agency will settle a dispute over costs of the Onondaga Lake cleanup by swapping checks and agreeing not to sue each other.
The federal government will net about $1 million from the settlement, although it says the costs in the cleanup exceed $12 million.
Under an agreement published last week in the Federal Register, Honeywell will pay EPA $7.3 million for oversight costs of the lake cleanup. The EPA will issue a check to Honeywell for $6.25 million because Honeywell says federal agencies dumped pollution in the lake during World War II.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court last week, EPA said its actual “response costs” for the lake cleanup were $12,095,321.88, plus interest, through February 2012. EPA said it had received just $124,737 in reimbursement, and costs continue to mount. Those costs, the lawsuit said, were to “address the release or threat of release of hazardous substances at the site.”