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Release Date: 10/23/2002
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October 23, 2002
DOJ (202) 514-2007
EPA Headquarters (202) 564-7818
EPA Region 4 (404) 562-8325


Agreement ensures continued, immediate cleanup of worst-contaminated residential areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today filed a motion in federal court in Birmingham, Ala., seeking approval of a comprehensive environmental settlement with Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia Corporation to investigate and address the serious polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination in Anniston, Ala.

The settlement filed by United States today revises one lodged with the court on March 25. Revisions to the settlement were made to address concerns expressed by the State of Alabama and community members during a 60-day public comment period.

Solutia (formerly known as Monsanto Company) and Pharmacia have agreed to continue the emergency cleanups of area residences that are the worst contaminated, but under the revised settlement, the cleanup of residential properties can begin two years earlier than under the decree previously lodged with the court. Also, EPA, rather than the defendants, will perform the human health risk assessment—a thorough, comprehensive study and evaluation of risks to human health caused by PCBs. PCBs are considered a probable carcinogen and are linked to neurological and developmental problems.

“We have listened to the residents of Anniston, the community impacted by the contamination,” said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s revised settlement takes steps to address those concerns and rectify the situation there.”

“This revised settlement requires Solutia and Pharmacia to immediately address the Anniston site to reduce the risks to human health and the environment,” said John Peter Suarez, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s action demonstrates our strong commitment to ensuring that companies responsible for polluting the environment remedy and pay for the harm they have caused.”

This settlement mandates Solutia and Pharmacia to hire EPA-approved contractors to conduct a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS). The RI/FS will comprehensively study any areas of contamination, including, but not limited to, PCB contamination and evaluate what risks environmental pollutants that are found may pose to public health and the environment. The RI/FS will determine the cleanup options and suggest a strategy for restoring this community. The cleanup will be strictly reviewed and overseen by EPA, as is the immediate cleanup of residences where high levels of PCBs already have been found.

The study will cover all areas where PCBs have been found, including the Solutia facility, the landfills, creeks, rivers, lakes, flood plains and residential, commercial and agricultural properties that surround the facility.

Included in the settlement is an agreement to establish a $3.2 million foundation to assist in funding special education needs for Anniston-area children. In response to public comments, funding has been revised so that monies are paid into the foundation each year of the life of the fund.

Other revisions made to the decree as a result of public comments are that the amount of stipulated penalties has been increased and the defendants have agreed not to challenge listing the site on the National Priorities List in accordance with provisions in the decree. There are provisions in the decree for the state to comment on contractors selected to work at the site.

During the public hearing, many people expressed concerns that the decree did not provide for medical monitoring and health studies in Anniston. EPA does not have the authority nor the expertise to conduct health studies and medical monitoring. Therefore, the revised decree does not provide for medical monitoring and health studies. However, EPA is committed to providing full support to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is the agency that performs that type of work. ATSDR has already performed extensive work in the Anniston community and has committed to continuing its work there.

Solutia Inc.’s Anniston plant encompasses approximately 70 acres of residential and commercial land and is about one mile west of downtown. The facility is one of two in the U.S. which produced PCBs (Aroclors). PCB production ceased in 1971 in Anniston.

The revised consent decree was filed today in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala., along with a Motion to Enter and Memorandum in Support of the Motion to Enter, public comments, and the United States’ responses to the comments. The settlement will not be effective until the Court approves it.

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