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Court Rules Companies Must Pay for Vertac Cleanup

Release Date: 10/26/1998
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

    The federal government has won a major victory in recovering cleanup costs for hazardous waste sites, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.

     Oct. 23, 1998, a U.S. District Judge in Little Rock, Ark, halted what was expected to be a lengthy trial by granting a summary judgment against Hercules Inc. and Uniroyal Chemical Ltd. of Canada. The companies were seeking to avoid reimbursing EPA for more than $103 million in cleanup expenses and interest for the Vertac Superfund site and two municipal landfills contaminated with waste from the site. Located in Jacksonville, Ark., this was one of the worst dioxin-contaminated sites in the nation.

     "Because of the health dangers associated with dioxin and the spread of the contamination from this facility, cleaning the Vertac site was one of the most important Superfund projects in the five-state Region. It is only fitting that those who profited while contaminating this site be held responsible for cleanup costs," Regional Administrator Gregg Cooke said.

     This ruling means that more funds will be available in the Superfund Trust to clean hazardous sites throughout the country. For many citizens, the federal Superfund program is their only protection from the health hazards posed by toxic waste left at abandoned sites.

     Earlier court decisions had found Hercules and Uniroyal responsible for contamination at the 200-acre site. Although Hercules performed extensive cleanup work at the site, the two companies objected to the most significant portions of EPA's cleanup plans. They contended that the Agency had over-estimated the health risks of dioxin and that a less thorough and less expensive cleanup should have been allowed.

     A Sept. 1, 1998, ceremony in Jacksonville celebrated the completion of the Vertac cleanup. Local officials and residents worked closely with EPA in developing cleanup plans for this property. Their commitment and dedication made the cleanup a great success.

     For two decades beginning in the early 1960s, first Hercules, then Vertac Chemical Corp., manufactured herbicides including Agent Orange on the property. Tests of samples found dioxin contamination in nearby residential yards as well as in the soil, ground water and surface water of the manufacturing site. Also, when the facility closed in 1987, nearly 30,000 decaying drums of corrosive and flammable dioxin-contaminated wastes were abandoned at the site.

     This court ruling will help write the final chapter in this important environmental cleanup.