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EPA To Recover $95 Million and State $10 Million For Past Cleanup Costs at Federal Superfund Site in Mantua Township; 151 Acres in West Deptford To Be Set Aside To Replace Damaged Wetlands
Release Date: 08/13/1998
(#98102) NEW YORK -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) today announced settlements exceeding $100 million with more than 200 parties resolving cost-recovery litigation for the Helen Kramer Landfill Superfund Site in Mantua Township, one of the largest federal Superfund Sites in the country. Three separate Consent Decrees, resolving all aspects of the federal and State claims, were entered today in the United States District Court in Camden, New Jersey, ending cost recovery litigation filed by EPA and NJDEP in 1989, as well as contribution claims by the defendants against over 200 additional parties. Federal response costs and interest for the complex Helen Kramer Site cleanup, which EPA completed in 1993, are about $123 million, of which the federal government is recovering $95 million under its Decree.
"This very large cost recovery settlement is particularly welcome," stated Steven A. Herman, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Not only does it resolve protracted litigation and allow nearly all the contributors of waste to the site to completely resolve their liability to the United States for the contamination, but even more importantly, it will preserve the Superfund for use at other hazardous waste sites."
The settlement further signals the kind of result that can be achieved even in long-term litigation through alternative dispute resolution to address the allocation of responsibility when many hundreds of parties are involved. Early in the case, Judge Jerome B. Simandle ordered an allocation process parallel to the lawsuit that, along with mediation, ultimately resulted in this settlement.
Lois J. Schiffer, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources, observed, "We encourage companies to step forward when the invitation comes to resolve their liability through discussion rather than litigation.
"The federal government will vigorously enforce the law in these cases so that society will not be forced to bear the costs of hazards produced in the past by polluters who have profited from commerce involving hazardous substances. However, we will work with parties who seek to allocate their collective responsibility in a fair manner," Schiffer stated.
According to EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox, "This is strong evidence of the progress EPA's Superfund enforcement program has made over the last six years, especially in the State of New Jersey."
State costs exceeded $14 million, of which about $10 million will be recovered under the State Decree. In addition, the defendants have agreed to operate and maintain the site for the next 26 years, saving the State an estimated $1.5 million per year. In total, the State's recovery for past and future costs exceeds 90%.
The United States and State of New Jersey trustees for natural resources have also resolved their claims for natural resources damages for the site in a third Consent Decree negotiated by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office with the assistance of the Department of Justice. Under this consent decree, the settling defendants have committed to purchase 151 acres of wetlands for the Township of West Deptford to replace wetlands lost at the landfill.
"This settlement will have significant long-term environmental and economic benefits. The purchase of 151 acres of wetlands will preserve valuable natural habitat. In addition, the responsible party cleanup will result in substantial savings for the state for years to come. Also, the $10 million we will recover under the State Decree will be applied to other hazardous waste site cleanups in New Jersey," said NJDEP Commissioner Bob Shinn.
The Attorney General of New Jersey, Peter Verniero said, "These settlements represent a significant recovery for the State. By requiring the defendants to operate and maintain the site for the next 26 years, we will save the taxpayers more than $39 million in future costs associated with the site."
The long-term remedy for the Helen Kramer Site is huge in scope. It included installation of a 81.5-acre cap over the Site and construction of a slurry wall, surrounding the entire Site, that varies from 20 feet to 70 feet in depth and is more than l.5 miles in length. Leachate and gas collection and treatment systems were also installed. Pretreated leachate is discharged to the Gloucester County Utilities Authority sewage treatment plant. Extensive monitoring shows that the remedy has effectively prevented the uncontrolled release of chemical contamination from the former landfill into the environment.
"Since 1980 when the federal Superfund program began," explained Fox, "EPA has reached settlements in New Jersey with potentially responsible parties involved in federal Superfund sites valued at approximately $800 million. The settlements require the responsible parties to remediate the toxic waste in New Jersey communities, and also often recover from the responsible party federal Superfund Trust resources EPA has expended to remediate a Site." An additional $1.5 billion from the Superfund Trust has been used to cleanup Superfund Sites in the State.
In New Jersey, there are currently 109 sites on the National Priorities List (NPL). Long-term remedies have been completed at 32 sites and actual cleanups are ongoing at 57 of the NPL sites in the state. At 15 sites, cleanup plans are under design, and at 15 sites contamination evaluation and cleanup alternatives are under study.
The Helen Kramer Landfill originally encompassed a 66-acre refuse area. The landfill started as a sand and gravel excavation operation; however, in the early 1960s, landfilling occurred simultaneously with sand excavation. During the 1970s, the landfill received millions of gallons of hazardous wastes, including chemical wastes, solvents, paints and septic and hospital wastes. In addition, more than two million cubic yards of municipal solid waste were disposed of at the landfill. The waste is believed to be more than 50 feet thick in most areas
. Site conditions were physically dangerous, with exposed wastes, surface rifts, and sharp objects protruding from the fill. The landfill ceased operation in March 1981 through court-ordered closure. During the summer and fall of 1981, several fires broke out at the landfill. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection took action with the assistance of the local fire department and extinguished all fires by November 1981. The site was placed on the National Priorities List in September 1983.
(Call Rich Cahill for a fax of private responsible parties list)
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