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Ciba Signs Legal Agreement Committing to Clean Up Toms River Superfund Site; EPA to Hold Public Information Meeting to Discuss Detail

Release Date: 09/10/2001
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(#01115) New York, N.Y. -- Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corporation and Novartis Corporation have signed an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) formally committing to clean up the Ciba-Geigy Superfund site in Toms River, New Jersey. In September 2000, EPA made its final decision on a plan to clean up the sources of the chemical contamination in the ground water underlying the Ciba site. The agreement, called a "consent decree," confirms Ciba’s role in the cleanup and commits the company to perform and pay for the specific cleanup actions detailed in EPA’s decision. The consent decree was lodged in federal court in Newark, New Jersey last week and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period that starts when the consent decree is published in the Federal Register shortly.

"This agreement is the culmination of years of hard work and cooperation between EPA, the Toms River community and the company," said William J. Muszynski, EPA Acting Regional Administrator. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us to eliminate the causes of the ground water contamination at the facility, and this consent decree is a necessary step in that direction. We’re pleased that Ciba has taken responsibility for the cleanup of its site, and expect our productive relationship with the community and the company to continue as we enter one of the most important phases of the work."

"This settlement shows that we can resolve environmental lawsuits in ways that benefit not just the environment but the communities that have been affected by the sloppy waste disposal practices of the past," said John Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The agreement stipulates that Ciba will design and implement a number of major cleanup activities to address the ten areas at the site that have released, or that may in the future release, contaminants into the ground water underlying the property. These areas "source areas" were created by Ciba-Geigy during production operations, which started in the 1950's. Ciba also agreed to submit plans to EPA at each step of the design and remediation process for approval; provide regular progress reports to EPA and the state of New Jersey; implement specific safety and quality control measures; pay the U.S. government $250,000 as a reimbursement of costs incurred by EPA and DOJ’s involvement in the site; pay the future costs of remediating the site, estimated at $91.4 million; and establish a $91.4 million bond or other type of financial security for the cleanup.

The major components of the EPA plan, to be designed and implemented by Ciba under EPA oversight, include:

      using bacteria that already exist in the source areas to break down the contaminants in approximately 145,000 cubic yards of soil primarily in five source areas: the Drum Disposal Area, Standpipe Burner Area, Equalization Basins, Filtercake Disposal Area and Backfilled Lagoon Area. This process, called bioremediation, will occur above ground on the Ciba property. The contaminants to be treated using this method include a number of chlorinated benzenes, among other chemicals;

      removing from the property for treatment and disposal, the contents of approximately 19,500 drums of filtercake material and lab wastes from the Drum Disposal Area. These wastes contain high levels of organic contaminants;

      removing approximately 12,350 drums of solid waste and other materials from the Drum Disposal Area that contain low levels of organic contaminants, and disposing of their contents off-site;

      removing from the site for treatment and/or disposal, approximately 5,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil;

      installing protective caps and barrier walls in the major source areas to prevent contaminants from moving into the ground water. The cap over the Filtercake Disposal Area will also prevent humans and animals from coming into contact with the contaminants;

      treating contaminants in soils located below the ground water level in the two existing Equalization Basins using bioremediation; and

      placing deed restrictions on certain portions of the Ciba site, which will permanently prevent them from being developed in any way that might affect the cleanup process or expose the contaminants.

EPA will hold a public information meeting on Wednesday, September 19 at 7:00 PM at the Quality Inn, Rosenthal Room, Route 37 East at Mule Road in Toms River, to discuss the terms of this consent agreement with interested members of the public. Written comments about the proposed agreement may be sent to the Department of Justice at the following address: Assistant Attorney General, Division of Environment and Natural Resources, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20530.

Members of the public may review the consent decree at the Ocean County Library at 100 Washington Avenue in Toms River.

The design phase of the cleanup is expected to be complete in approximately 18 months. EPA will hold periodic public meetings during the design process to discuss the technical aspects of the design and to seek public input. After the detailed design plan is complete, the construction of bioremediation units and removal of the drums and other wastes will begin. The actual remediation process will take an estimated eight years.