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U.S. Settles Suit Against Occidental Chemical Corp. For Cleanup of Centre County Kepone Superfund Site

Release Date: 8/27/2002
Contact Information: David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

PHILADELPHIA - In settlement papers filed in federal court in Harrisburg, the United States has settled its lawsuit against Texas-based Occidental Chemical Corp. for the cleanup of the Centre County Kepone Superfund Site. The site is located at Struble Road and State Highway 26, about 2.3 miles northwest of State College, Pa.

In a proposed consent decree filed by the Justice Department on behalf of EPA, Occidental has agreed to pay the United States $561,000 for past and future cleanup costs at the site. The company will also reimburse the site owner, Rütgers Organics Corp. (ROC) for $220,000 for that company’s past cleanup costs. In addition, Occidental will pay a $105,000 penalty for failing to comply with a prior EPA cleanup order.

The settlement announced today marks the end of extensive litigation over Occidental’s liability for the cleanup of the Centre County Kepone Superfund Site.

Under the Superfund law, the landowners, waste generators and waste transporters that are responsible for the contamination of a Superfund site must either clean up the site, or reimburse the government or other parties for their cleanup activities.

Since 1958, ROC or its corporate predecessors, owned and operated pesticide and chemical manufacturing facilities at the 32-acre site. From 1973 through 1974, Occidental contracted with ROC to manufacture a pesticide called mirex. Occidental sent about 500,000 pounds of hazardous substances to the site.


Superfund Settlement - 8/27/02
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The site was designated a Superfund site in 1983, after federal and state investigators confirmed chemical contamination of groundwater, surface water and soil at the property. In
1985, Pennsylvania ordered the site owner to conduct an in-depth study of site contamination and cleanup options. EPA assumed oversight of the cleanup in 1986.

In April 1995 EPA approved a plan for the first phase of the cleanup which included cleanup of volatile organic compounds in groundwater, surface water and soils. This phase of the cleanup is called Operable Unit 1, or OU-1.

In April 1997, ROC entered into a consent decree with EPA, agreeing to complete the OU-1 cleanup. In March 1997, EPA ordered Occidental to participate and cooperate with ROC in this cleanup. In April 1997, however, Occidental informed EPA that it would no longer participate in the cleanup, citing a disagreement with ROC over the allocation of costs.

In a December 28, 1999 opinion, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled that EPA acted within its legal authority in ordering Occidental to participate in a OU-1cleanup, since both Occidental and Ruetgers-Nease were “potentially responsible parties” (PRPs) under the Superfund law, which gives EPA the authority to take legal actions against non-settling PRPs.

The settlement will resolve Occidental’s liability for the cleanup of the Centre County Kepone Superfund Site. The $561,000 payment to the United States represents a reimbursement of EPA’s past costs and Occidental’s predicted share of the costs for the future. Occidental has also agreed to pay $220,000 to ROC, representing Occidental’s share of the site owner’s costs for the OU-1 cleanup.

Finally, Occidental has agreed to a $105,000 penalty for its failure to comply with EPA’s March 1997 cleanup order. Under the terms of the proposed consent decree, the company can mitigate this penalty by spending at least $84,000 to purchase a 180 acre conservation easement along Spring Creek, which runs through the site. The easement will limit the discharge of agricultural pollution into Spring Creek, a free-flowing, cold water, spring-fed waterway. Occidental will still pay a $21,000 penalty if it purchases this easement from the current property owner.

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Additional information on the Centre County Kepone Superfund Site is available at: