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U.S. Announces Final Agreement to Complete $66 Million Superfund Cleanup in Hylebos Waterway of Commencement Bay

Release Date: 2/8/2005
Contact Information: Jeff Philip
(206) 553-1465

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United States Attorney’s Office
ENRD (202) 514-2007
EPA (202) 564-7338

February 8, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the filing of a consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, under which Occidental Chemical Corporation, the Port of Tacoma, Mariana Properties, Inc., and Pioneer Americas agree to complete the cleanup of contaminated sediments in the Hylebos Waterway of Commencement Bay in Tacoma, Washington. The Hylebos Waterway is part of the Commencement Bay/Nearshore Tideflats Superfund Site. The cleanup is expected to cost about $36.5 million.

This is the second of two consent decrees which together will clean up most of the Hylebos Waterway. This consent decree addresses the "Mouth of the Hylebos" area. The earlier consent decree, filed in September 2004, required other parties responsible for the contamination in the Hylebos to spend about $29.7 million to clean up the "Head of the Hylebos." The total cost for the Hylebos Waterway cleanup is expected to exceed $66 million.

The Commencement Bay Superfund Site is located in and adjacent to Tacoma, Washington, toward the southern end of Puget Sound. The Hylebos Waterway, in the eastern corner of the bay, was one of a number of areas within the bay area that was used for cargo, shipping and industrial manufacturing purposes over several decades. Various facilities discharged contaminated wastewater, chemical wastes, sludges, and miscellaneous industrial waste into the waterway, resulting in the contamination of the channel bottom sediments and the intertidal area with a variety of hazardous substances, including chlorinated organic chemicals such as PCBs, pesticides and hexachlorobenzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and a variety of metals.

The consent decree filed today requires the settling defendants to dredge and remove approximately 625,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments and to cap approximately four acres of contaminated sediment in the Mouth of the Hylebos area. The consent decree does not address the cleanup of the Occidental facility itself, which will be separately addressed.

"This action demonstrates the Justice Department's commitment to ensuring that companies that create hazardous waste sites take the responsibility for cleaning them up, and preserving the public funds in the Superfund for cleanups of sites where no viable responsible parties can be found," said Assistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti.

"This agreement is a critical, final step in the cleanup of the Mouth of the Hylebos Waterway. By settling important scientific, financial, and legal matters, the finishing touches of the cleanup can now be completed and move us closer to the overall cleanup of Commencement Bay," said Acting EPA Northwest Regional Administrator Ron Kreizenbeck.

This decree is one of a series of settlements reached by EPA and DOJ for cleanup of the Commencement Bay Superfund Site. Last year the government also obtained commitments for cleanup at the Thea Foss Waterway and the Middle Waterway areas of the site. Those settlements, together with the settlements for the Hylebos Waterway, secure cleanup work worth more than $120 million and provide an indispensable contribution to a comprehensive, cooperative approach to addressing the environmental problems throughout the Commencement Bay Site.

The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

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