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Oeser Company to Pay Millions to Cleanup Superfund Site in Bellingham

Release Date: 8/31/2005
Contact Information: Department of Justice, Environmental and Natural Resources Division
(202) 514-2007

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United States Attorney’s Office
Environmental and Natural Resource Division (202) 514-2007


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Oeser Company will complete cleanup of the Oeser Superfund site and will reimburse the government at least $8.6 million in cleanup costs, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today. Estimates for the cost of continued cleanup of the 26-acre Superfund site, located in Whatcom County and Bellingham, Washington, range from $3.8 - $6 million.

"This settlement demonstrates our continued commitment to ensuring that hazardous waste sites are cleaned up and that public funds used for cleanups are paid back into the Superfund, enabling the EPA to continue its cleanup work at other sites," said Kelly A. Johnson, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The Oeser site is a 26-acre active wood-treating facility located in Whatcom County, and partially in the City of Bellingham, in northwest Washington state. The facility has been used for wood-treating operations, including treatment of utility and transmission poles, since the late 1940's. Most of the wood-treating process occurs within a 3-acre wood-treating area near the center of the property. The company used creosote as a wood preservative until the mid-1980's. Creosote is composed of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and phenol compounds. The company now uses pentachlorophenol (PCP or Penta). Both compounds are hazardous substances.

Over 60 years of operations, the soil and groundwater at the Oeser facility became contaminated with hazardous substances including creosote, PCP, PAHs and dioxin. In 1997, EPA listed the Oeser site on the Superfund list of the nation's most contaminated hazardous waste sites. The EPA completed a priority cleanup of the site to address the areas of highest contamination in 1999 and a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study of the site in 2002. The EPA has incurred over $14 million in investigation and response costs.

In 2003 EPA selected a final remedial action for the site, which will consist of excavation and off-site disposal of some contaminated soil from the facility; capping of other soils in place at the facility; institutional controls restricting the property to industrial use and restricting the use of groundwater under this site; and long-term groundwater monitoring. This remedial action is expected to cost about $3.8 million, but costs could go as high as $6 million.

In the settlement announced today, the Oeser Company agreed to conduct the final remedial action selected by EPA. To secure the funds for the cleanup, Oeser will deposit about $6 million into two trust accounts that will be used first to pay for the cleanup and if any funds remain, to provide additional reimbursement of EPA's past costs. In addition, the company agrees to contribute $500,000 to a trust account held by the City of Bellingham for performance of a cleanup of Little Squalicum Creek.

"The proposed consent decree for the Oeser site exemplifies Region 10's long-term commitment to the cleanup of contaminated properties by securing $6.5 million in trusts for the Oeser Company to complete the cleanup of both its property and Little Squalicum Creek, and by recovering over $8.6 million for reimbursement of EPA's past costs," said Michael Bogert, EPA Region 10 Administrator. "With this agreement we have secured the cleanup work necessary to protect human health and the environment while allowing for the company's continued use of the property. EPA appreciates the work of the Justice Department in obtaining this proposed consent decree."

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