Environmental Protection

Multiple Agreements Ensure Funding for Conn. Site

The federal government, along with the state of Connecticut, has reached three related settlements with numerous responsible parties to ensure funding for environmental clean-up activities at the Solvents Recovery Service of New England Superfund site in Southington, Conn., the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Oct. 30.

The site was home to a solvent recycling and resale facility that disposed of solvent-laden sludge in lagoons or open pits for 36 years. The distillation process that the facility undertook caused heavy groundwater contamination. EPA has been conducting various clean-up activities at the site and has accumulated significant costs.

As a result of the settlements, EPA will receive payments totaling more than $6 million in reimbursement for past costs incurred by the federal government's clean-up actions. In addition, settling parties under the three decrees will pay about $200,000 to resolve federal natural resource damage claims and more than $2 million to resolve natural resource damage claims of the state of Connecticut. The $2 million payment will go to the Southington Water District to reimburse the district for costs incurred finding an alternate drinking water source as a result of the contaminated groundwater. The settlements will allow cleanup work to proceed without further costs being borne by taxpayers.

Under the first settlement, a group of 59 potentially responsible parties has agreed to perform the site-wide cleanup, estimated to cost approximately $29 million. These parties will perform the work under the oversight of EPA and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and will pay EPA and the state's future oversight costs.

Under the second settlement, 213 "de minimis" parties have settled their potential liability for cleanup costs at the site by making cash payments. Only those parties that sent relatively small volume of waste to the site at the time that it was operating were eligible to join this settlement.

Under the third settlement, one potentially responsible party, M. Swift & Sons, Inc., will make a payment based on the company's limited financial ability.

Under the terms of the settlement, the parties have agreed to implement the September 30, 2005, "Record of Decision" that outlines EPA's clean-up plan for the site. The remedy includes:

•heating, capturing, and treating waste oils and solvents in the subsurface;

•excavating, consolidating, and capping contaminated soil and wetland soil onsite; and

•continuing to pump and treat contaminated groundwater.

There also will be restrictions on uses of the site property and groundwater and long-term monitoring of the cap and groundwater to ensure that the cleanup remains protective of human health and the environment for the future.

The solvent facility operated from 1955 to 1991. Millions of gallons of waste solvents and oils were handled, stored, and processed. Past operating practices, such as the use of sludge lagoons and a leach field, contributed to contamination. Poor housekeeping from a variety of practices, including the unloading and loading of tank trucks, the transfer of spent solvents to storage tanks, and as the improper handling and storage of drums, resulted in numerous leaks and spills to the bare ground and into the underlying aquifer. The area near the site is a mixture of commercial, light industrial, residential and agricultural uses. The facility is located approximately 500 feet to the west of the Quinnipiac River.

The presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking water forced the closure of the town of Southington's Production Well No. 4 in 1976, and Production Well No. 6 in 1979. Subsequent environmental investigations revealed that SRSNE was a major source of VOC contamination to the groundwater in this area.

From 1983 to 1988, EPA and the state of Connecticut took enforcement actions to compel SRSNE to clean up the facility and its operations. SRSNE failed to comply with these enforcement efforts and shut down in 1991. In 1992, EPA removed soil contaminated with VOCs and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from a drainage ditch along the eastern side of the operations area. Chemicals stored on site also were removed.

From 1995 to 2005, the Potentially Responsible Parties' Group (businesses and individuals that sent waste material to SRSNE) installed and operated a groundwater and containment system for the overburden and bedrock aquifers. The combined system has extracted and treated more than 85 million gallons of contaminated groundwater to date and has removed an estimated 12,500 pounds of VOCs. In addition, the group has completed various investigations and studies, constructed a wetland in the flood plain of the Quinnipiac River adjacent to the site, and decontaminated, demolished, and removed all the original buildings and tanks in the former operations areas of the site.

Copies of the proposed consent decrees are available on the Justice Department Web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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