Company To Pay $11.8 Million In Compensation For PCB-Damaged Fishery, Habitat

Schlumberger Technology Corp. agreed to pay $11.8 million to federal and state agencies for injuries to natural resources caused by the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) released from a South Carolina Superfund site, the Justice Department announced on Jan. 30.

Schlumberger, headquartered in Texas, also will spend an additional $8 to 10 million to purchase and remove two hydroelectric dams on Twelvemile Creek, and to conduct stream restoration activities.

The $11.8 million will be used to provide opportunities for the public to catch uncontaminated fish in the vicinity of Lake Hartwell, to enhance the fishery of Lake Hartwell and Twelvemile Creek, and to improve the habitat and natural resources within the Twelvemile Creek corridor. Additionally, Schlumberger is required to pay $530,000 to reimburse the natural resources agencies for their costs in assessing natural resource damages to the areas.

"Schlumberger's payment to fund restoration by the federal and state trustees will be used for projects designed to compensate the public for the injury to the fishery and to the habitat from PCB contamination," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The company's agreement to purchase and remove the dams will directly improve the Twelvemile Creek ecosystem and provide significant environmental benefits for the affected communities."

The states of South Carolina and Georgia are joining the settlement with the federal government, which was lodged on Jan. 30 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.

Schlumberger is the current owner of the Sangamo-Weston plant site, a capacitor manufacturing plant in Pickens, S.C. The plant was owned and operated by Sangamo-Weston from 1955 to 1987. Schlumberger assumed the liabilities of Sangamo associated with the PCB contamination in a series of corporate transactions that took place between 1990 and 2003. PCBs are a mixture of synthetic organic chemicals which, because of their good insulating properties, were widely used in electrical equipment. In the U.S. PCBs were banned from use in most products by 1977 because it was discovered that they accumulate in the environment and can have immunological, developmental and reproductive effects in organisms such as fish, mammals and birds.

The settlement resolves claims for natural resource damages under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (the Superfund Act) and the Clean Water Act, as well as state law claims for natural resource damages. Under an earlier administrative action, Schlumberger is conducting cleanup activities in and around Lake Hartwell under the supervision of the EPA in Atlanta, which activities will not be affected by the settlement, officials said.

The governmental agencies involved in the settlement are the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the U.S. Department of Defense through the Army Corps of Engineers; the Office of the Governor of the State of South Carolina; the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources; the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control; and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

Additional information on the site can be accessed at http://www.epa.gov/region4/waste/npl/nplsc/sangamsc.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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