Companies Agree To Pay $3.25 Million To Settle Alleged CWA, Natural Resources Damages

Elkem Metals Co. L.P, its two partners -- Ferro Invest III Inc. and Ferro Invest II LLC -- and Eramet Marietta Inc. have agreed to pay $3.25 million to settle allegations that the companies injured natural resources and violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) as a result of wastewater discharges from a Marietta, Ohio, facility, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), and EPA announced on Feb. 28.

As a result of the settlement, the companies will pay a combined total of $2.04 million towards restoration of injured natural resources in the Ohio River, including the restoration of native freshwater mussels, fish, and gastropods (snails). They also will pay a total of $460,000 as reimbursement to DOI and the states of West Virginia and Ohio -- also parties to the settlement -- for past assessment costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA -- the Superfund law). In addition, Elkem will pay a penalty of $225,000 and Eramet will pay a penalty of $525,000 for alleged CWA violations.

"(This) settlement was made possible because of the cooperative efforts of federal and state governments and private industry," said Assistant Attorney General Sue Ellen Wooldridge of the DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are confident that this agreement will help to substantially improve the environment and restore valuable natural resources for the people of the Ohio River Valley."

The settlement resolves claims under CERCLA that in 1999, the alleged release of hazardous substances at the Marietta facility caused injuries to natural resources, including injury to local river life, such as fish and mussels. It is also alleged that the Marietta, Ohio, facility was responsible for unauthorized wastewater discharges into the Ohio River in violation of a CWA discharge permit.

From at least 1994 up to June 30, 1999, Elkem Metals Co. L.P. owned and operated a ferroalloy manufacturing facility in Marietta, Ohio. From June 30, 1999 through the present, Eramet Marietta, Inc. has owned and operated the Marietta facility. The facility produces, among other things, ferroalloy products, including electrolytic chromium and aluminum hardeners used by the aluminum industry. As a result of its manufacturing process, the Marietta facility discharges treated wastewater into the Ohio River. Since at least 1996, the wastewater discharges from the facility have been subject to limitations and other conditions in a CWA discharge permit issued by the Ohio EPA. Since at least 1997, it is alleged that on various occasions, first Elkem Metals and then Eramet discharged wastewater to the Ohio River that contained pollutants in excess of the limitations set forth in the facility's CWA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit or that was otherwise not in compliance with the terms of the permit.

As part of this settlement, the natural resource trustees -- the Fish and Wildlife Service and the states of West Virginia and Ohio -- will develop a restoration plan, with input from the public, to restore the mussels, fish, and snails.

The settlement will be the subject of a 30-day public comment period beginning with publication of the Federal Register notice for the settlement (as of press time, the settlement hasn't been published yet).

During the public comment period, the consent decree will be on DOJ's Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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