Settlements To Provide Millions For Cleanup Of Property In Amelia, La.

The federal government and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) announced two settlements that officials said will lead to substantial cleanup of hazardous substances at facilities owned by Marine Shale Processors Inc. and Recycling Park Inc. in Amelia, La.

The first settlement is with Marine Shale, Recycling Park, and John Kent Sr. under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); the Clean Water Act; the Clean Air Act; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA -- the Superfund law). The second settlement is with Southern Wood Piedmont Co. and Rayonier Inc. under RCRA and CERCLA related to the Marine Shale and Recycling Park facilities.

Under the proposed settlement and judgment with Marine Shale, Recycling Park and Kent, the Court will enter a $6.2 million judgment for penalties in favor of the federal government and LDEQ and against Marine Shale and Recycling Park. A separate $6.2 million in bond proceeds from Marine Shale will be transferred to LDEQ for the closure and remediation of the contamination at the Marine Shale and Recycling Park facilities. An additional $850,000 letter of credit posted by Marine Shale will also be transferred to LDEQ and used for the cleanup of the Marine Shale and Recycling Park facilities.

In addition, Marine Shale, Recycling Park, and Kent are prohibited from owning or controlling a majority interest in or participating in the management of any business involved in waste management or recycling. The three parties are also required to provide access as required for investigation, closure and remediation at the Marine Shale and Recycling Park facilities and agree to a number of institutional controls and deed restrictions necessary to assure the implementation and effectiveness of the remedial actions to be taken at the facilities.

After EPA and LDEQ certify that the cleanups at the Marine Shale and Recycling Park facilities have been completed, the governments have the option of receiving the proceeds from the sale of the properties to satisfy the civil penalty judgment.

Under a separate proposed consent decree with Southern Wood Piedmont and its parent Rayonier, the two companies have agreed to perform a corrective action and cleanup at the Recycling Park facility located near the Marine Shale facility by placing a protective cap over the hazardous constituents in accordance with a work plan approved by EPA and LDEQ. The two companies will also pay $200,000 toward the cleanup at the Marine Shale facility.

"This joint enforcement action will bring to a favorable conclusion 16 years of litigation against Marine Shale and provide substantial funds for the cleanup of the remaining hazardous constituents at the Marine Shale and Recycling Park facilities," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department's (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division. "I am pleased that federal and state agencies have worked together to bring these facilities into compliance with our environmental laws and to focus cleanup efforts to reduce risk to the public from these sites."

"We believe that the proposed settlements, if approved, would resolve a complicated set of disputes in a manner that would benefit the people and environment," said Hal Leggett, LDEQ assistant secretary for the Office of Environmental Compliance. "We are now on a path that we hope will lead to the return of these properties to uses that will be positive for St. Mary Parish and the community."

In 1990, the federal government and the state of Louisiana filed civil complaints against Marine Shale to stop violation of several environmental laws and recover civil penalties for Marine Shale's illegal operation of a hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility. After trials in 1994, the district court awarded the United States and the state $8 million in civil penalties. On appeal in 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed $4 million of the civil penalty award to the government, but remanded the remaining $4 million of the award for further district court proceedings. Later that year, Marine Shale terminated operations at its facility.

The proposed settlement and judgment with Marine Shale, Recycling Park and Kent, as well as the proposed consent decree with Southern Wood Piedmont and Rayonier, are subject to a 30-day federal and a 45-day state public comment period and final court approval before becoming effective.

Additional information can be found at DOJ's Web site: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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