EPA Reaches $21.8 Million Superfund Agreement

On Jan. 25, EPA announced that a $21.8 million settlement had been reached with 95 parties to clean up the Spectron Inc. Superfund site in Elkton, Md. The settling defendants are alleged to have generated or arranged for the disposal or treatment of hazardous substances contaminating the eight-acre Superfund site.

Under this consent decree, the settling defendants have agreed to perform and fund an estimated $19.5 million cleanup at the site and reimburse about $1.8 million to EPA in past cleanup costs. The settlement also includes a payment of $507,300 to the natural resource trustees to restore aquatic habitat and resources, including migratory fish such as blueback herring that were harmed by contaminant releases from the site.

The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) filed the proposed consent decree in a federal district court on behalf of EPA and four other agencies that are natural resource trustees -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Under the Superfund statute, landowners, waste generators and waste transporters responsible for creating a hazardous waste site are responsible for cleaning up the site, and are liable for cleanup costs and damages to natural resources.

In 2002, the government reached a $5.8 million settlement with more than 480 so-called "de minimis" parties including companies, people, municipalities, and state and federal agencies that allegedly contributed relatively small amounts of the hazardous substances at the Spectron site.

Earlier this year, the government reached a settlement agreement with 48 additional de minimis parties that agreed to pay $405,596 to EPA and $469,130 to other potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for their share of the cleanup costs.

In all, settling defendants are paying 96 percent of the total cleanup costs at the Spectron site -- an estimated $39.65 million -- and are providing adequate funding to restore natural resources.

During industrial operations from 1961 through 1988, soil and groundwater at the Spectron site became contaminated with hazardous substances including volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethene (TCE) and perchloroethane (PCE). In 1961, Galaxy Chemicals Inc. began operating a solvent recycling facility, reprocessing wastes from the pharmaceutical, paint and chemical process industries. After Galaxy Chemicals' bankruptcy in 1975, the facility was reopened as Solvent Distillers Inc., which in 1987 changed its name to Spectron Inc. In 1988, Spectron went bankrupt and closed the facility, abandoning many hazardous substances used in its operations.

In 1989, EPA took emergency response measures at the site to remove and dispose approximately 1,300 drums and 62 tanks at the site containing hazardous substances. The agency also entered into a consent order requiring several PRPs to continue the cleanup activities. The site was placed on the Superfund list in 1994.

Additional information on the Spectron site cleanup, including the EPA-approved cleanup plan, may be found at http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/super/sites/MDD000218008/index.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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