Hercules Inc. Pays $124 Million for Superfund Cleanup Costs

The federal government received a $124 million payment from Hercules Inc. to repay costs EPA incurred in cleaning up the Vertac Chemical and Jacksonville Landfill Superfund sites in Jacksonville, Ark., the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and EPA announced on May 18.

A judgment issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in 2005 found Hercules and Chemtura Canada Co., formerly known as Uniroyal Chemical Ltd., liable for all Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability (CERCLA -- the Superfund law) response action costs incurred by EPA at the sites. Chemtura paid more than $3.06 million to the federal government on May 17 for a total payment by the two companies of more than $127 million.

"After a trial and numerous court actions regarding this well-known site, it is gratifying to be able to have this considerable payment replenish the Superfund, where it can be used to clean up other sites" said Matthew J. McKeown, acting assistant attorney general for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The $124 million from Hercules Inc., as well as funds from Chemtura, was paid into EPA's CERCLA Superfund. On April 23, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Hercules and Chemtura's petitions of certiorari over a judgment requiring the payment (Hercules Inc. vs. United States, No. 06-865). The compensation by the companies concludes litigation that began in 1980, agency officials said.

"We're very pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision, which ended over 15 years of litigation concerning response costs incurred by EPA," said EPA Region 6 Administrator Richard E. Greene. "The court's decision reaffirms our belief that those responsible for contamination at a site should be held accountable for the cleanup costs no matter how long it takes."

Hercules manufactured millions of pounds of herbicides at the site, including Agent Orange, a 50/50 mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, which was used by the U.S. military as a defoliant during the Vietnam War. Nearly 10 years after dioxin was no longer being made at the site, EPA found dioxin contamination and other hazardous wastes throughout the plant site, including the soils, groundwater, equipment, sediments of nearby waterways and the backyards of nearby residential areas. Hercules also was found responsible for the costs of cleaning up a municipal landfill used by the company as a dump site that also contained dioxin.

For more information on the Superfund sites, visit EPA Region 6 Superfund at http://www.epa.gov/region6/6sf/6sf-ar.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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