Merck to Pay $20M for 2006 Spill

Drug manufacturer Merck and Co. Inc. agreed to a $20 million settlement to resolve violations related to a June 13, 2006, potassium thiocyanate discharge that caused extensive fish kills in the Wissahickon Creek and resulted in the Philadelphia Water Department temporarily closing its Schuylkill River drinking water intake.

Under the agreement, Merck will pay $4.5 million to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, $4.5 million to U.S. EPA and invest $10 million for the plant upgrades. The company will also pay fines of $750,000 to DEP for violating Pennsylvania's Clean Streams Law, Solid Waste Management Act and Safe Drinking Water Act; $750,000 to EPA; and $75,000 to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

"The spill of dangerous chemicals last year left its mark on communities and waterways from Upper Gwynedd Township all the way to Philadelphia," said Kathleen A. McGinty, Department of Environmental Protection secretary. "We're pleased that Merck has agreed to measures that will improve operational oversight at its facility."

The Merck facility, a pharmaceutical plant located in West Point, Pa., houses pharmaceutical and vaccine research as well as the manufacturing of pharmaceutical products and vaccines. Merck discharges pollutants from this facility to the Upper Gwynedd Township Publicly owned Treatment Works. The treated effluent is discharged into the Wissahickon Creek, a tributary of the Schuylkill River.