Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Pechiney Plastic Packaging Inc., Citigroup Inc. and others have agreed to a $92 million settlement that will resolve allegations in a lawsuit saying the companies contaminated the groundwater at a New Jersey Superfund site. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the proposed settlement with several companies to address the Pohatcong Valley Groundwater Contamination Superfund site in Warren County, N.J. The Pohatcong site is contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), which can have serious health effects in humans. The settlement resolves two cases, one against Pechiney and the other against Bristol-Myers Squibb, Citigroup and others.
Under the proposed settlement, Pechiney will have primary responsibility for cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater at the site, connecting some residents to public water to avoid contaminated groundwater, and operating systems to capture vapors that are getting into a manufacturing facility. The DOJ and EPA said in a joint statement:
As a precaution, the company will continue to monitor for vapor intrusion into homes at the site. In addition, the EPA will receive an estimated $29.5 million for certain past costs and be paid for its future oversight costs at the site. Pechiney will also perform current and future cleanup work estimated to cost $62.5 million, and will pay EPA’s future oversight costs.
The other companies involved are Albea Americas Inc. and Rexam Beverage Can Co. The EPA said it added the Pohatcong site to the Superfund list in 1989 because of elevated levels of volatile organic contaminants including TCE and PCE in the groundwater. The contaminants can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer, and were detected in public supply wells, which are now treated to meet drinking water standards before the water is distributed.
According to the EPA, the site includes a contaminated groundwater plume that is approximately 10 miles long and approximately one and a half miles wide, nearly 9,800 acres. As part of the settlement, the EPA will recover civil penalties from Pechiney to resolve allegations that the company violated a previous EPA order by failing to make satisfactory progress on a portion of the cleanup at the site.
Pechiney will also restore and preserve approximately 60 acres of land, valued at $1.1 million, in Warren County through a Supplemental Environmental Project. This land will be converted to native grassland and will become part of the Morris Canal Greenway. John Cruden, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement:
This agreement will address a legacy of contaminated groundwater and soil in Warren County that exposed this community to dangerous health risks. The settlement will help ensure residents have access to clean drinking water, require Pechiney to restore and preserve valuable native grasslands, and pay for millions in past cleanup costs.
The cases are in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
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