The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed suit against two manufacturers in Washington County today, seeking injunctive relief from continued releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances in storage ponds owned or maintained by Olin and BASF at their chemical plants in McIntosh.
Specifically, the EPA contends that between 1952 and 1984, “Olin discharged wastewater containing mercury and hexachlorobenze (HCB) through a wastewater ditch” into a pond which drains into the Tombigbee River. “Natural forces, such as flooding and wind effects, spread the mercury and HCBs to other parts of the floodplain on the site,” the complaint states.
Immediately to the north, Geigy Chemical Corporation owned a plant where, from 1952 until 1970, it produced the chemical casually known as DDT. The production of DDT also resulted in “undesirable byproducts” known as DDD and DDE, and all three continue to be released from the plant, which is currently owned by BASF, and discharged onto the property.
The Olin site was placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List for remediation in 1984, while pollutants on the BASF property were addressed in a “record of decision” in 2014. Both have been named “Superfund” sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and the EPA estimates it will incur costs of between $13.4 million and $21.5 million to remediate.
The EPA further determined the sites pose “an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health or welfare or the environment because of actual or threatened releases of hazardous substances into the environment at the site.” Under CERCLA, parties that are liable for such conditions may be ordered to “abate such danger” and “remedy the conditions,” according to the complaint, which also seeks a declaratory judgment and the reimbursement of EPA’s expenses.
In a proposed 43-page consent decree supported by all parties but not yet finalized by a federal judge, the defendants are allowed to “admit no liability arising out of the transactions or occurrences alleged in the complaint, nor do they acknowledge that the release or threatened release of hazardous substances at or from the site constitutes an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health or welfare or the environment.” Yet they have agreed to a remediation plan and the financial costs associated with clean-up.
In a statement provided to Lagniappe, Bob Nelson, BASF’s head of site communications & community relations, said BASF “supports the EPA’s new consent decree outlining obligations for the clean-up of contaminated sediment in a floodplain at the Olin Corporation (McIntosh Plant) Superfund Site in McIntosh.”
“Due to the co-location of several contaminants in the floodplain as well as new regulatory clean-up standards imposed by EPA for those contaminants, the agency determined that a new CD addressing the entire contaminated floodplain is necessary,” he elaborated. “Most of the contaminants in the floodplain were discharged by the Olin Corporation (mercury), however BASF indirectly discharged contaminants (DDT) into the floodplain from its facility in McIntosh located north of the Olin site. As a result, BASF shares remediation management for the legacy contamination with Olin Corporation. BASF will coordinate with Olin Corporation to remediate the legacy contamination in an environmentally responsible manner with oversight from state and federal regulatory agencies.”
Olin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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