270 Companies Pay to Clean One Connecticut Superfund Site

HARTFORD, Connecticut, November 3, 2008 (ENS) - Millions of dollars in cleanup costs at a former solvent recycling and resale facility in Southington, Connecticut will be covered by three related settlements reached by the federal government with more than 270 companies responsible for the mess.

The Solvents Recovery Service of New England disposed of solvent-laden sludge in lagoons or open pits on the two-acre property for 36 years from 1955 to 1991. The distillation process that the facility operated caused heavy groundwater contamination.

The area near the site is a mixture of commercial, light industrial, residential and agricultural uses. The facility is located about 500 feet to the west of the Quinnipiac River, which flows through the town of Southington and empties into Long Island Sound at New Haven.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been conducting cleanup activities at the site costing millions of dollars. As a result of the settlements announced Friday, the EPA will receive reimbursements worth more than $6 million, according to the U.S. Justice Department and the EPA.

In addition, settling parties under the three decrees will pay about $200,000 to resolve federal natural resource damage claims and more than $2 million to resolve natural resource damage claims of the state of Connecticut.

The $2 million payment will go to the Southington Water District to reimburse the district for costs incurred finding an alternate drinking water source as a result of the contaminated groundwater.

The settlements will allow cleanup work to proceed without further costs to taxpayers.

Under the first settlement, a group of 59 potentially responsible parties has agreed to perform the site-wide cleanup, estimated to cost $29 million. These parties will perform the work under the oversight of EPA and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and will pay EPA and the state's future oversight costs.

Under the second settlement, 213 parties have settled their potential liability for cleanup costs at the site by making cash payments. Only those parties that sent relatively small volume of waste to the site at the time that it was operating were eligible to join this settlement.

Under the third settlement, one potentially responsible party, M. Swift & Sons, Inc., a gold refining and gilding company based in Hartford, will make a payment based on the company's limited financial ability.

"This marks the beginning of a new chapter at the Solvents Recovery site," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "These settlement agreements clear the way to design and implement a final cleanup plan for the site, for the benefit of the community."

Under the terms of the cleanup settlement, the settling parties have agreed to implement the EPA's cleanup plan for the site as outlined in the agency's September 30, 2005, Record of Decision.

The remedy includes heating, capturing, and treating waste oils and solvents in the subsurface. Crews will excavate, consolidate, and cap contaminated soil and wetland soil on the site, and finally, contaminated groundwater will be pumped and treated.

There will be restrictions on uses of the site property and groundwater, and long term monitoring of the cap and groundwater to ensure that the cleanup remains protective of human health and the environment for the future.

"Many years of cooperation between all levels of government and concerned parties have led to today's agreements and, as a result, this site will be cleaned up," said Ronald Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

From 1955 to 1991, millions of gallons of waste solvents and oils were handled, stored and processed at the Solvents Recovery facility. Past operating practices, such as the use of sludge lagoons and a leach field, contributed to contamination at Solvents Recovery and surrounding properties.

Poor housekeeping from the unloading and loading of tank trucks, the transfer of spent solvents to storage tanks, and as the improper handling and storage of drums, resulted in numerous leaks and spills to the bare ground and into the underlying aquifer.

The groundwater is contaminated with isopropyl alcohol, acetone, toluene, and other volatile organic compounds. The soil is contaminated with lead, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls, and VOCs.

The presence of volatile organic compounds in drinking water forced the closure of two water wells in the town of Southington. Subsequent environmental investigations revealed that Solvents Recovery was a major source of the VOC contamination to the groundwater.

From 1983 to 1988, EPA and the state of Connecticut took enforcement actions to compel Solvents Recovery to clean up the facility and its operations. But Solvents Recovery failed to comply with these enforcement efforts and shut down in 1991.

In 1992, EPA removed contaminated soil from a drainage ditch along the eastern side of the operations area and removed chemicals stored on site.

From 1995 to 2005, a group of businesses and individuals that sent waste material to the facility installed and operated a groundwater and containment system for the overburden and bedrock aquifers.

The combined system has extracted and treated more than 85 million gallons of contaminated groundwater to date and has removed an estimated 12,500 pounds of volatile organic compounds.

The group also has constructed a wetland in the flood plain of the Quinnipiac River adjacent to the site, and decontaminated, demolished and removed all the original buildings and tanks in the former operations areas of the site.

The proposed consent decrees, lodged in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut, are subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. Click here to view the proposed consent decrees.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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