Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2007
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Department of Justice and EPA Announce Proposed
$4.6 Million Settlement with Midamerican
Energy Company and the City of Le Mars, Iowa

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that a proposed consent decree was lodged today with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in United States v. MidAmerican Energy Company and the City of Le Mars, Iowa. The proposed consent decree would resolve civil claims alleged in a complaint filed simultaneously with the decree, asserting liability against MidAmerican Energy Company (MidAmerican) and the City of Le Mars under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) for cleanup costs incurred by the United States to address releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances at the Le Mars Coal Gas Superfund Site in Le Mars, Iowa.

Under the proposed consent decree, MidAmerican and the City have agreed to pay $4.6 million and the City has also agreed to perform work at the Site (valued at $500,000) to assist EPA’s cleanup. MidAmerican will pay $3.1 million and the City of Le Mars will pay $1.5 million to the United States. The consent decree incorporates an administrative order that the City of Le Mars agreed to enter into to assist EPA’s cleanup actions at the Site.

“This settlement illustrates that effective results can be achieved when parties choose to focus their efforts on cooperation, protecting the public, and cleaning up the environment, rather than litigation,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “CERCLA’s goals will be vindicated through the proposed settlement because the responsible parties agreed to cooperate, reimburse the United States’ costs, and perform response actions at the Site.”

“This settlement agreement is an important step forward in protecting Iowans and Iowa's natural resources from environmental contamination,” said Matt M. Dummermuth, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa. “We applaud the parties involved for agreeing to remedy the problem in a proactive manner.”

The Complaint alleges that MidAmerican and the City are liable as owners, operators, and as persons who arranged for disposal of hazardous substances at the Site, which is now owned by the City and occupied by its Street Department. It also alleges that, among other things, the Site was operated by a series of companies as a manufactured gas plant which produced coal gas, carbureted water gas, and waste from those production processes, including associated coal tar wastes.

    According to the Complaint, EPA has performed several CERCLA response actions to evaluate and address contamination at the Site to protect the public.  EPA’s work to cleanup the Site includes a removal action, commenced in 2004, to address releases and threatened releases of hazardous substances at the Site, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes (BTEX) and polycyclic aeromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  That removal action includes, but is not limited to, excavation of approximately 14 feet of contaminated soil, thermal treatment or disposal of waste materials, backfill of excavated areas, and removal of several structures, including gas holders, a tar well, a 12,000-gallon underground storage tank, two 6,000-gallon oil tanks, and one 2,000-gallon underground storage tank. EPA will continue to monitor and evaluate the removal action, including work by the City under the Order, to ensure the effectiveness and integrity of the response actions taken, and to determine whether those actions are sufficiently protective of human health and the environment.

            The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period.  Following public comment, if appropriate, the United States would file a motion for entry with the court, seeking final court approval of the consent decree.