WASHINGTON - EPEC Polymers Inc., headquartered in Houston, has reached a settlement worth an estimated $23.4 million regarding the Petro-Chemical Systems Inc. Superfund Site in Liberty County, Texas, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
The company will perform investigation and cleanup work estimated to cost $13.4 million at as part of a settlement lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. In addition, EPEC will reimburse EPA for $6.9 million of its past costs and approximately $3.1 million for costs incurred after July 31, 2004. A portion of the payments will be used to fund EPA's oversight of cleanup activity at the site, which is also known as the “Turtle Bayou Site.” The balance will be paid into the Superfund, a revolving fund established by Congress and used to pay for cleanups at such sites.
The Justice Department sued EPEC in 2002 to secure cleanup work and recover costs on behalf of EPA under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act. EPEC’s corporate predecessor, Tenneco Chemicals, disposed of wastes at the site that were generated from its vinyl chloride monomer facility in Pasadena, Texas. The United States had filed an earlier lawsuit in 1994 in connection with the same site against other parties including Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) and ARCO Chemical Company (ACC). That earlier suit was resolved in 1998 by a settlement that required those companies to perform substantial cleanup work. The agreement reached today with EPEC requires the cleanup of virtually all the remaining contamination at the site.
“Vigorous enforcement of the Superfund program should secure the performance of work by responsible parties and reimbursement of cleanup costs expended by the EPA. That is exactly what this settlement accomplishes,” said Matthew J. McKeown, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement takes an important step towards completing the cleanup of this longstanding Superfund Site.”
"EPA vigorously pursues those that contaminate our environment," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This shows that EPA will make sure that the polluter pays for Superfund site cleanups."
"The Environmental Protection Agency will continue to vigorously enforce our nation's environmental laws," said EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene. "Our enforcement staff works very closely and effectively with the Department of Justice to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment."
The site is located approximately 15 miles southeast of the city of Liberty and sixty-five miles northeast of Houston. Land use in the area near the Turtle Bayou site is divided among crop-land, pasture, range, forest, and small rural communities. In the late 1960s, the past owners of the Turtle Bayou Site, Donald R. Lang and Wallis W. Smith, allowed waste transport companies to use the Turtle Bayou Site for illegal disposal of wastes until about 1979.
EPA and the state of Texas’ response actions at the site included cleanup of contamination from 1987 until 1988 along the then unpaved Frontier Park Road which runs through the site. This work included excavation and on-site containment of 5900 cubic yards of highly contaminated soil. In 1998, EPA selected cleanup remedies for the other areas of known contamination at the site. Some of those remedies were performed by ARCO and ACC under the 1998 consent decree. The major components of the remedy for contaminated soil were soil vapor extraction, catalytic thermal destruction of the extracted vapor, and groundwater sparging. When all work is completed and costs fully reimbursed, the total expenditures for the Turtle Bayou Site are likely to exceed $59 million.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval and will be available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.