FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2004
EPA (214) 665-2200
TDD (202) 514-1888
U.S. REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH BURLINGTON NORTHERN AND SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY TO CLEAN UP ALBUQUERQUE SUPERFUND SITE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of the Interior (DOI), and the State of New Mexico today announced two settlement agreements under which the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) will cleanup the AT & SF Albuquerque Superfund Site in Albuquerque, New Mexico and reimburse EPA, DOI and the State of New Mexico for costs incurred in connection with the site. EPA and the state estimate that the cleanup will cost $64 million. BNSF has also agreed to pay DOI and the State of New Mexico approximately $1.1 million to restore injured natural resources.
“This exceptional settlement will provide the necessary money and work commitments to allow the citizens of Albuquerque to live with the peace of mind that this site will be cleaned up,” said Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s actions are a tribute to the hard work of all of the parties involved and the willingness of the company to accept responsibility and assure the protection of human health and the environment.”
EPA Region 6 Administrator Richard Greene praised both BNSF’s commitment to such an important cleanup and the extraordinary coordination among the federal and state agencies involved in the settlement. Greene said that the settlement is “a model of state and federal cooperation and teamwork to achieve positive environmental results.”
The BNSF’s predecessor, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Co., operated a wood treatment plant at the Site from approximately 1908 to 1972. These operations resulted in contamination of soil and groundwater at the site with creosote and other contaminants, including a plume of dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) in the upper zone of the Santa Fe Formation aquifer. The City of Albuquerque pumps water for its public water supply from a portion of the aquifer not contaminated by the DNAPL.
The terms of the settlements are included in two consent decrees. One consent decree requires BNSF to cleanup remaining soil and groundwater contamination at the site, including the DNAPL plume, by implementing remedial action for the site selected by EPA in its June 2002 Record of Decision under the federal Superfund law. The decree also requires BNSF to reimburse EPA for past costs of approximately $320,000 and to pay costs incurred in the future by EPA and New Mexico in connection with cleanup of the site.
The second consent decree requires BNSF to pay DOI and the state a total of approximately $1.1 million for migratory bird habitat and groundwater resources injured by the release of contaminants at the site. Of this amount, about $400,000 will be used by DOI and the state for habitat restoration projects, approximately $655,000 will be used by the state for groundwater restoration, and the remainder will be paid to the state and DOI to reimburse costs incurred to assess the damage to natural resources.
Both consent decrees also resolve BNSF’s claims that the federal government is partially responsible for site cleanup due to alleged federal control of the facility in aid of war efforts during World War I. The United States is paying a total of $600,000 to resolve these claims.
“This was a win-win situation for the natural resources and BNSF,” stated H. Dale Hall, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region, who is acting as Authorized Official for the Department of the Interior. “Through BNSF's contributions, the natural resource trustees will facilitate a restoration project that provides benefits for all wildlife, especially migratory birds.”
“I am happy to see the Superfund working as it should, with responsible parties paying their fair share for clean up,” said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry. “This agreement will help protect and restore water for future generations of New Mexicans.”
The United States will receive public comment on the proposed settlements for a period of 30 days.