WASHINGTON – Pharmacia Corporation and Bayer CropScience Inc. have agreed to pay $4.25 million to federal and state natural resource trustees to resolve claims for natural resource damages connected with the Industri-plex Superfund site located in Woburn, Mass., the Department of Justice announced today.
Operations at the Industri-plex Superfund site from the 1850s to the 1960s contaminated the Aberjona River, as well as associated wetlands and the Mystic Lakes, with arsenic, chromium and other hazardous substances. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, parties that have disposed of hazardous substances at a site are liable for damages for injury to, destruction of, or loss of natural resources, including the reasonable costs of assessing such injury, destruction or loss. In this case, the federal natural resource trustees, which include the U.S. Department of the Interior, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the state natural resource trustee, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, determined that the hazardous substances disposed of by the settling defendants or their predecessors had degraded wetland, river and lake habitat used by a variety of wildlife, including fish, turtles, amphibians and migratory birds, such as great blue herons, black ducks and kingfishers.
In settlement of the trustees' natural resource damages claims, the defendants have agreed to pay $4.25 million. Of this amount, $3,812,127 will be used by the trustees to implement natural resource restoration projects to compensate for injury caused by the hazardous substances disposed of at the site. The trustees have not determined which particular projects will be implemented, but examples of potential projects include the creation of new wetlands and the restoration, enhancement or protection of existing wetlands. The remaining amount of the settlement figure – $437,873 – will reimburse federal and state trustees for damages assessment costs.
“This is good news for the environment and the resources that depend on wetlands for habitat,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rachel Jacobson. “After many years and much hard work, this agreement will enable the Department of the Interior to work closely with other co-trustees to restore habitat that was contaminated by industrial activities for decades.”
“This settlement will ensure that those responsible for damaging the environment will pay to replace the injured natural resources,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. “Massachusetts rivers and wetlands deserve our rigorous protection and our environmental laws provide a remedy for harm to natural resources no matter how long ago the violations occurred.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to be one step closer to restoring the Aberjona River area to a cleaner, healthier environment for wildlife and people,” said Wendi Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director. “We look forward to working with local communities to select and implement restoration projects that will be funded by the responsible parties without cost to the taxpayer.”
“We're proud to join with our federal and municipal partners to hold industry accountable for environmental harm. Protecting our precious environmental resources is important work for our communities, our wildlife and for the benefit of future generations,” said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan.
“We will ensure that stakeholders active in the Mystic River watershed will be active participants in the process to use these NRD funds to restore the injured natural resources,” said Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which will staff the Trustee Council for the Commonwealth.
During the period from the late 1850s to the 1960s, predecessors of Pharmacia Corporation and Bayer CropScience manufactured various products at the site, including sulfuric acid, arsenic insecticides, organic chemicals, munitions, and glue. Those predecessors include the Merrimac Chemical Company and the Stauffer Chemical Company, among others.
The settling defendants have entered into prior consent decrees approved by the U.S. District Court of the District of Massachusetts in 1989 and 2008, under which they have agreed to implement remedies selected for the site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These prior settlements did not address the trustees' natural resource damages claims.
The Department of Justice will be taking public comments on the settlement for a period of 30 days from publication of a notice of the settlement, which should appear shortly in the Federal Register. The settlement also has a state comment period ending 120 days after lodging of the consent decree in court. Instructions on how to comment during the state period are provided in the consent decree at: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.