Department of Justice Seal


THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 1998 (202) 514-2008

TDD (202) 514-1888



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The W.R. Grace Company will contribute more than $32 million to help clean up its accumulated waste at a Superfund site in Wayne, New Jersey, under an agreement reached today with the federal government.

W.R. Grace or its predecessor company owned the Site from 1948-1984. From 1948 to 1971, Grace produced thorium, a radioactive element, in connection with the manufacture of optical quality polishing powder. The area in and around the plant became contaminated with this radioactive element.

The Site was placed on the U.S. EPA's National Priorities List of hazardous waste sites in 1984. To facilitate cleanup, the Department of Energy acquired the Site in 1984. In 1997, cleanup responsibilities for the Site were transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers. The Environmental Protection Agency has overseen the cleanup of the Site throughout.

The proposed settlement requires W.R. Grace to pay $30 million to a special Environmental Protection Agency account earmarked to help pay the future cleanup costs at the Wayne Interim Storage Superfund Site. $17 million dollars has already been placed in an escrow account so that it will be immediately available for the cleanup. The company also will pay $1.5 million to reimburse EPA's past and future expenses, and $270,000 to the Department of the Interior. The agencies will also receive over $400,000 in interest that has been earned on the money the company had deposited in the escrow account.

The company obtained an Atomic Energy Commission license in 1948. Starting in 1957, that license allowed it to discharge radioactive thorium wastes on Site. Under the federal Superfund cleanup law, W.R. Grace has a defense to liability for releases in compliance with its Atomic Energy Commission license. For this reason, among others, the United States expects that its recovery in litigation would be substantially less than the full amount of the United States' costs.

"This settlement will ensure that everyone can turn their attention to cleaning up the Site," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The settlement takes into account Grace's waste disposal at the Site, litigation risks and our interest in achieving a prompt cleanup."

The Department of Energy has cleaned up the waste disposed outside of the manufacturing plant property, removing about 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. The Army Corps of Engineers has started to remove contamination located on the manufacturing plant property, under a plan made available to the public for comments and then approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. All contamination removed from the site is being shipped to a special facility in Utah for final disposal. To date, the United States has expended approximately $60 million on cleaning up the Site. The future cleanup costs are currently estimated at $47 million.

"EPA will receive $1.5 million as a partial reimbursement for the agency's past and future oversight costs," said EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox. "The money paid to EPA will be referred to the Superfund for use in this and other national cleanup activities."

"The settlement allows the Corps to move forward and expedite the cleanup of the site in a continuous, responsible manner that protects public safety," said Dr. John H. Zirschky, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

The proposed settlement was filed today in U.S. District Court in Newark. It will be published in the Federal Register for a 30 day public comment period, and must be approved by the court.