Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2003
WWW.USDOJ.GOV
ENRD
ENRD(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

U.S. & VIRGINIA REACH $3.8 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH TRUCKING FIRM
FOR DAMAGING CHEMICAL SPILL IN SOUTHWESTERN VIRGINIA


WASHINGTON, D.C. The United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia have reached a $3.8 million settlement with Certus Inc., a interstate trucking company, to recover natural resource damages and assessment costs arising from a chemical spill from an overturned tanker truck, the Justice Department announced today.

The spill occurred on August 27, 1998 in Tazewell County, Virginia and released more than 1,300 gallons of a toxic, liquid chemical product used in carpet manufacturing. The spill severely damaged the aquatic habitat along a six-mile stretch of the Clinch River in southwestern Virginia and destroyed populations of three endangered species of freshwater mussels, as well as causing major injuries to fish, other aquatic life and other natural resources.

The settlement was reached by the Justice Department on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Office of the Attorney General on behalf of the Virginia Department of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Quality. The settlement is contained in a consent decree lodged with the United States District Court in Abingdon, Virginia.

Certus has agreed to pay $3.7 million for the restoration of native, freshwater mussels injured by the spill and over $90,000 to reimburse all remaining unpaid costs incurred in assessing the injuries caused by the spill. The recovered funds will finance a multi-year program to breed juvenile mussels in a laboratory setting for re-introduction into the impacted reaches of the Clinch River to re-establish stable mussel populations in the affected areas of the river.

"This settlement will enable us to restore critically important populations of endangered freshwater mussels and other natural resources injured by this unfortunate incident," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are pleased to have worked productively with both federal and state natural resource trustees to achieve this result."

The chemical spill from the tanker truck, which was being operated by an employee of Certus, impacted a stretch of the Clinch River that was home to a diverse riverine ecosystem. In particular, the impacted area provided excellent habitat for mussels and, prior to the spill, was home to significant populations of more than a dozen species of native, freshwater mussels, including the federally-endangered Tan Riffleshell, Purple Bean and Rough Rabbitsfoot mussel species. Due to the mussels' unique reproductive characteristics, the juvenile mussel propagation activities described above are critical to achieving the goal of restoring the injured mussel species to stable population levels.

The Consent Decree was lodged on February 19, 2003 in the District Court for the Western District of Virginia. There will be a public comment period of 30 days.

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