WASHINGTON—Hercules, Inc., a former defense contractor, has agreed to pay the United States nearly $13 million toward the cleanup of the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory (ABL) site in Rocket Center, West Virginia, according to a settlement reached today with the Department of Justice, the Department of the Navy, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This is the first settlement in which the Justice Department has recovered environmental cleanup costs from a contractor on behalf of the Navy. The consent decree was lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
The agreement provides that Hercules, which operated the Navy-owned ABL site from 1945 to 1995, will pay a substantial portion of the costs needed to clean up the site pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The money recovered by the Navy from Hercules will largely go toward further environmental cleanups on Navy-owned land.
The Navy is performing the ongoing cleanup at ABL in consultation with EPA and the state of West Virginia. ABL was placed on EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL) in May 1994. Under the agreement, EPA will recover a portion of the $12.95 million, which will go towards its expenditure in overseeing the cleanup of this NPL-listed facility.
In a complaint filed simultaneously with the consent decree, the United States charged that Hercules’ activities at ABL, including the manufacture of rocket motors and fuel, led to environmental releases of hazardous substances including organic solvents, explosives, propellants, and metals.
“This settlement reflects our commitment to ensure that defense contractors pay their appropriate share of costs arising from environmental cleanups at military facilities,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement is part of an expanding enforcement partnership between the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense the goal of which is to secure an appropriate contribution to overall cleanup costs from the contractors who operated these facilities.”
“The Navy and Hercules had a longstanding relationship in the effort to develop and produce weapons systems to defend and protect our military and our nation,” said Don Schregardus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment. “This agreement memorializes our shared commitment to further protect our nation by responsibly cleaning up our environment. The Navy appreciates Hercules’ support in these efforts.”
“Just like any other company, a government contractor that creates a contaminated site must take responsibility for cleaning up the site,” said Donald S. Welsh, administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region. “EPA is pleased that today’s settlement recovers taxpayer money that EPA has spent on this cleanup.”
Today’s agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
Additional information about the ABL cleanup program is available at the Navy’s Web site, http://public.lantops-ir.org/sites/public/ABL/Site%20Files/IRhistory.aspx, and at EPA’s Web site, http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/super/sites/WV0170023691/.