Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Lisa F. Garcia, the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), Region 2, announced today that the United States has filed a civil lawsuit against UNITED ALLOYS AND STEEL CORPORATION (“Defendant”) and has simultaneously filed a consent decree settling the lawsuit. In the complaint, brought pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) – commonly known as the Superfund statute – the United States alleged that the Defendant arranged for the disposal or treatment of mercury by Port Refinery, Inc. (“Port Refinery”), a mercury refining business in the Village of Rye Brook, New York, which led to releases of mercury into the environment. The consent decree provides for a payment of $260,000 by the Defendant for costs incurred by EPA in conducting clean-up activities at the Port Refinery site (the “Site”).
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “United Alloys and Steel Corporation played a part in causing contamination in a residential community by delivering 17,253 pounds of scrap mercury for re-smelting purposes to Port Refinery, and it is paying a share of the costs that EPA had to incur to clean up this site. The parties responsible for this environmental contamination are now being held accountable.”
EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia said: “This company sent scrap mercury to the site operator, which handled mercury in a way that resulted in it being released into the environment and contaminating homes. Even relatively small amounts of mercury can cause serious health problems. EPA has addressed mercury vapors in people’s homes at the site, and now we are holding this company accountable for its part in putting people at risk.”
As alleged in the complaint filed today in White Plains federal District Court:
The Defendant arranged for Port Refinery’s treatment or disposal of scrap mercury at the Site. Port Refinery’s treatment and processing of mercury sent by the Defendant and other parties led to extensive releases of mercury into the environment, necessitating two separate clean-up actions by EPA. In connection with the second clean-up, EPA incurred costs at the Site for investigative and removal activities, including, among other things, excavating and disposing of more than 9,300 tons of mercury-contaminated soil from the Site.
In the consent decree filed today, the Defendant admits and accepts responsibility for the following:
- EPA has determined that from the 1970s through the early 1990s, Port Refinery engaged in, among other things, the business of mercury reclaiming, refining, and processing;
- Port Refinery operated in the Village of Rye Brook out of a two-story garage bordered by private residences on its south, east, and west sides;
- EPA has determined that Port Refinery took virtually no environmental precautions or safety measures during its mercury refinement process;
- EPA has determined that Port Refinery released a significant amount of mercury into the environment, contaminating the Site;
- EPA has determined that mercury from the Defendants’ mercury-containing products was comingled at the Site and contributed to the mercury released into the environment; and
- United Alloys and Steel Corporation delivered 17,253 pounds of scrap mercury for re-smelting purposes to Port Refinery during its period of operations.
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Pursuant to the consent decree, the Defendant will pay a total of $260,000 in costs incurred by EPA. The payment amount was based on the Defendant’s documented inability to pay its full share of the costs incurred.
This lawsuit is the United States’ eighth lawsuit against responsible parties to recover clean-up costs for the second clean-up at the Site. With this settlement, the United States has recovered a total of $3,079,392 from responsible parties.
The consent decree will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval to provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the consent decree.
Mr. Williams thanked the assigned EPA Region 2 Assistant Regional Counsel for his critical work on this matter.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Sun is in charge of the case.