The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice announced the agreement with W.R. Grace. on Wednesday.

The money will be used to reimburse EPA’s past expenses to clean up more than 30 hazardous waste sites under the national Superfund programme and to fund the future costs of decontaminating the sites.

“Bankruptcy is not a safe haven to avoid environmental responsibilities,” said Catherine McCabe, principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“EPA will keep pursuing companies who pollute the environment.”

Ronald J. Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said: “This settlement will make money available to substantially help the cleanup of many Superfund sites around the country.

“This settlement is a good outcome for both the taxpayers and the environment.

W.R. Grace – which has employees in nearly 40 countries – filed for bankruptcy in April 2001 along with 61 affiliated companies.

However, EPA filed claims against the company in March 2003 after determining it had contributed to the contamination of 32 Superfund sites in 18 states throughout the US, including Wisconsin, California, Utah, Texas and New York.

The sites were contaminated with a variety of hazardous substances, including vermiculate and asbestos.

The federal organisation will be able to pursue its claim once the bankruptcy court confirms a reorganisation plan with the company.

Superfund is the federal programme that investigates and cleans up the most complex uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the US.

Kate Martin

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