Hercules and Uniroyal must pay US $102 million for Superfund cleanup

A federal court this week ruled that Hercules and Uniroyal Chemical Limited will pay the US government $102 million for the costs it incurred in cleaning up the Vertac Superfund Site in Jacksonville, Arkansas - a site where Agent Orange was once produced.

The judgment of the US District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas requires Hercules and Uniroyal to pay the US government $102,878,641.35 for costs incurred by EPA in cleaning up dioxin-contaminated hazardous wastes at the Vertac Superfund Site in Jacksonville, Arkansas. Under the law, that money must be returned to the Superfund, where it can be used to clean up other hazardous waste sites across the country.

The Vertac site, one of the worst dioxin-contaminated sites in the country, was a herbicide manufacturing

plant operated by Hercules and Vertac Chemical Corp. from the 1960s to the 1980s. Its products included Agent

Orange, a defoliant agent used in the Vietnam War. The facility operations caused widespread contamination of soil,

groundwater and surface waters on the site and in surrounding areas, including the yards of neighbouring homes. In

addition, when the facility closed in 1987, more than 28,000 leaking drums of corrosive, ignitable hazardous wastes

were left on the site, presenting an imminent danger to the surrounding community.

EPA incurred approximately $105 million in costs for cleaning up and incinerating the drummed dioxin

waste, as well as supervising Hercules’ performance of a series of remedial actions ordered by EPA to clean up

contaminated soil and groundwater. The state of Arkansas incurred an additional $10.7 million for incineration of

the drum waste, which was paid for by a trust fund created by a prior settlement with Vertac Chemical Corp. Other

defendants in the case also reached earlier settlements with the United States, totaling $7.6 million.

The two remaining defendants, Hercules and Uniroyal, declined to settle and challenged the

United States’ right to recover EPA’s costs. Hercules and Uniroyal argued that EPA had overestimated

the health hazards of dioxin, that a less thorough cleanup should have been done, and that they shouldn’t have to

pay for the costs of cleanup.

District Judge George Howard overruled the defendants’ arguments and awarded the United States summary

judgement for the full amount of the costs it has incurred to date. In addition, the court awarded the United

States a declaratory judgement for future costs, which are estimated at approximately $5 million.

“This ruling means we can clean up more hazardous waste sites and make our communities safer and more

livable,” said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources at the Department

of Justice.

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