UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
REGION III- OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
1650 Arch Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103-2029
Phone - 215/814-5100 Fax - 215/814-5102
EPA Environmental News
December 9, 2002
Contact: David Sternberg 215-814-5548
"DE MINIMIS" PARTIES AGREE TO PAY $5.8 MILLION TOWARD CLEANUP OF HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES AT SPECTRON SUPERFUND SITE
PHILADELPHIA - In papers filed in federal district court in Maryland, the United States has proposed a $5.8 million partial settlement of legal claims related to the cleanup of hazardous substances at the Spectron Inc. Superfund Site in Elkton, Md.
The proposed consent decree, filed by the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, resolves the Superfund liability of more than 480 de minimis parties – companies, individuals, municipalities, and state and federal agencies – that allegedly contributed relatively small amounts of the hazardous substances found at this eight acre Superfund site.
Under the Superfund statute, landowners, waste generators and waste transporters responsible for creating a hazardous waste site are responsible for cleaning up the site, and are liable for the government's or other parties' cleanup costs. Today's settlement resolves the de minimis parties' potential Superfund liability to the U.S. or other parties, saving these parties from expense and uncertainty of litigation. Another group of potentially responsible parties known as the Spectron Site Group, which has funded the cleanup activities at the site to date, has joined the United States in this settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement, the de minimis parties are required to reimburse the U.S. approximately $2.8 million for EPA's past and future expenses and reimburse the Spectron Site Group approximately $3 million for its expenses related to the site.
The soil and groundwater at the Spectron site became contaminated with hazardous substances – including methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, benzene, toluene, and xylene -- resulting from industrial operations from 1961 to 1988. In 1961, GalaxyChemicals Inc. began operating a solvent recycling facility, reprocessing wastes from the pharmaceutical, paint, and chemical process industries. After Galaxy Chemicals' bankruptcy in 1975, the facility was reopened as Solvent Distillers Inc., which in 1987 changed its name to Spectron, Inc. In 1988, Spectron went bankrupt and closed the facility, abandoning many hazardous substances used in its operations.
In 1989, EPA took emergency response measures at the site to remove and dispose of approximately 1,300 drums and 62 tanks at the site containing hazardous substances, and ordered several potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to continue the cleanup activities. The site was placed on the Superfund list in 1994.
In 1996, a number of PRPs at the site signed a consent order committing them to complete a remedial investigation study, which will culminate in an EPA-approved comprehensive cleanup plan. The attached fact sheet describes past and future cleanup activities, including the installation of the groundwater containment system which captures and treats toxic seeps before they reach Little Elk Creek.
EPA determined that the more than 480 parties involved in the consent decree qualified for a settlement under the agency's de minimis settlement policy. This policy encourages the quick and fair resolution of the potential liability of parties that contributed relatively minimal amounts of hazardous substances found at Superfund sites. According to EPA, the settling de minimis parties collectively contributed about 20% of the estimated 43 million gallons of solvent waste sent to the Spectron site. Today's settlement does not resolve the government's Superfund claims against the Spectron Site Group, but these PRPs have agreed not to seek additional reimbursement from the settling de minimis parties.
The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Summary of cleanup progress at the Spectron, Inc. Superfund site
In 1998, after soliciting significant input from the local community, EPA determined the best way to reduce contaminated groundwater from entering Little Elk Creek was an innovative groundwater containment, collection and treatment system that was proposed by the potentially responsible parties (PRPs).
This system involved the placement of 850 feet of chemical-resistant liner along the length of Little Elk Creek, which is adjacent to the site.
Beneath the liner, a system of French drains was constructed to catch the water contaminated with chlorinated solvents from the former chemical recycling company. The water collects near a series of sumps, which pump the polluted water through a chemical treatment plant where it is cleaned and then returned to the stream.
The liner is overlain by metal baskets filled with stone and sand which hold the liner in place and protect it from debris coming down the stream during storms, snow melts, and other high water events. The baskets create a base for silt and soil and for the 8,000 plants which were placed into the rebuilt streambed to root.
In developing this complex system, the original contours of the stream bed were duplicated as closely as possible. Rocks and boulders were mapped at the start of the work and carefully replaced during reconstruction to recreate a natural aquatic environment.
Once the liner was installed, more than 8,000 native plants were planted on and around the liner to restore the creek habitat to its former state prior to contamination.
The PRPs will operate the treatment plant as long as necessary to prevent the groundwater from contaminating the creek.
Today, EPA continues to supervise a complete investigation of the extent of the contamination from the site. Activities include an investigation of the bedrock below the stream and assuring safe drinking water by monitoring sampling private neighboring wells.
EPA divided the clean-up of this Site into two phases: contaminated shallow soils and bedrock contamination. EPA will issue a cleanup decision, called a Record of Decision (ROD) for the shallow soils in early 2003. Prior to making a decision on the cleanup remedy for the shallow soils, EPA will request public comments and concerns on the various cleanup options.