Occidental Chemical Signs Consent Order for Storage and Destruction of Love Canal Wastes

[EPA press release - June 1, 1989]

Attached is a press release issued by the state of New York announcing that Occidental Chemical Corp. has signed a consent order with the state and federal governments to take over storage and destruction of wastes originating at the nationally known Love Canal site. The consent order will save taxpayers more than $20 million in cleanup costs.

The order represents Occidental's first acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for cleanup work at Love Canal in the 10 years since the toxic waste dump was discovered in Niagara Falls.

News Release

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Thomas C. Jorling, Commissioner
For Release: 10:30 a.m., Thursday, June 1, 1989

Calling the occasion a "landmark event," New York and federal officials today announced that Occidental Chemical Corporation has signed a consent order with the state and federal governments obligating the company to take over storage and destruction of wastes which originated at Love Canal. The agreement represents Occidental's first acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for cleanup work associated with Love Canal in the ten years since the toxic waste dump was discovered.

Making the announcement today were New York State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Thomas C. Jorling, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Regional Administrator William J. Muszynski, New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, and U.S. Justice Department Acting Assistant Attorney General Donald A. Carr.

"We have succeeded in getting Occidental to accept some responsibility and take an active role in the remediation of Love Canal, even though the company continues to fight its liability for this national disaster," Commissioner Jorling said. "The importance of this agreement cannot be overstated. The order legally binds Occidental to finish the job that we have started and will save taxpayers more than $20 million in cleanup construction, operating and engineering costs. This agreement is the culmination of planning, negotiations and hard work by DEC, the EPA, the state Attorney General, the state Health Department and the Justice Department. The coordinated action among our agencies has made possible this landmark event."

"It is EPA's goal, on a national level, to insure that responsible parties perform necessary remediation at hazardous waste sites. We are pleased that Occidental Chemical will be performing the work," Mr. Muszynski said. "In addition, this agreement will not delay the ongoing remedial work because Occidental must follow the governments' existing work schedule. Indeed, I hope that this precedent-setting agreement with Occidental will help pave the way for the remediation of the other Niagara Falls hazardous waste sites as well.

"Love Canal has additional significance as it provided the impetus for the national Superfund program and is an international symbol of the risks associated with the improper disposal of hazardous wastes," he noted.

State Attorney General Abrams said: "Today's agreement is a welcome development. It marks the first time that Occidental has worked closely with government agencies to resolve an issue in the Love Canal case. We hope this indicates a willingness to cooperate in the future.

"To date, however, Occidental persists in fighting numerous liability issues and is steadfastly refusing to accept responsibility for the costly relocation of Love Canal residents and for the other heavy costs the state incurred responding to the Love Canal disaster. Remedial efforts have cost the state and federal governments more than $140 million to date. Since my office sued Occidental in 1980 we have had nearly 300 days of depositions and 25 motions, and have exchanged hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

"Even today, as we approach trial after nine years of litigation, Occidental lawyers are deposing the former Health Commissioner, and will be deposing the current Health Commissioner tomorrow. While our intensive negotiations on the creek cleanup were indeed successful, we must not lose sight of the larger legal battle that will continue until Occidental's full liability for Love Canal is finally established, either in court or by the company's own acceptance of responsibility."

Acting Assistant Attorney General Carr of the Justice Department said: "This is a tough, no-nonsense agreement that requires Occidental to keep pace with the governments' creek cleaning project. It marks the first time that Occidental has agreed to undertake cleanup at Love Canal after ten years of litigation."

Under terms of the order, Occidental will assume responsibility for Love Canal remedial wastes generated at the Love Canal leachate treatment facility. Upon approval of permits, Occidental will transport the wastes to the company's plant in Niagara Falls, store them in a new storage building, and finally destroy them in a new incinerator to be built at the Occidental plant. Previously, all cleanup work at Love Canal had been performed by government agencies at taxpayers' expense.

The consent order provides that Occidental will assume responsibility for processing, storage and thermal destruction of the remedial wastes from the Love Canal creek cleanup, contaminated sediments drawn from area sewers, material stored in barrels at Love Canal, and all sludge resulting from the treatment of Love Canal leachate by the on-site treatment plant. These remedial wastes include the contaminated sediments from the excavation of Black and Bergholtz Creeks. The wastes from the creek excavation will be taken to a processing facility that Occidental will build adjacent to the present construction compound at the 93rd Street School site. After the wastes have been processed and placed in polypropylene bags, they will be transported to a new waste storage facility that Occidental will build and operate at the "T-area" of its Niagara Falls plant on Buffalo Avenue. The consent order requires that the processing facility be ready to accept the creek sediments by August 1, 1989. Should the required permits for the T-area storage facility not be issued when work is to begin in the creeks, the processed wastes will be stored temporarily in the dewatering containment facility being built by DEC at Love Canal.

The processed wastes will be stored until Occidental receives approval for and builds a new incinerator at its Buffalo Avenue plant. If permitted, the new incinerator will thermally treat the solid wastes from Love Canal and other company sites, including Hyde Park, Durez and 102nd Street. Only Occidental wastes from the company's western New York sites will be accepted at the new facilities; none of the wastes will be from out-of-state nor from other companies. Sludge from the Love Canal leachate treatment plant would be destroyed in the existing liquid incinerator at the Niagara Falls plant. Occidental is currently seeking permits from DEC and U.S. EPA for both incinerators to allow burning of its remedial wastes.

Occidental agreed to take on its new role as DEC and other state officials continued to press for accelerated remedial action by Occidental at all of its western New York sites and in the wake of a February 1988 ruling in the governments' cost recovery case which held Occidental liable for the release of chemicals at Love Canal. The partial consent order lodged in federal court today does not resolve nor affect the on-going litigation against Occidental for reimbursement of past costs.

"DEC is continuing to design and build the facilities that were part of the original plan to store and destroy the Love Canal wastes to ensure that the cleanup will continue should Occidental fail to carry through with its commitment," Jorling explained. "Under this order, the DEC facilities wold be utilized to store wastes temporarily if for some reason the Occidental storage building is not permitted in time to receive wastes this summer. We are determined that this remediation project will go forward in the event that any part of the order is stalled or fails.

"By continuing to build our facilities, we also keep the pressure on Occidental to take over the cleanup job. While the company has called on us to stop the effort, today's action proves the effectiveness of our strategy."

The order also imposes deadlines by which Occidental must complete the required work. Penalties for violating the terms of the order can reach $25,000 per day for each violation.

In a related action, Commissioner Jorling said that Occidental's state and federal applications for the new waste storage facility are available for public review and comment until July 3, 1989. The applications for modification of Occidental's existing permits for the new storage facility have been reviewed by DEC and U.S. EPA, and draft permit modifications and a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) have been prepared. The permit modifications are required before Occidental can place any material from Love Canal in the storage facility. The applications, DEIS, and draft permit modifications can be reviewed at DEC's Region 9 office in Buffalo, the U.S. EPA Public Information Office in the Carborundum Center in Niagara Falls, and DEC's central office in Albany. The draft permit modifications and DEIS can also be reviewed at the Earl W. Brydges Public Library in Niagara Falls. A modification to an existing stipulation for the remedial investigation of Occidental's Buffalo Avenue plant has been approved, allowing construction of the T-storage facility to begin since it will also be used to store wastes from the Niagara Falls plant.

The Occidental consent order is available for public inspection in the U.S. District Court prior to its final review by District Judge John T. Curtin.