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EPA selects cleanup plan for Kanawha River Superfund Site to address fish contamination

Contact Information: 
Roy Seneca (
(215) 814-5567

PHILADELPHIA (August 1, 2017) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has entered into a consent agreement with Pharmacia LLC on a cleanup plan to address dioxin contamination at the Kanawha River Superfund Site, in Putnam and Kanawha counties, W. Va.

The cleanup work focuses on a 14-mile stretch within the Kanawha River beginning at the confluence of the Kanawha and Coal Rivers.  Cleanup work will include constructing a cap over more than nine acres of contaminated river sediments.  This capping will reduce the mobility and concentrations of dioxin in the sediments, which will help protect prey fish (e.g., gizzard shad), sport fish, and bottom feeders in the river. 

The most significant human health risks at the site are associated with fish consumption from the river and the consent order provides for long-term monitoring of the levels of dioxin in fish caught along this stretch.

The State of West Virginia previously issued a fish advisory for the river due to elevated levels of dioxin found in fish caught in the river.

Pharmacia, once known as Monsanto Company, manufactured the pesticide 2,4,5-trichlorophenocyacetic acid from at a facility in Nitro, W. Va. from 1948 to 1969.  This pesticide was one of the principal components of Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The hazardous substance at the site is a waste byproduct of the pesticide production process known a 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD.  Pharmacia’s operations at the Nitro facility are believed to have been the primary source of TCDD contamination in the river.

EPA’s selection of the cleanup plan was done in consultation with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was preceded by a years-long engineering evaluation and cost analysis performed by Monsanto Company and Pharmacia under a 2004 EPA Consent Order.

For more information on the Kanawha River Superfund Site, visit: . An EPA memorandum describing the removal plan is available at:  

The Superfund program is a cornerstone of the work that the EPA performs for citizens and communities across the country. This settlement announcement follows the July 25 announcement when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt accepted recommendations from the Superfund Task Force to revitalize the Superfund program. 

“My goal as Administrator is to restore the Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission,” said Pruitt.

The task force’s recommendations focused on five overarching goals: expediting cleanup and remediation, reinvigorating cleanup and reuse efforts by potentially responsible parties, encouraging private investment to facilitate cleanup and reuse, promoting redevelopment and community revitalization and engaging with partners and stakeholders.

Work to prioritize and reinvigorate the program by the task force has been initiated and will be ongoing into the future.

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