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U.S., FMC SETTLE AVTEX FIBERS SUPERFUND LAWSUIT IN VIRGINIA $63 Million Cleanup To Pave Way For Community Redevelopment

Release Date: 07/09/99
Contact Information:

FRIDAY, JULY 9, 1999 DOJ: (202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOV TDD (202) 514-1888

$63 Million Cleanup To Pave Way For Community Redevelopment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – FMC Corporation will clean up one of Virginia’s largest Superfund sites under an agreement reached today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department.

The Avtex Fibers Superfund site in Front Royal, Va., will undergo a cleanup project estimated at $63 million under the consent decree filed today in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. FMC also will reimburse the EPA $9.1 million for its past costs associated with the property, which is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The company already has spent an estimated $20 million on cleanup activities.

“This agreement to clean up blighted property on the banks of the Shenandoah River is a terrific example of how the Superfund program works effectively now to restore contaminated land,” said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“We’re pleased that this settlement will enable EPA and FMC to focus only on cleaning up the entire site, and not on the courtroom,” said EPA Regional Administrator W. Michael McCabe. “A successful cleanup will remove this land from the Superfund priority list and return it to the community for commercial, recreational, and conservancy uses.”

Under the oversight of the EPA and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, FMC will remediate the 440-acre site consistent with redevelopment plans by the Town of Front Royal and Warren County. EPA will turn over to FMC the responsibility for the cleanup of the Avtex site.

The Avtex facility manufactured synthetic fibers for 49 years, and FMC operated the plant from 1963 until 1976. The facility, built during World War II, supplied material to the U.S. Armed Forces and was the largest rayon manufacturer in the United States. The last owner, Avtex Fibers-Front Royal, closed the facility in 1989 after being cited for more than 2,000 violations of Virginia environmental laws, associated primarily with wastewater discharges into the Shenandoah River.

In 1986, EPA listed the site on the Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most severely polluted sites, and the agency has been conducting cleanup work since then. As part of the cleanup plan announced today, FMC will address the remaining building decontamination and demolition issues; dispose of demolition debris, sludge, liquids and other wastes; remove above-ground and underground tanks; remove hazardous substances in certain buildings’ basements; continue waste water treatment; control erosion and sedimentation on the site; and clean up some 220 acres of waste lagoons, basins and waste disposal units.

Already, EPA has dismantled more than 740,000 square feet of building space at the site. Other past cleanup activities addressed water quality degradation, removed tons of hazardous substances, and decontaminated buildings.

To settle prior lawsuits brought by FMC, a number of federal agencies agreed to pay FMC about one-third of its cleanup costs. The government’s liability is associated with its control of rayon manufacturing operations during World War II.

The proposed consent decree filed today is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

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