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UNION TOWNSHIP, Pa. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department today announced a major milestone in the court case over the $23 million cleanup of the Keystone Sanitation Landfill Superfund site in Union Township, Pa. The federal court in Harrisburg recently approved three settlement agreements settling the Superfund liability of 586 parties, and setting out the process for treating contaminated groundwater at and near the former Adams County landfill.
The Keystone Landfill case attracted national attention because the primary defendants drew hundreds of local citizens and businesses into the litigation.
"We’re pleased that the court has ended the litigation against hundreds of small businesses that were brought into the case by other defendants. This settlement will allow EPA to concentrate on the cleanup," said EPA Regional Administrator W. Michael McCabe.
"The court's approval of these settlements shows that Superfund works. These are innovative settlements that allow us to focus on what's most important: cleaning up the Keystone Superfund site for those who live in and around Union Township," said Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources Lois J. Schiffer.
The Keystone Sanitation Landfill is located on a 40-acre property, and accepted municipal, industrial and construction debris from 1966 to 1990. The landfill is located in an area of hilly terrain above fractured bedrock. Leachate [i.e., liquid resulting from water collecting contaminants as it trickles through landfill waste] from the landfill contaminates the local aquifer, which is a source of drinking water in the area.
In approving three recent consent decrees, Judge Rambo noted that the U.S. has "worked diligently toward resolving this mammoth litigation." The first of three settlement agreements resolves the liability of 202 third- and fourth-party defendants who contributed minuscule amounts of hazardous substances to the site. These parties resolved their Superfund liability with nominal one-dollar settlements. None of these parties were sued by the United States. These parties were all brought into the litigation by other defendants. Most of these so-called de micromis parties were small businesses -- apartment buildings, pizza shops, and theaters -- that could not afford the legal expenses of protracted litigation.
In an approving the de micromis settlements, U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo ruled that the government appropriately based these settlements "on the premise that parties who made the most minute contributions in terms of volume and hazardous substances to the Keystone site should not be required to remain in the case and bear further litigation costs."
In her more recent Sept. 10 rulings, Judge Rambo approved consent decrees against eight companies that were originally sued by the United States for sending industrial waste to the landfill, and a separate settlement with 376 additional third- and fourth-party defendants who will pay a total of $4.25 million for cleanup at the site (including $1.25 million to reimburse EPA for its past costs, and $3 million to help fund future cleanup efforts). These parties were also not sued by the United States, but the government negotiated this settlement to resolve their potential cleanup liability and end their continuing legal expenses.
The eight companies originally sued by the U.S. agreed to finance and perform the cleanup of groundwater contamination at the former landfill. They include Esab Group, Inc.; Quebecor Printing Fairfield, Inc.; C & J Clark America, Inc.; The Genlyte Group, Inc.; Hanover Bronze & Aluminum Foundry; Inc., Kemper Industries, Inc.; SKF USA, Inc.; and R.H. Sheppard Co., Inc.
The chosen remedy is called "pump and treat." This remedy is designed to capture, contain and clean up contaminated groundwater coming from the Keystone landfill. The eight companies have already begun construction of the groundwater treatment plant. Under the terms of the consent decree, the eight companies also agreed to clean up outside the landfill boundaries, and to provide water filters and water monitoring to nearby residences. Total cost for these cleanup measures is estimated between $4.9 million and $7.4 million. Additional work is still needed to deal with the waste in the landfill itself.
The settlements announced today do not resolve the government’s Superfund claims against the owner/operators of the site: Keystone Sanitation Co. and its successor, Waste Management of Pennsylvania. Discussions are continuing with the owner/operators to resolve that part of the lawsuit and to reach an agreement to clean up the remaining landfill waste.