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Fran Burns (215) 814-3245
LOCK HAVEN, Pa. - Having completed cleaning up contaminated soil at the Drake Chemical superfund site, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency today closed the last chapter in a long story by agreeing to pay legal costs and fees for a Clinton County group that opposed the cleanup.
For three and one half years, a small group of local citizens called Arrest the Incinerator Remediation (AIR) has challenged in court EPA’s solution of incinerating 300,000 tons of hazardous organic wastes saturated in soil at an old chemicals plant.
Federal courts consistently upheld EPA’s solution as safe and effective, and repeatedly denied AIR’s requests to halt the project. EPA finished incinerating the waste in April, 1999, and dismantled the incinerator.
Because the federal Superfund law requires robust community involvement, EPA worked diligently for many years to satisfy AIR’s concerns. And now the federal government will pay the group’s lawyers $20,000 in compensation for their work asserting the group’s complaints. The payment is provided in a settlement agreement signed today by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Thomas Voltaggio, EPA’s deputy regional administrator, said today’s settlement is based on AIR’s promise to end the protracted and inconvenient litigation by settling all claims arising from operation of the hazardous waste incinerator at the Drake Chemical site.
"The United States took this move to avoid any more inconvenience and expense of litigation. Superfund money should be used to clean up hazardous waste sites, not on years of unproductive legal wrangling, which now -- finally -- has stopped," Voltaggio explained.
"EPA is proud to have met its number one goal of ensuring the safety of the Lock Haven community. The soil is clean, and the site is ready to be returned to productive reuse. Now we can focus our attention on other hazardous waste sites in the mid-Atlantic region," he added.