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EPA Demands $720,250 from Three Companies for Failure to Clean up Former Rhone-Poulenc Site

Release Date: 2/16/2005
Contact Information: Christy Brown
(206) 553-8506

February 16, 2005

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is demanding that a group of current and former owners of a south Seattle, Washington industrial chemical processing site pay $720,250 for failing to abide by the terms of an agreement to clean up industrial pollutants at the site. The agreement was created in 1993 under the authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Most recently operated by Rhone-Poulenc and now owned by Container Properties L.L.C., the facility manufactured and processed a wide variety of industrial chemicals until it closed in April 1991. The site has a long history of above- and below-ground releases of contaminants such as toluene (a toxic solvent), arsenic, cadmium, copper, mineral oil, sulfuric acid and other pollutants. Sampling has detected contamination of groundwater flowing into the Lower Duwamish River which is home to threatened Chinook salmon and depressed steelhead runs. The Lower Duwamish Waterway is a Superfund site.

In a letter to the current and former owners of the property – Container Properties L.L.C., Bayer CropScience (successor of Rhone-Poulenc Inc.) and Rhodia Inc. – the EPA noted that the companies were required by the 1993 Administrative Order to follow a workplan to construct and operate facilities to prevent contaminants from entering the river. The companies failed to comply with several requirements of the Order. Each company will now be considered a Significant Non-Complier, a term used to identify chronic or recalcitrant violators; or those who deviate substantially from the terms of an order.

EPA officials believe the repeated failure to meet requirements of the 1993 consent order was either a matter of blatant disregard or ignorance of the requirements of the order.

“Bottom line, these companies had an approved plan to keep this contamination from becoming a worse problem and they didn’t follow through,“ said Mike Bussell, Director of the EPA’s Regional Office for Compliance and Enforcement. “We’re very concerned. Contamination of this degree requires serious efforts to clean it up.”

“Let’s hope these penalties re-focus the group’s attention on the seriousness of their cleanup responsibilities to the public living in the South Park area and those who use the river for recreation,” said Bussell.

The EPA is demanding penalties for the following violations of the 1993 Administrative Order:
      1. Failure to construct the approved groundwater treatment system.
      2. Failure to install the approved transducers and data recorder
      3. Failure to obtain and retain performance data in accordance with approved Work Plans
      4. Failure to report system shutdowns and other activities in the monthly progress reports
      5. Failure to submit a required Operation and Maintenance Plan on time
      6. Failure to maintain required operating records
      7. Failure to provide a copy of all reports of discharges at the time required
      8. Failure to maintain site security and to log inspections
      9. Failure to conduct sampling in accordance with the approved Work Plan
      10. Failure to provide timely notification of sampling events
      11. Failure to comply with the requirement to certify documents

In 1998 and 2000, the same group paid penalties of $320,000 and $159,500, respectively, for failing to conduct required cleanup work at the site.


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Christy Brown Jeff Philip
Technical Press
206/553-8506 206/553-1465