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NITRO, W.Va. -- The former Fike Chemical Superfund site can be sold or leased more readily, thanks to a recent agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the City of Nitro Development Authority and the Department of Justice.
The agreement, known as a "prospective purchaser agreement," is designed to encourage industrial re-use of the 12.7-acre property and to relieve future owners or lessees from liability for existing environmental contamination on the site, which formerly had a chemical plant, wastewater treatment facility and office building.
The State of West Virginia now holds title to this property, which was abandoned by its former owners in 1988. The state plans to transfer ownership to the Nitro Development Authority, which in turn proposes to sell or lease the property for future industrial development.
"EPA recognizes that fears about liability for existing contamination may interfere with the re-use of Superfund properties. Prospective purchaser agreements do away with this fear, while keeping EPA’s cleanup goals intact," said W. Michael McCabe, EPA Regional
Under the Superfund statute, the landowners, waste generators and transporters who are responsible for hazardous contamination are also liable for site cleanup. EPA may negotiate prospective purchase agreements to protect potential buyers from Superfund liability for existing contamination -- in return for public benefit and the buyer’s cooperation in EPA’s cleanup efforts. The Fike site was placed on EPA’s Superfund cleanup list in 1983 because of hazardous substances found in the buildings, soil and groundwater at the site. Officials from the EPA and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have also found several thousand above-ground and buried drums throughout the site.
EPA and West Virginia have already spent about $40 million on cleaning up the hazardous substances at Fike. In a February 1997 consent agreement, 55 of the parties allegedly liable for this contamination have agreed to reimburse the federal and state government for their past costs, and complete the EPA-approved cleanup plan. These parties have removed and disposed of the drums at the site, and are proceeding with groundwater and soil remediation. The cleanup may cost an estimated $127 million.
Notice of the agreement was published in the Federal Register on May 20, 1999 and it is subject to a 30-day public comment period from that date before it becomes effective.