Solutia Sues 19 Companies to Recover PCB Cleanup Costs
Government Records Show Other Companies Are Sources of PCBs and Hazardous Metals on Many Anniston Area Properties
Solutia Inc. has initiated a lawsuit on its behalf and on behalf of Pharmacia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama seeking a fair and equitable sharing of past and future cleanup costs with 19 other companies that contributed to environmental contamination -- PCBs and hazardous metals -- in and around Anniston, Alabama.
"This lawsuit will in no way slow down the cleanup process, or alter Solutia's commitment to continue leading the PCB cleanup in the Anniston community," said John C. Hunter, Solutia chairman and chief executive officer. "We will continue to move forward vigorously with the cleanup while working to sort out the financial responsibility."
"As Solutia was conducting sampling and cleanup activities under an earlier agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we discovered that some of the materials being cleaned up, particularly lead, cadmium and arsenic, did not originate with us. It became evident that other industries played a significant role, and they should share financial responsibility for the cleanup," Hunter said.
Solutia estimates that nearly a third of the $54 million it has spent to date on environmental investigations and remediation has addressed materials and contamination not generated by the former PCB operations in Anniston. In addition, the evidence suggests that the majority of the residential properties to be cleaned up in the future under the pending federal Consent Decree have been contaminated by sources other than run-off or discharges from the facility previously owned by Monsanto, now know as Pharmacia.
The cost recovery action initiated by Solutia follows provisions of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The EPA named Solutia and Pharmacia as Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) for PCB cleanup in the Anniston area pursuant to CERCLA. The pending Consent Decree obligates Solutia to bring other sources of PCB contamination to the EPA's attention, which the company has done. Solutia has the right under CERCLA to file suit against companies that have contributed to the contamination to have them pay their fair share of past and future cleanup costs. Such cost-recovery actions are very common in federal cleanup programs.
The company's extensive environmental investigation and cleanup work has shown that some PCBs and hazardous metals (including lead, cadmium and arsenic) in and around Anniston came from sources other than surface water discharges from the old PCB production plant in west Anniston. "In addition, we believe that the information gathered through this investigation will be used, when appropriate, to defend the Company in the two PCB mass tort lawsuits currently in process." said Jeffry Quinn, Solutia senior vice president and general counsel. "For example, we believe that the majority of the property damage claims, alleging PCB contamination, presented to the Abernathy jury to date, could not have been caused by runoff or discharges from the former PCB operations," Quinn added.
"Because of the nature of the material in which PCBs and hazardous metals are found or the location of the contamination, some of those contaminants could not have come from our plant site. These contaminants came from foundries and other industrial facilities and were used for a variety of manufacturing purposes. PCBs and hazardous metals went from those facilities to properties in the Anniston area in several ways -- through use of foundry sand as fill material, through direct disposal in waterways, or through spent industrial fluids (heat transfer and hydraulic fluids) leaving facilities in surface water discharges," continued Quinn.
Anniston historically has been home to many industries, including a multitude of foundries. At one time Anniston was known as the "Cast Iron Pipe Capital of The World." According to the EPA, European PCBs were commonly blended with casting wax at percentages as high as 30 percent and imported into the United States to make foundry molds for metal castings. Many of these foundries are near Snow Creek, Choccolocco Creek, or their tributaries. Government records show that many of these industrial facilities previously discharged PCBs and other hazardous metal wastes into the creeks and/or disposed of waste on their properties or elsewhere in the community.
Craig Branchfield, Solutia Anniston remediation manager, pointed out that more than half of the properties sampled by Solutia or the EPA where PCBs have been found are uphill from the plant and that more than half of the industrial facilities named in the suit filed today are also uphill from the plant. "That may help explain why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Solutia have detected lead, cadmium, arsenic, PCBs, and other contaminants in residential yards uphill and upstream from our plant. Lead, cadmium and arsenic have not been linked to off-site discharges from the former PCB production facility. It is clear that these materials and the PCBs found with them had to come from other sources. Liquid does not flow uphill or upstream," he said.
In addition, Branchfield said some contaminated soil removed by Solutia from residential yards, Oxford Lake Park, Quintard Mall and the Highway 21 bridge project turned out to be primarily black foundry sand and not native red Alabama clay. The two materials look very different. Foundry sand is a waste product of foundry operations. This material, often containing oil, PCBs and hazardous metals, has been periodically used as fill in various parts of the community. The former PCB production facility was never a source of foundry sand.
"During the remediation work we completed at Oxford Lake Park, backhoes dug up scoop after scoop of contaminated foundry sand, approximately 10,000 cubic yards, or enough to fill 650 dump trucks. The foundry sand plainly did not come from the plant, but by safely addressing the problem, we have fulfilled our commitment to the community and we will continue to do so," Branchfield said.
Contaminated foundry sand and other foundry waste were also found in many of the 13 residential yards already cleaned by Solutia. Branchfield added that many contaminated residential properties are adjacent to uncontaminated properties, suggesting that spent foundry sand and other foundry waste used as fill material were the source of the problem rather than general flooding as previously thought.
In an effort to develop a clearer understanding of the contamination discrepancies found, Solutia requested information from the EPA, previously provided to the EPA from these industries about their waste handling practices. The EPA currently has an ongoing formal investigation into lead contamination in the Anniston area.
Solutia's investigation and analysis also included reviewing more than 50,000 pages of records from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and EPA, reviewing files at the Alabama Department of History and Archives and the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County and interviewing residents and former employees of other industries.