Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 38
EPA reaches $2 million settlement for toxic dump
BY KRISTINA SEWELL
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a $2 million settlement on Nov. 20 with 290 small parties in a suit concerning the Casmalia Resources Superfund site. This is the ninth in a long series of settlements.
The agreement demands that the parties pay their share of the EPA-estimated $284 million it will cost to clean up the site. However, the settlement absolves the parties of liability for waste they dumped at the site over the years.
According to Karen Goldberg, assistant regional counsel for the EPA, the agency is satisfied with the arrangement.
“This is not the final settlement,” Goldberg said. “The EPA expects at least one more cash settlement.”
The site, a 252-acre dump zone located 10 miles southwest of Santa Maria, contains more than 5.6 billion pounds of pesticides, solvents, cyanide, PCBs, and other toxic materials, according to EPA. The site is four miles from the Pacific Ocean.
A 2006 Sun article reported that nearly 300 parties who used the site from 1973 to 1989 had settled with the federal government for $6.1 million.
The EPA reported that the previous owner and operator, Kenneth Hunter, Jr., abandoned cleanup efforts and the site due to financial difficulties. In 1992, the EPA took control of the site, and in 2001 it was deemed a superfund site.
The U.S. Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, more commonly known as the “Superfund law,” in 1980. Goldberg said the law provides that the generators of such wastes are responsible for the costs associated with clean-up efforts.
The EPA used superfund authorities to take emergency actions to stabilize the site, including disposing of contaminated subsurface liquids, controlling the flow of stormwater, and stabilizing the landfills, according to the EPA. In addition, four of the landfills have been capped.
The Casmalia dumpsite was originally forced to close after officials discovered it was polluting groundwater and presenting “imminent and substantial danger to human health and environment,” officials said.
The site is composed of five landfills; more than 10,000 businesses contributed to the hazardous material at the site. The EPA estimates the site will take at least 30 years to clean up, and it will need to be monitored for decades or centuries to come.
“There are now state and federal laws governing handling of hazardous waste in place that weren’t back then,” Goldberg said.
To date, response actions at the site have generated more than $110 million. The EPA expects to collect more than $2 million in response costs. Money received from the settlements will be put toward response-related costs at the site.