Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Peter D. Lopez, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), announced today that the United States has filed a civil lawsuit against CYTEC INDUSTRIES, INC. (“Cytec”) and KEYSPAN GAS EAST CORPORATION d/b/a NATIONAL GRID (“National Grid”) (collectively, the “Defendants”), and has simultaneously filed a consent decree settling the lawsuit. In the complaint, brought pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675 (“CERCLA”) – commonly known as the Superfund statute – the United States alleged that the Defendants arranged for the disposal or treatment of mercury by Port Refinery, Inc. (“Port Refinery”), a mercury refining business in the Village of Rye Brook, New York, which led to releases of mercury into the environment. Through the lawsuit, EPA sought to collect the costs that it has incurred since April 2004 in connection with its clean-up of mercury at the Port Refinery Superfund Site (the “Site”) in the Village of Rye Brook in Westchester County, New York. The consent decree, which provides for a combined payment of $142,653 by the Defendants, has been lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days, after which it will be submitted for the Court’s approval.
Acting United States Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Both Cytec and National Grid contributed to contamination in a residential community by arranging for the treatment or disposal of toxic mercury, and now they are each paying a share of the costs they have imposed on the community. This Office will continue to hold responsible parties accountable for their share of the costs at the Site.”
Regional Administrator Peter D. Lopez said: “These companies sent mercury-containing materials to this site where they were improperly handled, resulting in mercury being released into the environment and putting people in the area at risk. Thankfully, EPA was able to take action to address the risk, and this settlement holds the companies accountable, ensuring that taxpayers don’t bear the full burden of the cleanup at this site.”
As alleged in the complaint filed yesterday in White Plains federal District Court, each of the Defendants arranged for the sale and transport of used or scrap mercury, or mercury-containing products, directly or indirectly to Port Refinery. Port Refinery then processed these materials as part of a mercury refining business it operated out of a residence in Rye Brook, New York. Port Refinery’s treatment and processing of the scrap mercury sent by the Defendants and other parties led to extensive releases of mercury, a hazardous substance, requiring two separate clean-up actions by EPA. In connection with the second clean-up, which began in 2004, EPA has incurred costs at the Site for a variety of investigative and removal activities, including, among other things, excavating and disposing of more than 9,300 tons of mercury-contaminated soil from the Site.
In the consent decree filed yesterday, the Defendants admit and accept responsibility for the following:
- EPA has determined that from the 1970s through the early 1990s, Port Refinery engaged in, among other things, the business of mercury reclaiming, refining, and processing.
- Port Refinery operated in the Village of Rye Brook out of a two-story garage bordered by private residences on its south, east, and west sides.
- EPA has determined that Port Refinery took virtually no environmental precautions or safety measures during its mercury refinement process.
- EPA has determined that Port Refinery released a significant amount of mercury into the environment, contaminating the Site.
- EPA has determined that mercury from the Defendants’ mercury-containing products was comingled at the Site and contributed to the mercury released into the environment.
- Defendants delivered materials containing scrap mercury to Port Refinery during its period of operations.
Pursuant to the consent decree, the Defendants will pay a total of $142,653 in costs incurred by EPA, consisting of $93,076 to be paid by Cytec, and $49,577 to be paid by National Grid.
This lawsuit is the United States’ fifth lawsuit against responsible parties to recover clean-up costs for the second clean-up at the Site. Prior to this settlement, the United States had recovered $827,229 from other responsible parties. The United States is continuing to pursue its claims against additional potentially responsible parties.
The consent decree will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval, to provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the consent decree.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Sun is in charge of the case.