United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with Ward Transformer Company (Ward Transformer) requiring the company to pay $2,135,000 to the United States for hazardous substance cleanup costs at the Ward Transformer Superfund Site (Site) located near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Site was listed on EPA’s National Priorities List in 2003 as a result of Ward Transformer’s spill and release of hazardous substances, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), at the Site during the manufacture and repair of transformers and other electrical equipment. The Company ceased operations in 2006. Extensive cleanup has already been completed at the Site, and this settlement recoups unreimbursed costs.
The settlement arose out of a civil condemnation action brought by Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDU) against Ward Transformer to acquire the property for an RDU expansion project, RDU v. Ward Transformer, et al, Case No. 5:19-cv-304-D. The United States was named as a party to that lawsuit because of federal liens on the Site resulting from environmental cleanup costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), also known as the Superfund Law.
The settlement provides that $2,135,000 of the funds RDU would have paid to Ward Transformer for the property will instead be paid to EPA for unreimbursed cleanup costs. Ward Transformer agreed to reimburse EPA for these cleanup costs in exchange for a release from EPA and protection from suit by third parties.
“Ward Transformer’s environmental violations many years ago were egregious, and their impact has been significant and long-lasting – to both the environment and the American taxpayer,” said United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. “This recovery represents an important victory for the American taxpayer, and we will continue to hold Ward Transformer and others accountable for violating federal laws that serve to protect our environment and natural resources.”
“EPA has overseen extensive cleanup work at the Ward Transformer Superfund Site, including the removal of over 420,000 tons of PCB-contaminated material in 2006 and ongoing work to cleanup the remainder of the Site,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “This agreement demonstrates EPA’s commitment to hold companies responsible for the costs of cleaning up contamination released into the environment.”
The United States Attorney’s Office previously brought criminal and civil actions against Ward Transformer and its owner, Robert Earl Ward, Jr. (Ward) (now deceased), for related environmental violations. Ward was criminally prosecuted for knowingly causing PCBs to be illegally dumped in violation of law, United States v. Robert Earl Ward, Jr., Case No. 5:79-cr-004-BR. Additionally, the United States obtained a civil judgment against Ward and Ward Transformer for $3,339,836 in cleanup costs, Case No. 83-63-CIV-5-BR. Subsequently, the United States brought another civil action and obtained a Consent Decree related to the Site, United States v. North Georgia Electric Membership, et al, Case No. 5:16-cv-820-FL. To date, EPA and private parties have spent over $90 million to clean up the Site.
The settlement was subject to a 30-day public comment period, which has expired, and approval by the Court.
Assistant United States Attorney Neal Fowler, EPA Associate Regional Counsel Jade Rutland, and Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resource Division Attorneys Andrew Ingersoll and Esperanza Anderson represented the United States in this civil action.
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