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E-M:/ Pine River Citizens Task Force Efforts Win $60 Mil for St. Louis Site



Enviro-Mich:

The release below was posted on May 23, 2002.  Subsequently, the EPA and DOJ attorneys have scheduled a public forum to discuss the Fruit of the Loom bankruptcy settlement at 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, June 19 at the Gratiot Community Senior Center, 1329 Michigan Ave., St. Louis, MI.  There will be brief opening remarks, and then a question/answer session. 

 

Please contact Jane Keon for any questions at 989-681-5908.

 

-Rita Jack.

 

 

****************************

 

PRESS RELEASE

(for immediate release)

 

From:  Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force

Contact Person:  Jane Keon (989) 681-5908

 

TASK FORCE EFFORTS WIN $60 MILLION FOR ST. LOUIS SITE

Plus $6 Million for Natural Resource Damages Assessment

Plus $28,000 for Clean-up of Breckenridge Radioactive Site

__________________________________________________________

ST. LOUIS, MICHIGAN--A proposed settlement agreement before the United States Bankruptcy Court in Delaware against three large corporations earmarks $60 million for cleanup of a contaminated site formerly owned by Velsicol Chemical Corporation in this rural town of 4,000.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will receive the monies and use them for clean up of the 54-acre site. 

 

Several government agencies brought claims against Velsicol Chemical Corporation, NWI Land Management Company, and Fruit of the Loom, Inc. to win funds for clean-up projects at seven contaminated properties in Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, and Tennessee.

 

The St. Louis site received the largest slice of the pie.  Of the total claim entered by the EPA for $61,552,537, the St. Louis site will receive $60 million.  In addition, smaller claims were also won by other government agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Interior and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Volunteers in the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force, a mid-Michigan Community Advisory Group endorsed by the EPA, sent a letter in February to the Departments of Justice, Interior, and Commerce, urging the government to bring claims against the corporations for natural resource damages.  In the letter they outlined how NOAA and the Department of Interior could bring claims against the companies filing for bankruptcy.

 

Both agencies did file claims and have won a total of $3 million to fund Natural Resource Damage Assessments in the Pine River watershed.  The State of Michigan also won $3 million to help fund the assessments.

 

The area around St. Louis is riddled with contaminated sites.  The Pine River itself holds the infamous honor of having the highest levels of contamination from DDT of any river nationwide.  The 54-acre site of the former chemical plant, capped and walled with clay in the 1980’s, is leaking contaminated water into the river at the rate of 1 million gallons a year and about 10 million into the ground below the site.  Other contaminated sites include a former landfill, a 24-acre farm field used as a dumping ground by four companies, a golf course with buried contamination, and a low-level radioactive site, used by Velsicol Chemical Corporation as a dumping ground.

 

Three of these sites will also receive money for cleanup.  The agreement calls for $25 million to be split among 160 other sites nationwide.  Included among the additional sites is a former Velsicol dumping area containing radioactive material, located between St. Louis and Breckenridge.  Under the proposed agreement, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency would receive about $28,000 to clean up that site.

 

In an effort to pressure the corporations to provide adequate funding for environmental remediation, the Task Force in August 2000 placed a claim in their own name against Fruit of the Loom for $100 million.  That claim was rejected by the bankruptcy court earlier this year.

 

“Our research showed they had $100 million set aside for polluted site cleanup,” said Task Force Chair Jane Keon.  “Cleaning up the sites here is a monumental task, requiring millions of dollars.  We believe placing that $100 million claim earlier in the process helped us win the $60 million the second time around.” 

 

The Task Force will convene a public meeting with representatives from the EPA, NOAA, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and other government agencies available to answer questions on when the money will be received and how the money will be spent in the St. Louis area.

 

The EPA has spent over $30 million on a clean-up project in the Pine River during the last four years.  Over 300,000 tons of sediment contaminated with DDT, PBB and more than 14 other chemicals have been removed from the riverbed.  The river water is cleaned in an on-site water treatment facility and returned to the river.

 

When the State of Michigan and the EPA forced the Velsicol plant in St. Louis to shut down in 1978, the company was allowed to leave the area without performing a cleanup of the river or other contaminated sites.

 

The Pine River Superfund Task Force formed in 1997 to find money to clean the contaminated land sites and the river.  The 35 dues-paying members include college students and grandparents.  Professions range from the mayor of St. Louis to former Velsicol workers, to health care professionals, to college professors, to maintenance workers.

 

In other efforts, theTask Force pressured the Department of Justice to require a defunct refinery to clean up a polluted creek that flows into the Pine River.  The DOJ set aside $9 million of the fine charged the refinery for cleaning the creek.

 

           

 

 

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Rita Jack

Water Sentinels Project Director

Mackinac Chapter Sierra Club

tel:  517-484-2372

rita.jack@prodigy.net

 

"Speak out - even if your voice shakes."