United States Settles Suit Against Three Responsible Parties For The Release Of Mercury In The Village Of Rye Brook

Written By: Robert Cox

Defendants Agree to Pay $179,647 in Clean-up Costs and Admit Liability and Accept Responsibility in Consent Decree

WHITE PLAINS, NY — The United States has filed and simultaneously entered into a consent decree settling a civil lawsuit against Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, Henry Schein, Inc., and Union Carbide Corporation. The lawsuit, brought pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act – commonly known as the Superfund statute – seeks to collect clean-up costs that  EPA has incurred since April 2004 in connection with its clean-up of mercury at the Port Refinery Superfund Site in the Village of Rye Brook in Westchester County, New York.  The consent decree, which will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval, provides for a combined payment of $179,647 by the Defendants.

Attorney for the United States Robert Khuzami said:  “Polluters must pay for the costs they have imposed on the community.  Each of these defendants arranged for the treatment or disposal of toxic mercury and contributed to significant contamination in a residential community.  Each is now paying a share of the costs.”

Regional Administrator Peter D. Lopez said:  “It is crucial for companies to take all necessary steps to limit people’s potential exposure to mercury. Exposure to mercury can harm the heart, kidneys, lungs, immune system and have other health impacts. EPA completed a successful cleanup in Rye Brook, held the parties accountable and continues to remain vigilant to ensure that the public is protected from unsafe releases of mercury.”

As alleged in the complaint filed today in White Plains federal court, each of these defendants arranged for the sale and transport of used or scrap mercury, or mercury-containing products, directly or indirectly to Port Refinery, Inc.  Port Refinery operated a mercury refining business 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 removal, which began in 2004, EPA has incurred costs at the site for a variety of investigative and clean-up 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 today, 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, Westchester County, New York, 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 the Defendants’ mercury was comingled at the Site and contributed to the mercury released into the environment at the Site.

Pursuant to the consent decree, the Defendants will pay a total of $179,647 in costs incurred by EPA, consisting of $120,198 to be paid by UCC, $54,845 to be paid by Columbia, and $4,604 to be paid by Schein.

Today’s lawsuit is the United States’ fourth lawsuit against responsible parties to recover clean-up costs for the second removal at the Port Refinery site.  Prior to today’s settlement, the United States had recovered $647,582 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. Attorneys Anthony J. Sun and Natasha W. Teleanu are in charge of the case.

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