DOJ Announced Additional Settlements in Rye Brook Mercury Dumping Case

Written By: Robert Cox

WHITE PLAINS, NY (September 13, 2021) — Four Defendants have agreed to pay $437,255 in clean-up costs and accept responsibility in consent decree.

Federal litigation:

The United States has filed a civil lawsuit against American Iron & Metal Co., Inc., Culp Industries, Inc., Paramount Global, and Public Service Company Of New Hampshire, and has simultaneously filed a consent decree settling the lawsuit. In the complaint, brought pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act — 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., a mercury refining business in the Village of Rye Brook, New York, which led to releases of mercury into the environment. The consent decree provides for a combined payment of $437,255 by the Defendants for costs incurred by EPA in conducting clean-up activities at the site.

This lawsuit is the United States’ seventh lawsuit against responsible parties to recover clean-up costs for the second clean-up at the Site. With this settlement, the United States has recovered a total of $2,819,392 from responsible parties.

What they are saying:

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams: “AIM, Culp, Paramount, and PSNH played a part in causing contamination in a residential community by arranging for the treatment or disposal of nearly 4,000 pounds of toxic mercury or mercury-containing materials, and now each is paying a share of the costs that EPA had to incur to clean up this site. This Office continues to pursue and hold responsible parties accountable for their share of the costs at the site.”

EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia: “With an additional $437,255 in cleanup costs that will be recovered by EPA, this settlement is good news and it brings the total amount recovered from responsible parties for this cleanup to more than $2.8 million. This case demonstrates EPA’s commitment to clean up harmful pollution while holding accountable those entities that are responsible for cleanup costs.”

DOJ narrative:

Each of the Defendants arranged for Port Refinery’s treatment or disposal of used or scrap mercury and mercury-containing materials at the Site. Port Refinery’s treatment and processing of mercury sent by the Defendants and other parties led to extensive releases of mercury into the environment, necessitating two separate clean-up actions by EPA. In connection with the second clean-up, EPA incurred costs at the Site for 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 today, the Defendants admit and accept responsibility for the following:

  • 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
  • Port Refinery took virtually no environmental precautions or safety measures during its mercury refinement process
  • Port Refinery released a significant amount of mercury into the environment, contaminating the Site
  • Mercury from the Defendants’ mercury-containing products was comingled at the Site and contributed to the mercury released into the environment

Consent decree admissions:

  • AIM delivered 1,033 pounds of mercury to Port Refinery during Port Refinery’s period of operations
  • Culp delivered 527 pounds of scrap mercury to Port Refinery during Port Refinery’s period of operations
  • Paramount delivered to Port Refinery, via a third-party broker, ten drums containing at least 600 pounds of mercury residue for refining by Port Refinery during Port Refinery’s period of operations
  • PSNH sold 1,754 pounds of used mercury containing titanium or magnesium to a third-party broker during Port Refinery’s period of operations, and EPA has determined that those surplus mercury and mercury-containing materials came to be located at the Site

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.