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$1 Million Natural Resource Damages Settlement at Massachusetts Site

Date Posted: August 16, 2011

A $1 million settlement has been reached for Natural Resource Damages (NRD) at the Blackburn & Union Privileges Superfund Site in Walpole, Mass., the Departments of Justice and Interior (DOI), and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The Blackburn & Union Privileges Superfund Site includes 22 acres of contaminated land and water in Walpole. The contamination resulted from the operations of various industrial facilities dating back to the 19th century that exposed the site to asbestos, arsenic, lead and other hazardous substances.

Black duck
Two former and two current owners of the site have agreed to pay for injuries to ecological resources including groundwater and wetlands, which provide habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, including the black duck pictured here.  Credit: Scott Nielsen/USFWS  

The private parties involved in the settlement include two former owners and operators of the site, W.R. Grace & Co.– Conn. and Tyco Healthcare Group LP, as well as the current owners, BIM Investment Corp. and Shaffer Realty Nominee Trust.

From about 1915 to 1936, a predecessor of W.R. Grace manufactured asbestos brake linings and clutch linings on a large portion of the property. From 1946 to about 1983, a predecessor of Tyco Healthcare operated a cotton fabric manufacturing business, which used caustic solutions, on a portion of the property.

In a 2010 settlement with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the four private parties agreed to perform a remedial action to clean up the site at an estimated cost of $13 million. The consent decree lodged today resolves both state and federal NRD liability claims; it requires the parties to pay $1,094,169.56 to the state and federal natural resource trustees, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and DOI, for injuries to ecological resources including groundwater and wetlands, which provide habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, including black ducks and great blue herons.  The trustees will use the settlement funds for natural resource restoration projects in the area.

“This settlement demonstrates our commitment to recovering damages from the parties responsible for injury to natural resources, in partnership with state trustees,” said Bruce Gelber, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“The citizens of Walpole have had to live with the environmental impact of this contamination for many years,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “We are pleased that today’s agreement will not only require the responsible parties to reimburse taxpayer dollars, but will also provide funding to begin restoring or replacing the wetland and other natural resources.”      

The consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts. A portion of the funds, $300,000, will be distributed to the EEA-sponsored groundwater restoration projects; $575,000 will be used for ecological restoration projects jointly sponsored by EEA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).

In addition, $125,000 will go for projects jointly sponsored by EEA and the Service that achieve both ecological and groundwater restoration; $57,491.34 will be allocated for reimbursement for the Service’s assessment costs; and $36,678.22 will be distributed as reimbursement for the commonwealth’s assessment costs.

“This settlement provides the means for a range of projects designed to compensate the public for decades of groundwater and other ecological damage at this site.  I encourage local citizens and organizations to become engaged in the public process that will take place as we solicit, take comment on, and choose these projects in the months ahead,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr., who serves as the Commonwealth’s Natural Resources Damages trustee.

“This settlement will help restore habitat for fish and wildlife in the Neponset River watershed,” said Tom Chapman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s New England Field Office. “We look forward to working with the Commonwealth and local stakeholders to implement restoration.”

“More than 100 years-worth of industrial activities at this site caused major environmental contamination to the Neponset River, nearby wetlands and to groundwater below the site,” said Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), which will staff the Trustee Council for the Commonwealth. “We will ensure that the community and the public will be active participants in the process to use these NRD funds to restore the injured natural resources.”

Under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, EEA and DOI, acting through the Service, are the designated state and federal natural resource Trustees for the site. The site has been listed on the EPA’s National Priorities List since 1994.

The consent decree is subject to a public comment period and court approval. The public comment period  runs from 8/12/11 - 09/12/1.

After the consent decree is approved, EEA and the Service will develop proposed restoration plans to be funded by the settlement funds. The proposed restoration plans will also be made available to the public for review and comment.

Contacts:

Meagan Racey, USFWS, 413-253-8558
Charles Miller, DOJ, 202-514-2007
Grant Woodman, AGO, 617-727-2543
Ed Coletta, MassDEP, 617-292-5737

Links:

A copy of the consent decree and instructions for submitting comments are available at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/5341.htm

U.S. EPA - Long Term/National Priorities List (NPL): BLACKBURN AND UNION PRIVILEGES, Walpole,  Massachusetts

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region

Last updated: February 13, 2013