Five companies agree to pay $7.2 million to settle natural resource damage allegations

Press Release
Five companies agree to pay $7.2 million to settle allegations of natural resource damages to watershed areas in Toledo, Ohio

Five companies – Ohio Refining Co., Chevron U.S.A. Inc., Energy Transfer (R&M) LLC, Pilkington North America Inc. and Chemtrade Logistics Inc. – today agreed to settlements totaling in excess of $7.2 million to resolve claims of natural resource damages at the Duck & Otter Creeks Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) site.

A complaint filed with the settlements alleges that the five companies are liable for historic industrial discharges of oil or hazardous substances – including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), arsenic and lead – at the Duck & Otter Creeks NRDA site near Toledo, Ohio. The site is just east of the Maumee River and encompasses the creeks, adjoining wetlands, floodplain areas and uplands. Duck and Otter Creeks flow into Maumee Bay in Lake Erie.

In the aquatic environment, oil spills directly cause PAH pollution, and PAHs and metals were identified in creek sediments at different locations throughout the site and in concentrations that could cause injury including to invertebrates, fish, birds, and mammals.

“These settlements will enable restoration work that will significantly improve the environment in the area of the Maumee River and nearby Lake Erie,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Addressing the harm caused by releases of toxic contaminants will benefit local communities and restore important habitat.”

“The Maumee River watershed, including Duck and Otter Creeks, provides key habitats for migratory birds and fish, and supports hunting and fishing activities for local residents,” said Will Meeks, Midwest Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We are excited to work with our partners in the Maumee Area of Concern Advisory Committee and the City of Toledo on restoring this incredible resource. The proposed project will provide additional benefits to the local community and this important river and coastal area.”

“For decades, these companies released toxic industrial pollutants into Ohio waterways, damaging our local wildlife and ecosystem,” said U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio. “Our Office is proud to assist the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the Department of the Interior in taking this critical step to protect our residents’ health, preserve our environment, and ensure compliance with CERCLA and other environmental laws.”

A draft Restoration Plan, also being made available today by the USFWS for a 30-day public review and comment period, recommends restoration work at the Delaware and Clark Island Complex within the Maumee River. This project will improve water quality in the Maumee River and includes restoring approximately 23 acres of alluvial islands and constructing shoreline enhancements to reduce further island erosion. The project also includes the creation and restoration of island, wetland, and submerged habitat for aquatic and bird wildlife as well as vegetation, including plantings of native plants.

Attorneys from ENRD’s Environmental Enforcement Section are handling the case in conjunction with DOI and USFWS.

The proposed consent decrees were lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The settlements are subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. The consent decrees will be available for viewing on the Justice Department’s website.