For Immediate Release
January 11, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie


In a settlement involving the Vertac Superfund site in Arkansas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will receive $1 million to offset the loss of natural resources in one of the most well-known dioxin contaminated sites in the United States, as well as to offset government costs.

The Vertac Superfund site is a former manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Arkansas, that produced pesticides and herbicides, including "Agent Orange."

"This settlement will allow us to reforest thousands of acres of former agricultural lands into their natural pristine state -- bottomland hardwoods," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeastern Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton. "We will initiate restoration projects geared towards waterfowl, migratory birds, and songbirds, as well as threatened and endangered species such as the bald eagle."

The Department of Justice lodged the natural resource damages settlement consent decree on behalf of the United States Department of the Interior, the federal natural resource trustee, under the federal hazardous waste laws for natural resource injury caused by toxic releases. The settlement comes after approximately a year of cooperative negotiations between the Service and Hercules Incorporated, a former owner and operator of the site.

Hamilton said that the resulting water management capability and the creation of forested wetlands will help provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, and be another valuable "island" for the migratory birds of the southern flyway.

Restoration projects include construction of a water control structure on the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge, which should create 4,000 to 5,000 acres of forested and open-water wetlands. The settlement will fund the reforestation of 1,750 acres of former agricultural lands on the refuge to establish bottomland hardwood wetlands. It also includes reimbursement of the Service's restoration project oversight and maintenance costs, past assessment costs, and payments due the U.S. Department of Justice.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency declared the site "officially clean" in September 1998, and the U.S. District Court in Little Rock ruled in October of 1998 that Hercules and Uniroyal Chemical Limited must pay the Federal Government $102 million for costs incurred in cleaning up the site.

In addition to the federal settlement payment for natural resource damages, Hercules also entered into a damages settlement with the State of Arkansas in 1997. The terms of the settlement included a $1 million cash payment for the purpose of purchasing riparian lands to serve as buffer corridors to control non-point source pollution and stream sedimentation. Hercules also agreed to undertake restoration of the City of Jacksonville's Lake Dupree. The City and the Jacksonville Wastewater Utility Commission were parties to this part of the agreement.

The major pollutant of concern was dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin), which was a by-product of manufacturing operations at the site. Production at the site began in 1948 and ceased in 1986. Wastes from the site migrated into nearby Bayou Meto and contributed to chemical and biological degradation of the bayou.

The federal settlement is embodied in a consent decree which was lodged by the United States in federal district court in Little Rock on January 8. This decree will be available for public review and comment for 30 days. Copies of the consent decree can be viewed at the Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arkansas Field Office, 1500 Museum Drive, Suite 105, Conway, Arkansas 72032 or the External Affairs Office, Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 410, Atlanta, Georgia, 30345. Any comments on the proposed settlement should be submitted in writing to the Assistant Attorney General for Natural Resources, United States Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Washington, D.C. 20530.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations.

The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

" " "

Release #: R99-006

1999 News Releases

Go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region Home Page