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Solutia Initiates Action
Against 19 Companies for Recovery of PCB Cleanup Costs
St. Louis, MO— Solutia Inc. initiated a lawsuit
on its behalf and on behalf of Pharmacia, a wholly owned subsidiary of
Pfizer, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama seeking
a fair and equitable sharing of past and future cleanup costs with 19
other companies that contributed to environmental contamination —
PCBs and hazardous metals — in and around Anniston, Alabama.
“This lawsuit will in no way slow down the cleanup process, or alter
Solutia’s commitment to continue leading the PCB cleanup in the
Anniston community,” said John C. Hunter, Solutia chairman and chief
executive officer. “We will continue to move forward vigorously
with the cleanup while working to sort out the financial responsibility.”
“As Solutia was conducting sampling and cleanup activities under
an earlier agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
we discovered that some of the materials being cleaned up, particularly
lead, cadmium and arsenic, did not originate with us. It became evident
that other industries played a significant role, and they should share
financial responsibility for the cleanup,” Hunter said.
Solutia estimates that nearly a third of the $54 million it has spent
to date on environmental investigations and remediation has addressed
materials and contamination not generated by the former PCB operations
in Anniston. In addition, the evidence suggests that the majority of the
residential properties to be cleaned up in the future under the pending
federal Consent Decree have been contaminated by sources other than run-off
or discharges from the facility previously owned by Monsanto, now know
The cost recovery action initiated by Solutia follows provisions of the
federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability
Act (CERCLA). The EPA named Solutia and Pharmacia as Potentially Responsible
Parties for PCB cleanup in the Anniston area pursuant to CERCLA. The pending
Consent Decree obligates Solutia to bring other sources of PCB contamination
to the EPA’s attention, which the company has done. Solutia has
the right under CERCLA to file suit against companies that have contributed
to the contamination to have them pay their fair share of past and future
cleanup costs. Such cost-recovery actions are very common in federal cleanup
The company’s extensive environmental investigation and cleanup
work has shown that some PCBs and hazardous metals (including lead, cadmium
and arsenic) in and around Anniston came from sources other than surface
water discharges from the old PCB production plant in west Anniston. “In
addition, we believe that the information gathered through this investigation
will be used, when appropriate, to defend the Company in the two PCB mass
tort lawsuits currently in process.” said Jeffry Quinn, Solutia
senior vice president and general counsel. “For example, we believe
that the majority of the property damage claims, alleging PCB contamination,
presented to the Abernathy jury to date, could not have been caused by
runoff or discharges from the former PCB operations,” Quinn added.
“Because of the nature of the material in which PCBs and hazardous
metals are found or the location of the contamination, some of those contaminants
could not have come from our plant site. These contaminants came from
foundries and other industrial facilities and were used for a variety
of manufacturing purposes. PCBs and hazardous metals went from those facilities
to properties in the Anniston area in several ways — through use
of foundry sand as fill material, through direct disposal in waterways,
or through spent industrial fluids (heat transfer and hydraulic fluids)
leaving facilities in surface water discharges,” continued Quinn.
Anniston historically has been home to many industries, including a multitude
of foundries. At one time Anniston was known as the “Cast Iron Pipe
Capital of The World.” According to the EPA, European PCBs were
commonly blended with casting wax at percentages as high as 30 percent
and imported into the U.S. to make foundry molds for metal castings. Many
of these foundries are near Snow Creek, Choccolocco Creek, or their tributaries.
Government records show that many of these industrial facilities previously
discharged PCBs and other hazardous metal wastes into the creeks and/or
disposed of waste on their properties or elsewhere in the community.
Craig Branchfield, Solutia Anniston remediation manager, pointed out that
more than half of the properties sampled by Solutia or the EPA where PCBs
have been found are uphill from the plant and that more than half of the
industrial facilities named in the suit filed are also uphill from the
plant. “That may help explain why the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and Solutia have detected lead, cadmium, arsenic, PCBs, and other
contaminants in residential yards uphill and upstream from our plant.
Lead, cadmium and arsenic have not been linked to off-site discharges
from the former PCB production facility. It is clear that these materials
and the PCBs found with them had to come from other sources. Liquid does
not flow uphill or upstream,” he said.
In addition, Branchfield said some contaminated soil removed by Solutia
from residential yards, Oxford Lake Park, Quintard Mall, and the Highway
21 bridge project turned out to be primarily black foundry sand and not
native red Alabama clay. The two materials look very different. Foundry
sand is a waste product of foundry operations. This material, often containing
oil, PCBs and hazardous metals, has been periodically used as fill in
various parts of the community. The former PCB production facility was
never a source of foundry sand.
“During the remediation work we completed at Oxford Lake Park, backhoes
dug up scoop after scoop of contaminated foundry sand, ap-proximately
10,000 cubic yards, or enough to fill 650 dump trucks. The foundry sand
plainly did not come from the plant, but by safely addressing the problem,
we have fulfilled our commitment to the community and we will continue
to do so,” Branchfield said.
Contaminated foundry sand and other foundry waste were also found in many
of the 13 residential yards already cleaned by Solutia. Branchfield added
that many contaminated residential properties are adjacent to uncontaminated
properties, suggesting that spent foundry sand and other foundry waste
used as fill material were the source of the problem rather than general
flooding as previously thought.
In an effort to develop a clearer understanding of the contamination discrepancies
found, Solutia requested information from the EPA, previously provided
to the EPA from these industries about their waste handling practices.
The EPA currently has an ongoing formal investigation into lead contamination
in the Anniston area.