Group Cleaning Kentucky Superfund Site Sues Past Users

By BRETT BARROUQUERE | September 6, 2012

Companies, municipalities and universities that contributed to what was once one of the largest hazardous waste facilities in the United States should have to pay for its cleanup, the group managing what is now a Superfund site said in a lawsuit.

LWD PRP, a conglomeration of 58 companies, filed suit against 334 former users of the LWD Incinerator in Calvert City, Ky., seeking a judge’s order to force them to help pay for ongoing work at the abandoned plant in western Kentucky.

The incinerator, which sits along an industrial corridor of plants near the Ohio River, operated from the 1950s until the last owner of the site, Bluegrass Incineration Services, abandoned the 32-acre plant in October 2005. Left behind were tons of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes, including oils, municipal solid wastes and incineration residues.

LWD PRP has paid $9.5 million toward cleaning up the site through Sept. 1. The suit was filed Sept. 1 in U.S. District Court in Paducah.

Gary Justis of the Justis Law Firm in Leawood, Kan., who represents LWD PRP, told The Associated Press that the current estimate to complete the cleanup of the site is between $20 million and $30 million.

“Something in that range,” Justice said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the site, about 25 miles east of Paducah and 200 miles west of Louisville, received about 1.27 billion pounds of hazardous waste from more than 4,000 generators as far east as New York and across the country to Washington state. Among those named in the suit were the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District as having dumped 183,827 pounds in waste at the site from 1983 through 1991 and the University of Illinois, which deposited 243,736 pounds of waste at the site from 1985 through 1989.

Justis said LWD PRP reached out to hundreds of former users of the site in June and July as part of an effort to settle claims before going to court. Some settled, but the 334 defendants did not.

“There are probably 334 different reasons and stories,” Justis said. “We did not hear back from many of them. Others just refused to settle. Some couldn’t settle on time before the suit was filed.”

The Associated Press reached out to dozens of companies, municipalities and universities Monday and Tuesday. Many did not respond by Tuesday morning.

Jay Groves, a spokesman for Illinois State University, which was named as a defendant, said the university contracted with Laidlaw to haul solid waste and he was unsure of what happened with the material transported by the company. Groves said received a demand letter from LWD PRP.

“We have not tried to settle, nor have there been settlement talks,” Groves told The Associated Press.

John Forman, a spokesman for Alamco Wood Products LLC of Albert Lea, Minn., said the company bought the assets of Alamco Wood Products Inc., three years ago. Forman said the prior owners of the company may have information about the LWD site. Efforts to identify and locate those owners were unsuccessful Tuesday morning.

Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District spokesman Steve Tedder said the agency hasn’t seen the lawsuit and declined to comment. Bruce Wilkerson, the mayor of Bowling Green, said he had not seen the suit and declined to comment.

LWD was one of less than 30 commercial hazardous waste incinerators permitted to dispose of PCBs, a hazardous chemical that the federal government barred the production of in 1979.

Kentucky environmental officials called in the EPA to investigate what was left at the LWD site in February 2006. The EPA found that waste, combined with rainwater, was only 3 feet from overtopping the containment area walls.

The EPA declared an emergency to address the uncontrolled pollution at the tank farm and started pumping the water out of the containment area, cleaning the cement, and stabilizing the tanks for any leaks.

EPA also began a removal assessment at the facility to address future needs and enforcement process.

LWD PRP was formed by the first group of companies to settle with the EPA for cleanup costs. Since then, Justis said, the group has been trying to push others involved with the site to help pay for the management and removal of wastes.

“The onus has been put on that group to seek contributions from other parties that were likewise responsible at that site,” Justis said.

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