Mar. 3, 2006 – An international metal company and its partner firms agreed to settle charges that they dumped toxic chemicals into the Ohio River, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
The deal between the US government and Norway-based manufacturer Elkem Metals provides $2 million for river cleanup, three-quarters of a million in Clean Water Act penalties and another $460,000 combined to Ohio, West Virginia and the Interior Department for violating the 1980 Superfund act.
All of the violations arise from allegations that operators of the companyâ€™s Southeast Ohio manufacturing facility knowingly dumped hundreds of tons of toxic-metal-tainted wastewater into the Ohio River from 1994 to 1999. The US Justice Department, the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency jointly negotiated the settlement with Elkem and Eramet Marietta, which took over operations of the facility in 1999.
The settlement, open to public comment for 30 days, brings to an end a battle started when environmental groups discovered the companiesâ€™ dumping practices in the 1990s killed many freshwater snails, mussels and fish.
Neither Elkem nor Eramet admitted guilt under the terms of the deal, and they only agreed to the deal because of court costs, Eramet spokesperson Ethan Frank-Collins told the Marietta Times.
According to information gathered by the US Public Interest Research Group, the Marietta, Ohio Eramet facility "dumped more persistent toxic metals into the nationâ€™s waters than any other facility." The group estimates that the factory pumped more than 1.2 million pounds of metal precipitant between 1992 and 1996 and alleges that most of that ended up in the Ohio River.
More persistent toxic metals were dumped into the Ohio than any other river during the same period, US PIRG said in a 1998 report.
Early last month, the government body in charge of water in the region, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, proposed changing the standards it uses to measure river pollution in order to conform with the Clean Water Act and plans to decide the issue this summer, the Cincinnati Post reported.