Mercury Contamination Claims in Virginia to Cost DuPont $50 Million

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By Sylvia Carignan

The Department of Justice has asked DuPont to pay $50 million to settle claims for mercury contamination at the company’s former synthetic fiber manufacturing plant in Waynesboro, Va., ( United States v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., W.D. Va., No. 5:16-cv-00082, proposed consent decree filed 12/15/16 ).

The settlement addresses wildlife, water quality and other natural resources and is the largest such settlement in Virginia’s history, according to the department.

Federal and state investigations of the Waynesboro site found elevated concentrations of mercury in soil, fish and wildlife at the Waynesboro plant. Mercury was also found in the Shenandoah River about 100 miles south of the plant.

Several years ago, the EPA directed DuPont to create a facility investigation plan under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The agency approved the final comprehensive report last May.

About $42 million from the settlement will be allocated to natural resource restoration projects. According to the consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Virginia Dec. 15, remediation is expected to take “many years.”

“Losses are expected to continue indefinitely into the future,” the decree states.

The EPA, the Commonwealth of Virginia and federal Fish and Wildlife Service want the $42 million to go toward improved riparian zones along the Shenandoah River, mussel restocking efforts, protection of migratory songbirds and purchasing land to protect them in perpetuity.

The state and federal agencies also are asking DuPont to design and pay for improvements to the existing Front Royal Fish Hatchery, about 100 miles north of the Waynesboro plant. The restored hatchery would produce smallmouth bass to supplement the population in Virginia rivers.

DuPont, also known as E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, started manufacturing yarn and cellulose acetate flake at the Waynesboro plant in 1929, according to the EPA. The acetate flake manufacturing process was the main source of the mercury contamination.

According to the Department of Justice, mercury levels in that area have remained stable with no clear decreases over time.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan at scarignan@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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