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NOT A GOOD DEAL?
State officials, local residents criticize PCB cleanup settlement in Alabama
At first glance, the proposed deal calling for Solutia to clean up polychlorinated biphenyl contamination at a former Monsanto plant in Alabama seemed like a good idea.
But local residents and officials are casting a jaundiced eye on the planned Superfund settlement between Solutia and the federal government. The proposed consent decree, released in late March, calls for Solutia to evaluate risks to health and the environment from PCB contamination at the facility in Anniston, Ala., and determine cleanup options (C&EN, March 25, page 9).
"This is just, frankly, not a very demanding thing," says Donald W. Stewart, an attorney representing 3,500 Anniston residents who are suing Solutia for property and personal injury damages. "It will not mean property will be cleaned up," Stewart says.
James L. Wright, associate general counsel for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, criticizes EPA for "commandeering" a remediation effort that the state was handling. Alabama was moving under hazardous waste regulations on a study to determine the feasibility of cleanup options at the plant site, he says. The federal Superfund settlement announcement "was a surprise," he adds.
The Superfund law "offers the best opportunity for a cleanup which is legally certain and comprehensive in its scope," the Justice Department says in explaining why the state efforts were trumped. Federal officials, who negotiated with Solutia for more than a year, intend to work with state and local representatives "in promoting a cleanup that is as quick and technically sound as possible," the Justice Department adds.
The Alabama attorney general is still determining whether the state will ask a federal court to reject or modify the settlement. Meanwhile, a U.S. Senate panel has scheduled a hearing for April 19 about PCB contamination in Anniston.
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