June 16, 2003
Volume 81, Number 24
CENEAR 81 24 p. 6
ISSN 0009-2347


BUSINESS

SOLUTIA SUES OVER ANNISTON PCBS
Firm says metal foundries contributed to PCB, heavy-metal contamination

MARC REISCH

Solutia has filed suit against 19 metal fabricators in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala., seeking to recover some of its costs for removing polychlorinated biphenyl and hazardous metal contamination in and around Anniston, Ala.

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CONTAMINATED PCB-tainted sand from foundries may be responsible for part of the Anniston area pollution.
PHOTO BY CHERYL HOGUE
So far, Solutia says it has spent $54 million to clean up contaminated sites in Anniston, where it once operated a PCB plant. The firm figures that about one-third of that money went to remediate pollution caused by companies such as McWane, Halliburton, and Phelps Dodge Industries.

"As Solutia was conducting sampling and cleanup activities under an earlier agreement with the U.S. EPA, we discovered that some of the materials being cleaned up--particularly lead, cadmium, and arsenic--did not originate with us," explained CEO John C. Hunter III during a teleconference with analysts.

"The contaminants came from foundries and other industrial facilities," said Jeffry Quinn, Solutia general counsel. He charged that foundries used sand employed in the casting process to soak up PCBs and metal-laden oils. These fluids had spilled from engines and transformers being melted down to make new metal parts.

Contaminated sand was put in local landfills or given to residents to use for building driveways, retaining walls, and patios. That explains how one residential property could be contaminated while one next to it was not, Quinn said.

And it also explains how a number of properties upstream from Solutia's plant could be tainted. "Water from the plant would have had to flow uphill" to befoul those sites, Quinn claimed.

Solutia intends to use the information to defend itself in current and pending lawsuits. Hunter says the lawsuit "will in no way slow down the cleanup process."



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