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Case Summary: Insurance Settlement and a Favorable Court Decision Positively Impact Cleanup at the Centredale Manor Superfund Site in 2015

In fiscal year 2015, an insurance settlement and a federal district court decision holding a company responsible for cleanup under the Superfund law provided significant progress at the Centredale Manor Restoration Project Superfund Site in Providence, R.I.

On April 17, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an $8.75 million settlement to resolve liability of the New England Container Company, Inc. (NECC), the operator of a barrel reconditioning operation at the site. EPA will use the settlement proceeds to help fund cleanup efforts at the site.

On September 17, 2015, the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island issued a decision agreeing with EPA that Emhart Industries, Inc. was jointly and severally liable for the contamination at the site as a past operator under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).  The court’s decision, Emhart Industries, Inc. v. New England Container Company, Inc. et al., No. 06-CV-219, D.R.I., was based on a 20-day trial that included approximately 15 expert witnesses. By previous agreement, Black & Decker, Inc. is responsible for satisfying any judgment entered against Emhart in this case. In September 2012, EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the site that selected a remedy estimated to cost over $100 million.

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Information about the Companies

New England Container Company (NECC), a privately held company in Smithville, R.I., is a barrel reconditioning operator.

Emhart/ Black and Decker (manufacturing company): Emhart and Black & Decker merged in 1989. Black & Decker Corporation is an American manufacturer of power tools, accessories, hardware, home improvement products and technology based fastening systems headquartered in Towson, Md.

Information about the Centredale Manor Restoration Project Superfund Site

The Centredale Manor Restoration Project Superfund Site spans a three-mile stretch of the Woonasquatucket River and encompasses a nine-acre peninsula that includes a number of ponds and a forested wetland area. Metro Atlantic, a predecessor of Emhart operated a chemical manufacturing facility on the peninsula and used a raw material that was contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD), a toxic form of the chemical dioxin.

New England Container Company (NECC), a barrel refurbisher, began operating on the site in the early 1950s to service the barrel needs of Metro-Atlantic. By the early 1970s, both companies had ceased operations. Two apartment buildings were constructed onsite in the 1970s and 1980s.  In 1996, dioxin was discovered in fish collected from the River. The site was listed on the NPL in 2000.

For more information on the Centredale Manor Restoration Project Superfund Site.

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Summary of the Consent Decree and District Court Decisions

EPA and DOJ negotiated a settlement agreement with NECC prior to the start of the trial. NECC entered into an ability to pay settlement and agreed to pay EPA $8.75 million, which was generated from insurance coverage.

In 2006, Emhart filed a lawsuit for cost recovery and contribution against NECC. After years of discovery, Emhart filed suit in 2011 against the Air Force, the Navy and the Department of Defense (collectively referred to as DOD) alleging that the federal parties sent drums to NECC containing residues of tactical herbicides containing dioxin. The lawsuits were consolidated and, in 2012, EPA filed a cost recovery counterclaim against Emhart (Black & Decker, Inc.)

The Court held a 20-day trial in July 2015. A number of EPA witnesses testified along with numerous other fact witnesses and approximately 15 experts. Emhart’s chief argument was that it was not responsible for the dioxin at the site. Emhart emphasized that its predecessor had only used dioxin at the site for a period of about one year and that all of its dioxin wastes were either disposed of off-site or discharged to the sewer. After hearing the evidence on both sides, the Court agreed with the majority of EPA’s arguments and gave significant credit to the opinions of the government’s technical experts.

Phase 2 of the trial with Emhart relating to Emhart’s challenges to the EPA remedy outlined in the September 2012 ROD begins in May 2016.

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Contact Information

For information contact

Barbara Gutierrez
Attorney Advisor
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460

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