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Reference News Release: Settlement Nets $5.7 Million for Cleanup Costs at A.C. Lawrence Superfund Site

Release Date: 07/30/2014
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Today, the United States, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, settled a lawsuit against ConAgra Grocery Products Company, LLC (“ConAgra”), which will pay $5.7 million to reimburse EPA for cleanup costs at the A.C. Lawrence Leather Company Sludge Lagoons Superfund Site in South Paris, Maine.

From at least 1955 to 1975, the A.C. Lawrence Leather Company disposed of tannery sludge in a series of sludge lagoons located at the Site. At the time the tannery closed, the sludge lagoons were covered with gravel. In 2000, the Town of South Paris, Maine received a complaint regarding “green ooze” on the bank of the Little Androscoggin River adjacent to the Site. Following investigations, EPA and the State determined that sludge remained in the nearby former lagoons, and that the soil in and around the former lagoons was contaminated. Sampling showed a widespread layer of chromium sludge, present in the soil from approximately two and a half feet below ground surface to a depth of as much as fourteen feet below ground surface. The primary contaminants were chromium, lead, and VOCs

“This settlement shows that the “polluter pays” principle is alive and well,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “EPA always tries to ensure that US taxpayers don’t foot the bill for pollution caused by others, so this good news not only for Maine’s citizens in South Paris but indeed for all US taxpayers.”

During 2006 and 2007, EPA cleaned up the Site and excavated and disposed of contaminated soils from the lagoons and the riverbank. EPA found an estimated 6,200 cubic yards of contaminated sludge and soil at the Site requiring excavation and disposal. The cost of the cleanup was approximately $5 million.

Following unsuccessful enforcement negotiations with ConAgra, on Nov. 29, 2011, the United States sued ConAgra, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods, Inc., to recover both the United States’ cleanup costs and enforcement costs. The United States alleged that ConAgra was the successor to the A.C. Lawrence Leather Company through a series of complex corporate transactions.

Following several years of discovery and the filing of motions for summary judgment, ConAgra agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle the government’s claim.

The settlement will be subject to a 30-day public comment period, and must be approved by the U.S. District Court before it can become final.

More information on EPA’s work to clean up the A.C. Lawrence Leather Company Sludge Lagoons Superfund Site.