EPA sues GE over Milford cleanup

The Environmental Protection Agency is suing General Electric for $9 million for contaminating a Milford Superfund site, despite the claim that the company is doing a “great job on what is necessary and sometimes more than necessary” in cleaning it up, according to an EPA attorney.

The EPA filed the suit earlier in September in federal district court in Concord the statute of limitations was about to expire, and “we wanted to protect our claim,” explained Ruthann Sherman, who represents the EPA in the cleanup of the Fletcher Superfund site, to NHBR Daily.

GE is cooperating with the cleanup and negotiating how much to reimburse the EPA for its past cleanup of the site, but EPA felt it needed to file suit in case talks break down, she said.

The concern about the statute of limitations is an indication of how long the cleanup has dragged on — more than 17 years. It took much longer for the contamination to accumulate. Businesses at the site were burning all sorts of wastes at the beginning of the last century, and then it became home to Fletcher’s Paint Works from 1949 to 1989, when it was put on the Superfund list. Industrial solvents were dumped into the ground over the years, polluting a nearby well that once provided a third of the town’s drinking water.

GE, the manufacturer of the PCBs and many of the other toxic solvents dumped at the site, was named a responsible party. It removed PCB-contaminated soils from three residential properties, repaved streets in order to redirect runoff, and now is in the midst of studying how to best clean up the site and correct any damage to the Souhegan River.

About half of the design work has been done, and the river has been tested, with the data expected in the next few weeks.

EPA incurred $9,195,021 of its own costs for such things as removal and disposal of hazardous substances, covering the soil, installing fences, demolition and disposal of the Mill Street building, completing a remedial investigation and temporarily relocating residents. The question is how much of that bill GE will pay in addition to the work it has done and is doing.

“Even though we are suing them, I think it is safe to say that both sides are feeling good about how negotiations are proceeding,” Sherman said. “Hopefully we will resolve this without any litigation.”
GE spokesperson Peter O’Toole agreed. “We are working with the government to reach an agreement out of court,” O’Toole said. – BOB SANDERS

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