United States Sues Business and Former Owner for Contaminating Groundwater at East Fishkill Superfund Site

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Defendants Agree in Consent Decrees to Pay $1,247,700 in Clean-up Costs and Accept Responsibility

Geoffrey S. Berman is the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. As U.S. Attorney, Mr. Berman oversees the investigation and litigation of all criminal and civil cases brought on behalf of the United States in the Southern District of New York. He supervises an office of about 220 Assistant U.S. Attorneys, who handle a high volume of important cases, including domestic and international terrorism, white collar crime, securities and commodities fraud, public corruption, cybercrime, narcotics and arms trafficking, gang violence, organized crime, and civil rights violations.

NEW YORK, NY — July 20, 2019 — Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Peter D. Lopez, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), announced yesterday that the United States has filed and simultaneously entered into two consent decrees settling a civil lawsuit against HOPEWELL PRECISION, INC. (“HOPEWELL”) and JOHN B. BUDD (collectively, the “Defendants”).  The lawsuit, brought pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) – commonly known as the Superfund statute – seeks to collect costs that EPA has incurred since March 2003 in connection with its cleanup of trichloroethene and other hazardous substances at the HOPEWELL Precision Superfund Site (the “Site”) in the Town of East Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York.  The two consent decrees (one against each Defendant) provide for a combined payment of $1,247,700 by the Defendants.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Polluters must pay for the costs they have imposed on the community.  Together, these defendants released toxic chemicals into the environment, which then contaminated the nearby groundwater and adversely affected the surrounding neighborhoods.  Today’s lawsuit and consent decrees demonstrate that we will hold polluters responsible for their conduct.”

Regional Administrator Peter D. Lopez said:  “The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters pay for cleanups, and this settlement allows EPA to recover some of the taxpayer money that was spent at this site to address the contamination.  Defendants’ actions led directly to contamination of groundwater, which migrated to people’s wells and caused hazardous vapors to seep into their homes.  EPA stepped in and took the necessary actions to protect residents in the area, initially by installing treatment systems at homes, and now we are working toward a permanent remedy through the creation and extension of a new public water supply system in the community.  This settlement, however, reimburses only a portion of the money EPA is spending at the site because of the limitations of the Defendants’ financial resources.”

As alleged in the complaint filed today in federal court, since 1972, HOPEWELL has been engaged in the business of custom sheet metal and machining fabrication at two properties that, together with the surrounding area into which contamination has migrated, make up the Site.  BUDD owns one of the two properties and was the president and sole shareholder of HOPEWELL from 1972 until 1985, as well as the 80 percent owner from 1985 until 1991.  In connection with its operations, until approximately 1998, HOPEWELL used chemical solvents, including trichloroethene (“TCE”) and 1,1,1-trichloroethane (“1,1,1-TCA”), to clean and degrease machine parts, generating a hazardous solvent waste that was at times disposed into the ground behind the facility.  Additionally, during certain years, HOPEWELL employees poured paints and other chemicals into the ground behind the facility.  As a result of these operations, solvents including TCE and 1,1,1-TCA were released into the environment, including the structures and soils at the HOPEWELL properties, and they leached into the groundwater and migrated beyond the properties, affecting drinking wells and homes in an area extending approximately one-and-a-half miles from the properties.  EPA has incurred millions of dollars of costs in connection with cleaning up the Site.  Work continues at the Site, including restoration of the contaminated groundwater aquifer and construction of an alternative water supply to serve properties with private drinking water wells that have been or may be affected by the groundwater contamination:

In the consent decrees filed today, the Defendants admit and accept responsibility for the following:

·       In connection with its operations, until 1998, HOPEWELL used a vapor degreasing machine to clean and degrease parts, and, until at least 1991, used TCE and 1,1,1-TCA in that machine.

·       As a result of HOPEWELL’s operations while BUDD was its owner and president, solvents including TCE and 1,1,1 TCA were released into the environment, including the structures and soils at the HOPEWELL properties.

·       Contamination from the HOPEWELL properties has migrated beyond the properties into the area’s groundwater, contaminating approximately 66 private drinking water wells in the neighborhood as well as ponds in the path of the contaminated groundwater.

Pursuant to the consent decrees, the Defendants will pay a total of $1,247,700 in costs incurred by EPA, consisting of $963,750 to be paid by BUDD and $283,950 to be paid by HOPEWELL.  These settlement amounts were based on a financial analysis of what the Defendants were capable of paying.

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The consent decrees will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before they are submitted for the Court’s approval, to provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the consent decrees.

This case is being handled by the Environmental Protection Unit of the Office’s Civil Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dominika Tarczynska and Rachael Doud are in charge of the case.

 

eHeziUnited States Sues Business and Former Owner for Contaminating Groundwater at East Fishkill Superfund Site

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