U.S. Government Files Hazardous Substance Complaint Against Superfund Site

The federal government filed a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) lawsuit against the current and former owners and operators of a Calvert City, Ky., chemical production facility last Thursday in the Western District of Kentucky. The United States seeks injunctive relief and the recovery of costs that it will incur related to its supervision of remediation measures at the B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site.

According to the complaint, the three defendants are “potentially responsible parties,” who have at different times, including presently, allowed the release or threatened release of chemical compounds since the 1950s. Goodrich Corporation (formerly the B.F. Goodrich Company), allegedly started producing vinyl chloride monomer in 1953, and subsequently expanded its operations to manufacture other chemicals, including ethylene-based vinyl chloride monomer (EDC). In the last thirty years, Goodrich sold portions of the site to the other defendants, the entities now known as Westlake Vinyl and PolyOne Corporation, the complaint explained.

The filing also mentioned that chemicals identified in a recent investigation were chlorinated volatile organic compounds, EDC, benzene, naphthalene, and mercury, all “hazardous substances” within the meaning of CERCLA. According to the plaintiff, the substances “migrate into the soil, groundwater, and surface water, including the Tennessee River,” threatening human health and the environment.

The complaint stated that a 2017 site investigation undertaken by the defendants and signed off by the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, created a plan for further clean-up efforts valued at approximately $108 million. The remediation project reportedly includes “the installation of a three-mile containment wall around the perimeter of the facility, down to bedrock to prevent further migration of contaminated groundwater to the Tennessee River; recovery of EDC non-aqueous phase liquid ( ) from the source zone beneath the river; and monitored natural attenuation of groundwater with some groundwater extraction and treatment.”

The United States seeks a court order requiring the defendants to perform these actions and a declaration of the defendants’ liability. The requested declaration is to be binding against the defendants in any subsequent CERCLA cost recovery action that the United States might bring.

The United States is represented by the Department of Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.