Thursday, April 2, 2009

EPA bills Chesapeake $1 million for Wingfield clean-up


In 2005, a contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency dug up and removed more than 100 buried drums and 40 yards of contaminated soil at a property in the Wingfield Pointe subdivision. The drums contained elevated levels of two hazardous substances, and the soil had high levels of another, arsenic.

Now, the federal agency has slapped Chesapeake with a nearly $1 million bill for the clean-up. It says the city operated a dump there for years, failed to safely close it in the late 1960s, and allowed a residential development to be built directly over it .

The city is refusing to pay. Attorneys for the city say some of the EPA’s clean-up was unnecessary. One lawyer wrote to the EPA in January that the city should have been given an opportunity to do the removal work itself.

The attorney called it “shameful” that the EPA spent thousands of dollars tracking down evidence of Chesapeake’s role in running the landfill, when the “city’s historic involvement in the operation of the site has not been denied, and was well known.” She said that the claim has “discouraged, to say the least,” the relationship between the city and EPA.

Nevertheless, the city has put $965,323 in a reserve account in case it has to pay. Both Chesapeake and EPA officials say negotiations are ongoing.

“We will do what is right,” said Chesapeake City Attorney Ron Hallman. “If we owe anything, we will pay it. We think the claim is excessive.”

The EPA is declining to comment on details of the case. But the agency has pushed to recover the money from Chesapeake for more than six months, city and federal documents show.

In September, the agency laid out its entire liability case against Chesapeake, which was compiled after several years worth of interviews with witnesses whose names were being protected.

“The city and its predecessor, Norfolk County, operated a municipal dump for decades, freely allowing anything and everything to be dumped there,” wrote Cynthia T. Weiss, assistant regional counsel for the EPA. “Years later, the city allowed a residential development to be built directly atop the dump.”

According to EPA documents, Norfolk County operated the Wingfield Pointe site as a dump from the early 1940s to the 1960s. Chesapeake took over the operations of the dump after it became a city in 1963, federal documents claim.

The EPA said Chesapeake operated the dump even though it did not own any of the property. The city entered into no written agreements for the property except one six-month lease in 1967, according to the federal documents.

Read the rest of this article here: It's an interesting read.

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