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4 companies ordered to pay $1.2M for cleanup at former Hempfield junkyard

| Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, 2:01 p.m.

Four companies accused of storing hazardous materials at a former Westmoreland County junkyard will pay a total of $1.2 million to the state to cover cleanup costs, though the companies disputed the allegations.

The payments are the result of consent decrees in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh between the companies and the Department of Environmental Protection.

The money covers the state's cleanup costs for the 16-acre Everglade Iron and Steel Co. site in Hempfield. The funds will be deposited into the state's $45 million Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, according to John Poister, DEP spokesman.

Terms of the settlement call for CBS Corp. of New York City to pay $850,000, West Penn Power to pay $100,000, and TDY Industries of Pittsburgh and Timken Co. of Canton, Ohio, to pay $125,000 each.

The property owner, Richard “Dick” Liebman of Fayette County, has paid $300,000 to settle the state's claims against him, according to the DEP.

The junkyard served as a scrap-processing operation from the late 1940s through about 1993. It was contaminated by chemicals leaking from transformers, capacitors, batteries and scrap. The contaminants included lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, the lawsuit said.

The federal lawsuit alleged some of the contaminants were in machine grindings generated by TDY and an unnamed predecessor of a former subsidiary of Timken. The PCBs allegedly came from electrical equipment left at the site by CBS's predecessor, Westinghouse Electric Corp. and two discarded West Penn Power transformers.

Dan Greenfield, spokesman for Allegheny Technologies Inc., the parent company of TDY, said ATI did not acquire TDY until 1996, after the contamination occurred.

“The incident that we are referring to occurred about 40 years ago, well before ATI owned the company,” Greenfield said. “We had nothing to do with the company at the time.”

West Penn agreed to settle, said spokesman Todd Meyers, but disputes allegations its linemen disposed of two transformers at the site in the 1960s. Company policy, then and now, calls for broken transformers to be retained for repair or parts, he said.

“West Penn went so far as to find two retired linemen who worked for the company in the '60s at Jeannette service center. They met with the DEP and explained to them that that would not have happened,” Meyers said. “But we don't have written records, so that is the reason we negotiated with the DEP.”

A CBS spokeswoman could not provide immediate comment. No one from Timken returned a phone call.

According to court documents, they disputed the allegations.

Poister said the $1.2 million will help pay cleanup costs at other contaminated sites where ownership, or those responsible, is unknown.

“In a lot of cases, you can't find responsible parties, and that's why this is an important settlement for us,” Poister said. “We did find responsible parties. Sometimes, we are not so lucky, when land is abandoned, or ownership is disputed, foggy or unavailable.”

Cleanup at the Hempfield site began in 2008 with the razing of a barn and the removal of PCB-contaminated soil and waste, according to court documents. Poister said most of the work involved placing a liner over the contaminated soil and covering the liner with several feet of soil and vegetation.

The cleanup work is complete and the area is safe for foot traffic, but it's unsuitable for construction, he said.

“You can't build on it, but there will be no spread of any hazardous materials,” Poister said. “This is considered the safest and best way, because you don't want to disturb what's there. It won't creep into the groundwater, but we will continue to monitor the groundwater.”

The federal lawsuit initially sought to recover $2.3 million in costs. As part of the consent decree, the state forgave $685,000 related to groundwater remediation and investigation because “evidence as to their (the companies) contribution was not conclusive,” according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti on Thursday signed orders approving the settlements, which were posted on Friday.

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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