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Landowners blamed for Del. bridge damage; fines could total millions

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By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 5:21 p.m.

WILMINGTON, Del. — The owners of land in Delaware where a huge mound of dirt caused damage to an interstate highway bridge on a key East Coast artery have been served with violation notices by state environmental regulators.

The notices were the first effort by the state to recoup repair costs estimated at $45 million.

DuPont Co. and Wilmington-based Alma Properties LLC received nearly identical letters claiming numerous violations of state law or administrative code, The News Journal of Wilmington reported on Tuesday.

The letters from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control don't assign blame for the damage to the bridge, but they list violations that could lead to fines of as much as $2,000 a day. Depending on the duration of the violations, the fines could reach millions.

The bridge carries Interstate 495, an 11-mile bypass that helps alleviate congestion on Interstate 95. The bridge was closed in June because support columns were tilting. The southbound lanes were reopened on July 31, and the northbound lanes are expected to reopen by Labor Day.

A DuPont spokesman said in a statement on Monday that the company “strongly disagrees” with the enforcement action and that it never authorized the stockpiling of dirt beneath the bridge.

The dirt was stored there by a contractor, apparently without the knowledge or consent of state officials, and the weight of the 50,000-ton mound is believed to have caused underground soil to shift, damaging the structures that support the bridge columns.

DuPont had a lease agreement with another company allowing it to use the property. That company had a separate agreement with Keogh Contracting Company, which is controlled by the contractor who dumped the dirt.

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