Litigation Partner Robert Steinwurtzel commented on his client’s settlement in Law360 on August 18, 2011 (“Hammond Settles Lead, Benzene Pollution Suit For $1.4M”).
Specialty chemical company Hammond Group Inc. agreed on August 17 to pay nearly $1.4 million plus interest to resolve federal claims over lead and benzene contamination at a 17-acre site in Indiana.
The United States agreed, as part of the settlement, to waive its right to seek penalties and damages associated with the alleged non-compliance with an administrative order it issued to Hammond Group, and also agreed not to seek the government's enforcement costs incurred in connection with the matter.
According to the article, “The U.S. lodged a proposed consent decree in Indiana federal court settling its reimbursement demands under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act for removal actions at the vacant plot of land, which a Hammond-affiliated company purchased in 1982 but never developed.”
Steinwurtzel said that the time and cost associated with any litigation were major motivations to settle and that Hammond is not admitting any liability as part of the agreement.
“It's instructive that a company can buy a piece of property and it could lay fallow for years and then suddenly because of some disclosure it's subject to liability claims which can be quite expensive,” Steinwurtzel said.
When the EPA conducted soil and water sampling at the property in 2006, the tests “revealed the presence of benzene and lead at concentrations that exceeded risk standards for human health and the environment,” according to the complaint.
Steinwurtzel said that the company has never utilized the site beyond erecting a fence around the property and does not know the source of the contamination.