The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced in a Federal Register Notice that it reached an administrative settlement for recovery of past response costs with Edward Ditchfield, the founder of the River Forest Dry Cleaners Superfund site in River Forest, Cook County, Illinois. River Forest is a suburb of Chicago. The settlement requires Ditchfield to pay $39,926, plus possible accrued interest.
After EPA received an e-mail from a concerned teacher, U.S. EPA conducted indoor air and sub-slab samples in facilities around the Site in November 2009, February 2010 and March 2010. The results did not indicate any level of contamination that warranted a removal action. According to a news article on OakPark.com, River Forest Dry Cleaners admitted that its dry cleaning chemicals seeped into the ground. River Forest has a law specifically banning the use of well water (groundwater) and, therefore, the contaminated well water did not endanger the public.
Under the Superfund law (also known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act or “CERCLA”), owners or operators of facilities are liable for the federal government’s costs incurred in response to a release of hazardous substances. Those response costs can include investigation, testing, and site assessment.
In this case, U.S. EPA apparently incurred response costs when it investigated and conducted sampling at the site. Ditchfield, as an owner or operator of the site, may have been liable to reimburse U.S. EPA for those past response costs.
The public has the right to submit comments on the proposed settlement on or before December 19, 2011. According to the Federal Register notice, comments should be addressed to environmental attorney Peter Felitti at U.S. EPA.
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