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Feds, Mass. AG Coakley achieve $366M settlement with AVX

By Bryan Cohen | Oct 17, 2012

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, announced a $366.25 million settlement, plus interest, on Oct. 10 with AVX Corp.

Between the 1940s and the 1970s, Aerovox Corp., AVX's corporate predecessor, allegedly discharged hazardous substances into the New Bedford Harbor, including polychlorinated biphenyl contaminated sediment. PCBs are synthetic chlorinated compounds that attach onto sediment particles, resist biodegradation and may cause cancer.

The settlement follows an enforcement order the EPA issued to AVX on April 18 to implement ongoing cleanup work at the New Bedford Harbor site.

The agreement will allow for expedited implementation of cleanup at the site at full capacity. This may provide more rapid public health and environmental protection related to PCB contaminated sediment in the harbor.

"This settlement brings hundreds of millions of dollars to the city of New Bedford to clean up contamination that subjected people to unacceptable health risks and limited economic development," Coakley said. "The AVX Corporation is responsible for the contamination and will pay for the cleanup, not Massachusetts taxpayers. The settlement also significantly accelerates the schedule so the region can feel the economic benefits sooner rather than later."

The cash-out settlement will be jointly paid to Massachusetts and the United States and will be retained by the EPA for use at the site. The funds will allow the U.S. and Massachusetts to take action to remediate the contamination. This includes dredging PCB-contaminated sediment and disposing of the sediment in an appropriate off-site facility, a confined aquatic disposal cell and in confined disposal facilities to be built along the shoreline.

The payment by AVX would resolve any remaining liabilities to pay for the cleanup costs at the site. If the settlement is approved, it will represent the largest single-site cash settlement in the Superfund program's history.

The New Bedford site was added to the EPA's Superfund National Priorities List in 1983. At that time, the U.S. and Massachusetts filed a suit against AVX and other companies for injury to natural resources at the site. AVX previously paid $66 million plus interest to cover costs as a result of a 1992 settlement.

In 2010, AVX entered into a settlement with the U.S. to demolish the Aerovox facility and a separate settlement with Massachusetts to address remaining Aerovox contamination.

The supplemental consent decree agreed to on October 10 is subject to a 30-day public comment period and federal court approval.

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