Chronology of Efforts to Resolve Liability for the American Chemical Services, Inc., Site

RCED-98-270R: Published: Sep 29, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1998.

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Peter F. Guerrero
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the American Chemical Services (ACS), Inc., Superfund site in Griffith, Indiana, focusing on: (1) developing a chronology of its hazardous waste cleanup process; and (2) highlighting the liability decision points throughout the process.

GAO noted that: (1) the process of determining liability at the ACS site has involved more than 1,000 parties to date; (2) in addition, 14 years after the site was brought into the Superfund program, final determinations of liability for a number of parties have not yet been made, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is revising its cleanup decision; (3) in 1988, after 4 years in the program, 140 private parties entered into the first major settlement at the site by agreeing to pay for and conduct a study that determined the nature and extent of contamination and to pay for the development of alternative cleanup approaches; (4) five years later, EPA identified 26 of these parties as the major contributors of the contamination at the site and specified that they must pay for the design and construction of the final cleanup method; (5) the parties would not negotiate a settlement with EPA to perform the cleanup; therefore, EPA had to order the parties to clean up the site; (6) in the meantime, EPA entered into liability settlements with about 1,000 other parties that had made minimal contributions to the contamination; (7) these parties paid a total of about $25 million in exchange for agreements from EPA and the state environmental agency specifying that they would not sue these parties for additional cleanup costs in the future; (8) these actions still have not resolved all Superfund liability at the ACS site, and the pending decisions could extend for some time into the future; (9) for example, the group of 26 major parties have in turn recently sued 56 other parties for portions of the cleanup costs in actions known as third-party suits; and (10) also, some parties have filed claims against their insurance companies.

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