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Justice Opens 30-Day Public Comment Period on Proposed Settlement for Natural Resource Damages in lower Ashtabula River, Ashtabula County, Ohio


05/09/2012


lower Ashtabula River and Harbor, Ashtabula County, Ohio Natural resources and natural resource services in the lower Ashtabula River and Harbor, in Ashtabula County in northeastern Ohio, shown in this oblique aerial view, have been injured by hazardous substances releases from numerous industrial facilities in the area. Photo credit: EPA.

 

On May 9, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a 30-day public comment period on a proposed settlement with 18 companies -- known as the Ashtabula River Cooperating Group II and the Railroads -- for natural resource damage claims arising from hazardous substances releases into, or which have migrated into, the lower Ashtabula River and Harbor in northeastern Ohio. The proposed settlement is embodied in a Consent Decree that was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division on May 3.

The natural resource trustees in this case include State of Ohio, represented by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Since the 1940s, numerous industrial facilities in Ashtabula, Ohio, have released hazardous substances to the Ashtabula River area. As a result, PCBs, PAHs, chlorinated benzenes, chlorinated ethenes, hexachlorobutadiene and heavy metals have been detected in the sediments, water and fish of the River. The trustees have determined that natural resources including fish, invertebrates, birds, water and sediments have been injured and that the public has suffered the loss of natural resource services, including lost recreational fishing, reduced opportunities for navigation, and passive human use losses, as a result of these hazardous substances releases.

Under the proposed settlement in the lodged Consent Decree, the settling companies will:

  • Implement certain restorations actions, pursuant to the publicly-reviewed Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, such as acquiring ecologically-valuable properties along the River, undertaking habitat restoration projects and using land-use restrictions to protect these restoration properties; and,
  • Reimburse the natural resource trustees damage assessments costs plus interest.

Altogether, the settlement has been valued at $5.5 million.

Written comments regarding the lodged Consent Decree must be received by the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division by Wednesday, June 8, 2012.

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