Trustees Settle Natural Resource Damage Claims Arising from Hazardous Substances Releases in Lower Ashtabula River, Ashtabula County, Ohio

Last edited 09/25/2020

lower Ashtabula River and Harbor
Natural resources and natural resource services in the lower Ashtabula River and Harbor area in Ashtabula County in northeastern Ohio, shown here, have been injured by hazardous substances releases from industrial facilities in the area. A settlement of natural resource damage claims with 18 companies was finalized on July 12. Photo credit: EPA.

On July 12, 2012, the U.S., on behalf of Department of Commerce and Department of the Interior, and the State of Ohio settled natural resource damage claims 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 northeast Ohio. This settlement is embodied in a Consent Decree that was entered with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

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 settlement in the final 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;
  • Reimburse the natural resource trustees damage assessments costs, totaling $1,334,236.95, plus interest; and,
  • Pay $440,000.00 for trustee-sponsored natural resource restoration activities such as oversight and operation and maintenance.

Altogether, the settlement is valued at $5.5 million.

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