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Multi-Million Dollar Settlement Reached Over Durham Meadows Superfund Site

The EPA has reached an agreement with Merriam Manufacturing which would force the company to pay for some of the cleanup costs related to the polluted site.

 

The environmental cleanup at the Durham Meadows Superfund Site is expected to cost about $23 million dollars, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In a consent decree filed on Jan. 11, the agency announced a settlement with Merriam Manufacturing Company, Aztec Industries LLC and the estate of Allan Adams in the amount of $20.1 million.

The judgement is part of an effort by the government to recover some of the costs related to the cleanup, which include the removal of contaminated soil and the installation of a proposed water pipeline from Middletown.

A 30-day public comment period on the settlement got underway on Jan. 23. (Information on how and where to submit comments can be found at the bottom of the page)

According to documents (see PDFs), the government has spent approximately $7.48 million dollars to date on various aspects of the cleanup, including testing and monitoring of groundwater contamination and the subsequent cleanup of the properties at 275 and 281 Main Street.

Future costs, which include the EPA recommended installation of a public water supply from Middletown, could reach more than $15 million, according to the documents.

"The final amount that we wind up getting from the settlement is unknown," said Anni Loughlin, the EPA's project manager for the site.

"We're going to work with Merriam to try to have them make claims on some of the older insurance policies that Merriam Manufacturing had. We think we can get more through those insurance policies than we might have been able to by taking whatever money they had," Loughlin said.

Crews began removing contaminated soil from the nearly 3 acre property in September. The work is expected to wrap up in the next couple of months, weather permitting.

"By the summer we're going to have that property clean and be ready to be sold and reused, which is great," Loughlin said.

Once the site cleanup is complete, the Merriam will be responsible for the sale of the property, proceeds of which will be used to pay off obligations with the remainder going to the government.

"I'm very pleased with the progress," said Durham First Selectman Laura Francis.

"Hopefully by this time next year someone interested in the property can come forward with a plan to develop it."

For decades, residents living near the superfund site who rely on private drinking wells for their water have been forced to use carbon filters to ensure the water is safe to use.

The Department of Public Health is currently reviewing a water supply plan submitted by the City of Middletown to determine whether the city has the capacity to provide clean water to residents impacted by the contamination.

"We're still working through those issues but everybody is very dedicated towards trying to bring public water into the town as soon as possible," said Loughlin. "I'm optimistic it will happen."

The Durham Meadows Superfund Site also includes property owned by at 201 Main Street. 

Loughlin said the EPA is working with the company to assess the amount of soil contamination and negotiate a remedy.

"Before there were environmental regulations both companies did a lot of land disposal of their waste. Sort of the standard practice of the day was that if you had a bunch of waste you dug a hole in your backyard and you poured it in there. In hindsight it was a really bad idea, but nobody knew that back then," Loughlin said.

She said the problem is exacerbated in Durham because of the number of private wells. 

For Public Comment:

Comments should be addressed to the Assistant Attorney general, Environmental and Natural Resources Division, and either emailed to pubcomment-ees.enrd@usdoj.gov or mailed to P.O. Box 7611, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20044-7611 and should refer to United States v. Merriam Manufacturing Company, Inc. et al., Civil Action No. 3:12-cv-00054, D.J> Ref. 90-11-3-1721/2.)

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