Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Contractor (and its Owner) Ordered to Pay $48 Million in Clean-up Costs

Lawrence Aviation Industries located in Long Island, New York was an aircraft parts manufacturer making titanium parts for military aircraft. The company is now out of business but its location is now an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Superfund Site.

In 1980, county health officials visited the site and were alarmed by what they saw. They found an accumulation of drums, many improperly stored and in disrepair, in seven areas of the site. They also noted unpermitted discharges of liquid waste, unlined cesspools and lagoons where liquid waste was stored.

Since then, no one has been permitted to drink groundwater near and down-gradient from the site as it has serious contamination issues resulting from the contamination.

Yesterday, a federal court ordered Lawrence Aviation and its former owner to pay more than $48 million in cleanup costs and penalties for discharging hazardous substances at the site. It seems unlikely however that the Government will ever recover that amount. Not too many people have those funds lying around and the company is out of business. Perhaps there might be insurance coverage but if history is any indication, the insurance companies will find ways not to pay.

When Lawrence Aviation was ordered to come into compliance, the company ordered its employees to use a front-end loader to crush 55-gallon drums containing hazardous substances (the owner already spent a year in jail for that one). There were 1,600 such drums scattered across the site. This resulted in a massive discharge of waste directly onto the ground. Samples from these drums revealed extraordinarily high levels of pollutants.

EPA's clean-up of the site is now into its 19th year. The Justice Department's press release on this case can be viewed here.

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