CINCINNATI -- The government sued to recover more than $3 million from 23 companies that refused to voluntarily pay for cleanup of the abandoned Chem-Dyne chemical dump in Hamilton, Ohio.
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to spend an estimated $3.3 million in 'Superfund' money to remove the chemical waste from the dump by the end of the year.
The EPA suit, filed Thursday in Cincinnati U.S. District Court, seeks reimbursement for the cleanup expense from William Kovacs and Bruce Whitten, two Chem-Dyne Corp. officers; seven companies affliated with Chem-Dyne that helped operate the dump; and 16 companies that generated chemical wastes stored at the Chem-Dyne site.
A Justice Department spokesman said the defendents refused to participate in a voluntary clean-up agreement, also announced Thursday, in which 112 other generators and transporters of wastes stored at the dump will pay $2.4 million toward clean-up of the site.
In its suit, the government accuses the companies of creating a serious health danger by allowing thousands of deteriorating drums of flammable or highly toxic chemicals -- including cyanide, polychlorinated biphenyls and vinyl chloride -- to accumlate on the dump site in downtown Hamilton.
Many of the drums leaked, causing chemicals to drain into the soil and ground water, according the the suit. The city's 85,000 residents have been exposed to noxious fumes and the threat of illness and injury, the suit added.
The federal government became involved in the Chem-Dyne cleanup this spring, after efforts in state court failed to remove the hazardous chemicals from the dump.
Chem-Dyne was put into court-ordered receivership in February 1980, after operators of the dump failed to reduce their inventory of wastes as required by a Butler County Common Pleas Court consent order.
But last November, the receiver, Jack Zettler, told court authorities that no more funds were available for the cleanup and requested the receivership be terminated.
At that time, according to the suit, about 11,500 drums plus thousands of gallons of material in bulk storage tanks remained on the site.
The government also seeks an injunction barring any of the defendants from shipping, receiving, treating or disposing chemical wastes at the Chem-Dyne site.