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Ciba-Geigy to spend $64 million to settle dumping suit

TRENTON, N.J. -- Ciba-Geigy Corp. agreed Friday to spend $63.8 million to settle criminal charges that it illegally disposed of hazardous waste at its Toms River chemical plant.

The settlement between the pharmaceutical and chemical company and the state Department of Environmental Protection, filed in Superior Court, ends one of the most protracted environmental lawsuits in state history.

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Two former Ciba-Geigy employees pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of unintentional dumping as part of the agreement. They were originally charged with the criminal dumping of unapproved chemical samples into a double-lined company landfill between 1981 and 1984.

As part of the settlement, state officials agreed to drop all criminal charges against Ciba-Geigy and the two former employees.

'We accept responsibility for the mistakes made many years ago that led to charges against us, and we apologize for them,' Richard Barth, chairman of the Ardsley, N.Y.-based company, said at a news conference.

The bulk of the agreement includes a company promise to spend $50 million for the Environmental Protection Agency-supervised cleanup of the site. Ciba-Geigy said it has already spent an additional $30 million cleaning up the site.

The cleanup involves pumping and purifying 500,000 gallons of ground water daily to prevent contamination from spreading beyond the plant. Barth insists the double-lined landfill has not leaked and the surrounding environment has not been affected.

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Ciba-Geigy will also pay $9 million in fines and civil penalties, reimburse the state for $2.35 million in legal and administrative costs and donate $2.5 million to the state for environmental purposes.

Ciba-Geigy was initially indicted in 1985, but a Superior Court judge threw out the indictment. An appeal court reinstated the case in 1988.

The company is the U.S. subsidiary of Ciba-Geigy Ltd. of Basel, Switzerland.

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