November 28, 2006
Joplin, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon has reached an agreement with the owner of a ball bearing plant near Joplin to resolve long-standing issues about trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination from the plant affecting underground water in the area. Under the consent decree filed in federal court on Monday in Springfield, FAG Bearings will pay more than $183,000 to the state and implement a remedial plan selected by state and federal environmental regulators.
Nixon said the consent decree was an important step in bringing a remedy and closure to an environmental problem first discovered in 1991.
“After this contamination was discovered, several steps were taken to protect human health,” Nixon said. “Two of the most important were the installation of permanent drinking water systems for area residents and more stringent well-drilling regulations for this area, which also is situated within an EPA-designated lead Superfund site. This consent decree calls for monitoring at specific sites and additional treatment, if necessary, to remedy contamination.
“This has been a long road for area residents and for the state of Missouri, but the end result is a plan to help ensure the safety of drinking water in the area and reimbursement for costs incurred by taxpayers,” Nixon said.
Under the consent decree, FAG Bearings will pay $48,659 to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to cover the department's past response costs. The company also will pay $130,724 to the state of Missouri to settle the state's claims for natural resources damages and an additional $4,664 to the state for its costs in assessing natural damages. The remedial plan FAG Bearings must follow was selected by the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2004, after a remedial investigation and feasibility study by the company.
In 1991, routine sampling of residential drinking water wells in the village of Silver Creek by the state of Missouri showed contamination from trichloroethylene (TCE) in some of the wells. Further testing showed TCE contamination of groundwater extended to the village of Saginaw, south of Silver Creek.
During an investigation conducted by the Department of Natural Resources to identify parties potentially responsible for the contamination, FAG Bearings acknowledged using TCE as a degreaser in its manufacturing process from 1975 to 1981. According to the EPA, acute and chronic inhalation exposure to TCE can affect the human central nervous system.
In 1992, the village of Silver Creek arranged for the installation of a permanent public drinking water system. Two years later, the state of Missouri arranged for the installation of a permanent public drinking water system for Saginaw.
The company subsequently entered into a settlement with the Department of Natural Resources to reimburse the department for most of the costs it incurred installing the drinking water system in Saginaw; FAG Bearings also settled lawsuits brought by Silver Creek and some of its residents.
In 1998, a federal court ruled that another company, Gulf States Paper, was not responsible for the TCE contamination. FAG Bearings had sued Gulf States, seeking to have it held responsible for the contamination.
FAG Bearings and the state entered into an agreement in 2000 for the company to complete a remedial investigation and feasibility study. The investigation and study were completed in March 2004, paving the way for the EPA and the Department of Natural Resources to select a remedy for the site, Nixon said.