CUE VI to Perform “Hot Spot” Removal Actions, Further Characterization and Cleanup in Settlement of Federal Lawsuit
9/21/10 After nearly 5 years of litigation, CUE VI and Union Pacific Railroad have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Humboldt Baykeeper over contamination on Eureka’s Balloon Track property. The case was before the United States District Court, Northern District of California, in San Francisco.
The suit, filed in 2006 by Humboldt Baykeeper and the Ecological Rights Foundation against Union Pacific Railroad, asserted that significant contamination from toxics that remain on the property from historical operations continues to negatively impact surface water and the environment. At the center of the case were contaminated storm water discharges resulting from soil contamination on the Balloon Track and its proximity to Clark Slough and Humboldt Bay.
Humboldt Baykeeper and its technical experts were granted access to the site by the Court, despite repeated efforts by defendants to block entry. Baykeeper conducted three site visits, using nearly a dozen technical experts from across the U.S to document the environmental condition of the site. Baykeeper’s experts conducted wetlands and biological assessments, sampled soil and water, and analyzed the human health and ecological impacts of the contaminants found on the site. Soil sampling conducted by Humboldt Baykeeper during the course of the litigation revealed “Hot Spots” on the property with significant levels of contaminants such as dioxins, metals, and arsenic. Fish tissue sampling in Clark Slough found dioxin in an amount four times higher than the “Do Not Consume” level set by U.S. EPA.
Under the settlement, CUE VI is required to remove contaminated sediment at numerous “Hot Spot” locations on the site to prevent further discharges of pollutants to Clark Slough and the Bay. The Hot Spots include polluted drainage ditches and stockpiles of contaminated soil and debris. In addition, the settlement includes participation by Humboldt Baykeeper’s technical experts in the development of work plans required for further site characterization and cleanup.
Humboldt Baykeeper Executive Director Pete Nichols said, “This settlement is another positive step towards addressing the sources of contamination around Humboldt Bay. The work required under this agreement will protect the ecology, the wetlands, Clark Slough, the Bay, and the wildlife that use those areas, not to mention those in the community who use and enjoy these resources.”
“We look forward to ensuring the work that is done to characterize, and clean up, this site is thorough and complete”, he continued.
The suit was brought under the Federal Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which were established by Congress to address polluted discharges into waters of the United States and to address hazardous waste issues and prevent sites from creating an ongoing threat to public health and the environment.