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Pentagon Should Pay Too, Polluter Says

PROVIDENCE (CN) - Emhart Industries, a dissolved Connecticut corporation, claims the Defense Department should foot some of the bill for cleaning pollution from the Woonasquatucket River. Emhart claims the Navy and Air Force sent it the contaminated steel drums for cleaning, so the Pentagon should pay the bill from the U.S. EPA for cleaning up one of Rhode Island's largest industrialized rivers.

Emhart, corporate successor to Metro-Atlantic, ran a hexachlorophene plant in 1964 and a reconditioning plant for steel drums from 1952 until the early 1970s at the contaminated site in the floodplain of the Woonasquatucket River. The site was placed on the National Priorities List in March 2000.

In February 2000, the EPA sent Emhart a Notice of Potential Liability that ordered Emhart to clean up the site and reimburse the EPA for the cost of cleaning dioxin.

Since then, "the EPA has issued a number of orders requiring Emhart to expend funds to implement certain removal actions, and/or other actions to cleanup and/or remediate the site," and, "Emhart has incurred substantial costs in complying with these requests," according to the federal complaint.

In 2007, the EPA issued Notices of Potential Liability to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Department of Defense, which had sent 4,800 drums contaminated with herbicides from the Quonset and Otis military bases in the 1960s, Emhart says.

"In the course of its operations, the contents of drums were spilled and leaked on the site and products of combustion were deposited on the site."

Emhart claims "that during the 1960s, a number of tactical military herbicides were used at Quonset and Otis including 2,4,5-T Silvex, 2,4-D and Methylchlorophenoxypropionic acid ('MCPP') ... [and] that steel drums containing those substances were delivered to the Site from Quonset and Otis."

Emhart says the Pentagon and its creatures have not contributed to the cleanup and remediation, and that because the EPA has not issued a Record of Decision on the remediation, Emhart fears it will be called upon to undertake additional work potentially costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Emhart seeks a declaration that it is responsible for no more than its share of contamination at the site and that the Air Force, Navy and Department of Defense are also liable for response costs incurred by the EPA during remediation.

Emhart is represented by Rachelle Green with Duffy & Sweeney.

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