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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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U.S. Wins $30M for Cleanup of Penn Smelter

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A federal judge has entered a $30 million settlement for the United States to cover cleanup costs for a major Philadelphia Superfund site and a former smelting facility operated by what was once the nation's largest copper smelter.

Members of the Schwab Family Partnership, which formed Franklin Smelting and Refining Corp. in 1983, may only pay a fraction of that amount, and need not admit any liability for what occurred on a 9-acre tract near Castor Avenue in the northeast neighborhood of Port Richmond, according to the settlement entered last week.

The United States says it spent more than $18 million to deal with lead, cadmium and arsenic deposited while the smelter operated from about 1935 to 1997, when it was shuttered for financial reasons.

In 2002, a neighboring pile of 68,000 cubic yards of slag left by one of Schwab's business associates was placed on the National Priorities List of the most hazardous waste sites in the country, according to EPA records.

That pile was a byproduct of the Franklin facility next door, where feedstock was turned into copper ingots, the feds say.

The United States sued Schwab in January 2010, claiming the EPA's investigation of the smelting site revealed "deteriorating and leaking drums, some of which contained leachable lead or cadmium," and "slag material that also contained leachable lead."

Uncle Sam said equipment and parts of the building "were covered with residual dust, which was analyzed as containing elevated levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic."

"The dust was subject to becoming airborne and being released," according to the complaint.

By around February 2004 "approximately 21,500 tons of contaminated soil and debris" had been shipped from the smelting site for treatment and disposal, according to EPA records.

The settlement will help "avoid prolonged and complicated litigation," according to the consent decree approved by U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois.

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