Government agencies sue former wood treatment plant for environmental cleanup costs

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jul. 31, 2008, 4:14am

TEXARKANA – Joining other government agencies, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is suing Beazer East, the former wood treatment facility that closed almost 50 years ago.

The lawsuit alleges the company violated the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Clean Water Act by releasing or threatening to release hazardous substances into the environment from the Koppers Texarkana Superfund Site.

The lawsuit was filed July 25 by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas General Land Office.

The agencies are seeking to recover damages for injury or destruction of natural resources, reimbursement of assessment and restoration costs and for the diminution in value of the resources.

The site, located one mile west of downtown Texarkana, is the location of a 62-acre former wood treatment facility that operated from 1910 until 1961.

Beazer operated the site from 1940 until 1962. The wood treatment process utilized a drying phase that consisted of using 0.25 percent sodium fluoride and 1.75 percent arsenic trioxide, the industry standard.

Further, the substances used in the wood preservation process were creosote compounds, metals, volatile organic hydrocarbons, and semi-volatile organic hydrocarbons.

According to the lawsuit, these substances were released to surface waters and groundwater affecting the Site's aquatic habitat, which included a pond and Waggoner Creek.

The facility ceased operation in 1961 and the land was sold for residential and commercial development.

It was not until 1980 that the site was found to be contaminated. In 1984, the EPA placed the site on its National Priorities List.

In 1988, the EPA called for buyout and demolition of residential properties and the removal and treatment of contaminated soil and treatment of contaminated groundwater.

Soil removal and other actions began in 1996, with the EPA accepting the closeout report on the activities ten years later.

The defendant, Beazer East Inc., entered into a cooperative agreement in 1998 to perform a restoration based assessment regarding the sites' natural resources. Beazer has partially reimbursed the government for the incurred costs of the assessment.

As a result of the assessment, the government determined the hazardous substances released injured wildlife, including migratory birds and waterfowl.

The complaint seeks an award of damages against Beazer "for injury to, destruction of, or loss of natural resources, including the unreimbursed past and future costs of assessing such injury, destruction, or loss, the costs of restoring, replacing and/or acquiring the equivalent of those injured resources, and the past, present, and future diminution in value of those resources pending restoration or replacement."

The Texas attorney general joins the U.S. Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division, Environment Enforcement Section with the filing of this lawsuit July 25, in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

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