Final cleanup costs for the Triangle’s worst case of industrial pollution were filed in a court settlement on Friday.
The Ward Transformer site near Raleigh-Durham International Airport contaminated six miles of land, creeks and lakes with cancer-causing PCBs from 1965 to 2005. It has been the site of ongoing tests and excavation to get rid of the pollution and restore the waterways through the federal Superfund program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that a settlement of $5.5 million has been reached among 173 parties. The money will be used to rid polychlorinated biphenyls from lower Brier Creek, Lake Crabtree, lower Crabtree Creek and tributaries.
The settlement brings the total cost of cleaning up the pollution to $87.5 million.
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Ward Transformer, on 11 acres in an industrial area, manufactured, repaired and reconditioned transformers that contained PCBs for cooling and insulation. Contaminated fluids were frequently spilled during the work and reached soil and sediment.
Waste from the company was hauled to a landfill in Warren County near a small, largely African-American community, where PCBs leaked. Subsequent protests, arrests and legal challenges followed, establishing Warren County as the birth of the environmental justice movement.
The EPA listed the Raleigh plant site on a priority cleanup list in 2003, and two years later a settlement was reached to pay for immediate excavation of contaminated soil to prevent further spread of the material. That work was completed last year, after more than 488,000 tons of PCB-contaminated soil, material and debris were treated and disposed.
The 2005 settlement, approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, required Ward Transformer and companies that did business with it to share the cost of cleanup by contributing to a trust fund. The latest settlement uses $405,000 from that fund toward the cleanup.
The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, also imposes a $40,000 civil penalty against Carr & Duff Inc., an electrical construction company, because it didn’t comply with required cleanup in 2011.