PCB Settlement Nets Alaska City $1.96 Million

A <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/PCBs_health_concerns">PCB Settlement with the Alaskan city of Unalaska and the federal government has just been reached for $1.96 million over PCB contamination, said KUCB.

PCBs—polychlorinated biphenyls are man-made chemicals and PCB health effects include increased blood pressure. The toxic substance can also affect the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems and are potentially cancer causing if they build up in the body over long periods of time. Because PCBs do not easily degrade and can remain in our bodies for many years; the longer we live, the more these toxins do build in our systems, increasing in strength with time.

The settlement was five years in the making following the city’s discovery that the site of a new powerhouse was PCB contaminated, said KUCB. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said KUCB, mandates that PCB-contaminated sites be cleaned if PCB is found in excess of one part per million (ppm). At the site, soil tests revealed concentrations of up to 700 ppm, noted KUCB.

The specific PCB found on the site is called Arclor 1260, a compound only produced during World War II, leading the city to try to include the Department of Defense in the clean-up, according to City Manager Chris Hladick, wrote KUCB. “We included the Department of Defense and the Corps of Engineers in our planning process. We asked them to participate in the planning process and the decisions that we made,” said Hladick, quoted KUCB. “They declined and wrote several letters to us saying they had no responsibility for the PCBs in Unalaska,” added Hladick.

Initial clean-up estimates were $500,000; however, the clean-up totaled $3.2 million; about “2,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil was sent to a hazardous waste landfill off the island,” said KUCB.

In April 2009, the city sued the Department of Defense for $4 million to cover clean-up costs; the Department offered $600,000 in June, which the city refused, said KUCB. The city and the Department went into mediation in December 2010, agreeing to $1.96 million, which the city council unanimously agreed to this week, added KUCB. “There’s no mechanism through FUDS—the Formerly Used Defense Site agency—to fund a PCB cleanup without going to court,” explained Hladick, quoted KUCB.

Meanwhile, the EPA believes many schools built in the U.S. before 1979 have light ballasts containing PCBs and have begun—in response to New York City not moving as quickly as it would have liked—to take its own action to better understand the scope of PCB contamination in the school system. We have been following the recent discoveries of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/pcbs_nyc_schools">PCBs in New York City schools, specifically in light ballasts, caulking, and floor tiles. PCBs also made headlines for their part in contaminating New York City’s Newton Creek and Hudson River.

PCBs bioaccumulate, infiltrating plants, crops, fish, and small organisms, ultimately reaching those who eat these products. Because of this, nearly every human being on the planet carries some PCB in his/her body, which can be passed from mothers to children during pregnancy and in breast milk.

PCBs include about 200 compounds and are a class of very toxic chemicals ubiquitously found in construction materials and electrical products in many buildings from the 1950s until 1978, when they were phased out.

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