Owner of Brooklyn Park site sued by EPA for cleanup cost NORTH COUNTY -- Linthicum * Ferndale * Brooklyn Park * Pumphrey

October 05, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

The Environmental Protection Agency has sued a holding company to recoup more than $500,000 it spent to clean up hazardous waste at an 86-acre site in Brooklyn Park that the company owns.

DWC Trust Holding Co. has owned the site off Snow Hill Lane, where drums full of hazardous wastes were dumped, since 1982. In July 1990, EPA inspectors found more than 300 drums containing hazardous materials, including PCBs, cyanides, lead and mercury. Many of the drums were leaking, or had leaked onto the soil, the suit said.

The agency issued an order to clean up the site in January 1991, then stepped in and removed the drums itself in August 1991.

"The big problem with the site in terms of the EPA was concern for the public. The site was not secured in any way," said Kaye A. Allison, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case.

People, apparently oblivious to the hazardous waste surrounding them, were observed walking and riding motorcycles on the site, according to the suit, which was filed Thursday.

The suit alleges that the holding company failed to keep people from using the land near Cedar Hill Cemetery as a dump, failed to keep the site secure and to clean it up after the EPA issued its order. The owners also failed to submit a plan to state authorities to clean up and stabilize the site.

In addition, the EPA is asking for punitive damages of triple the $500,000 cost of the cleanup and penalties of $25,000 a day from each of the trust's eight owners for each day they failed to comply with the January 1991 order until the agency completed the cleanup that August.

The trust is also known as the DWC Branch Trust for the Posnick Family, the DWC Branch Trust for the Gimbel Family, and the DWC Branch Trust for the Clayten Family. One of the trust's owners, Howard L. Chertkof, did not return phone calls.

Tom Milch, a Washington, D.C., lawyer, has represented the trust and its owners in the past. But Mr. Milch, who said yesterday he had not seen the suit, declined to comment.

The state Department of the Environment oversaw the cleanup of the site, said Mike Sullivan, a department spokesman. He and EPA officials said that it is standard practice for the agency to seek reimbursement of Superfund money spent in cleanups where the owners either can't be found, or refuse to clean up a site.

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