Settlement eyed for environmental cleanup cost at state park
DOVER, Del. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a tentative settlement with the state of Delaware after seeking to recoup millions of dollars for costs associated with cleaning up lead-contaminated material at Fort DuPont State Park.
A federal court complaint filed Wednesday by the EPA was accompanied by a proposed consent decree resolving all claims in the complaint for about $3.6 million.
The consent decree requires the state to pay about $1.9 million to the EPA. To resolve the state’s potential counterclaim, it also requires the Department of Defense to pay $1.7 million to EPA.
The complaint asserted that the federal government was owed some $3.8 million for cleaning up lead-contaminated material more than five years ago from a former dump site at the park.
The complaint states that federal officials notified the state in August 2016 of potential liability that demanded payment of response costs. As of December 2019, the United States had incurred cost of about $3.8 million, including more than $136,000 of prejudgment interest, according to the complaint.
The Fort DuPont property was an active military base from the Civil War through World War II but was turned over to state in 1947, 10 years after part of the property became a dump area.
The state began operating the Governor Bacon Health Center on the property in 1948 and dedicated part of the land as a state park in 1992. The park is managed by the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
Federal officials say tidal action of the Delaware River eroded the property’s shoreline over time and exposed materials including demolition debris, metal objects, and material associated with military operations.
A 1985 brush fire that exposed about 14 gas cylinders containing chemical substances prompted investigations into other potential hazardous substances at the site and lead to the discovery of high concentrations of lead.
The EPA began a removal action in 2014 that included excavating and removing lead-contaminated materials, primarily from the site’s tidal zone, and building a retaining wall.
That same year, state lawmakers established a quasi-public corporation to oversee the renovation and redevelopment of the property as a mixed-use community that could include apartments, restaurants, shops, a hotel and a marina. The site is also being eyed for a possible recreational vehicle park and campground.
This story has been corrected to note that the court complaint was accompanied by a proposed consent decree resolving all claims for about $3.6 million.