Lawyer: Union Carbide Cleanup Must Go Through Federal Court | West Virginia News


SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An attorney for a landholding company that has sued the Union Carbide Corp. over contamination of a West Virgina property is objecting to a proposal from the chemical giant to voluntarily clean up the site, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported.

Michael Callaghan represents Courtland Company in several federal court cases that allege Union Carbide broke environmental laws at an industrial landfill in South Charleston. The landfill was active from the 1950s to the 1980s and has been contaminating Davis Creek, a tributary of the Kanawha River.

Expert testing of Davis Creek revealed high levels of arsenic, chromium, cadmium, lead, selenium, mercury and other toxic substances.

Callaghan tried to get the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to take action against the company before suing in federal court. Then earlier this month, Union Carbide submitted an application for the state’s voluntary remediation program to clean up the site. The state agency accepted the application and is negotiating an agreement.

In a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection last week, Callaghan challenged the state’s right to accept the application, which would allow Union Carbide to clean up the site without paying civil penalties. The case is under federal jurisdiction, he wrote, and the state’s acceptance of the application amounts to “impermissible interference” in that case.

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In his letter, Callaghan gave the state agency 10 days to revoke the application. Otherwise, he said, he will seek a restraining order from U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver, who’s overseeing the case in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

A spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on Wednesday afternoon.

Union Carbide Corporation said in a statement that it will respond to the letter “within the confines of the comment period provided by the WVDEP.” The company said it had no further comment with regard to the lawsuit.

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