PORTLAND, Maine — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a $5.7 million settlement with ConAgra to pay for cleanup of the former A.C. Lawrence Leather Co. in South Paris, where a series of tannery sludge lagoons had been covered with gravel and began leaching into the Androscoggin River in 2000.
The EPA announced the settlement late Wednesday, concluding a legal battle that started in late 2011 against Nebraska-based ConAgra Grocery Products Co.
The EPA had removed about 33,000 tons of soil contaminated with chromium and lead during 2006 and 2007, which it said prevented the chromium sludge from getting into the river and water supplies.
Curt Spalding, administrator of the EPA’s New England office, praised the settlement in a prepared statement, saying it has broader meaning for the agency’s ability to recover costs for cleanups across the country.
“EPA always tries to ensure that U.S. taxpayers don’t foot the bill for pollution caused by others, so this is good news not only for Maine’s citizens in South Paris but indeed for all U.S. taxpayers,” Spalding said.
The settlement, which comes after a prolonged legal battle, still awaits approval by a U.S. District Court judge before it is final.
The EPA said ConAgra was identified as the party responsible for the cleanup costs “through a series of complex corporate transactions.”