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FMC Corp. to finish Middleport arsenic cleanup under new settlement

An agricultural chemical manufacturer will finish the cleanup of arsenic and other hazardous contamination at its Middleport plant and nearby properties under a settlement the state announced Friday.

The company, FMC Corp., will also reimburse the state $31 million for cleanup work already done at the site, as well as at nearby homes and at the Royalton Hartland Central School District campus.

The new consent order requires FMC to pay $2.4 million in penalties to resolve decades of violations at the plant and $1 million for an environmental benefit project to help compensate the surrounding community for the effects of FMC's contamination, according to the state.

"This comprehensive enforcement agreement requires the company to reimburse taxpayers millions of dollars for past cleanup actions and invest hundreds of millions more until the job is done," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement announcing the deal.

A statement from Cuomo's office called the settlement "one of New York's largest environmental enforcement actions in state history."

The original consent agreement dates back to 1991. However, in 2013, the state and FMC became embroiled in a disagreement over how thoroughly the company should have to clean up the site. The DEC has a preferred means for cleaning up the site, which differed from FMC's cheaper method.

In 2014, FMC refused to pay for any additional cleanup and sued the DEC over its preference, which was about $40 million more expensive. In 2018, the state Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the DEC.

"FMC employees have lived and worked in the Middleport area community for decades," said FMC Plant Manager Roberta Kloda in a statement released by the company Friday.

"All parties involved are working together with same goal in mind — to continue protecting human health and the environment while maintaining safe operations at the facility," Kloda added.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, in a statement Friday, called the settlement a major victory for environment justice and the state's environmental laws.

"It's a victory for the residents of the Niagara County neighborhoods who, through this consent order, are ensured that the environmental contamination is cleaned up by the polluter," Seggos added.

In addition the reimbursement for cleanup work already performed and the penalties assessed by the state, FMC will reimburse the DEC up to $15 million a year over the next two years for costs incurred by the state for cleaning up surrounding residential properties and the Royalton Hartland School campus.

Under the consent agreement, FMC will fund an on-site environmental monitor at the plant and implement a site management plant to guard against future environmental violations. The facility will be required to fully upgrade its on-site wastewater treatment plant and expand its groundwater collection system to provide full hydraulic control and prevent the off-site migration of groundwater contamination.

The company also has to set aside $80 million to ensure it has the funds to continue addressing contamination.

FMC's Middleport plant, situated on 102-acre former orchard, manufactures insecticides, herbicides and fungicides that are used in agriculture.

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