From The Associated Press --
NEW ORLEANS - Conoco Phillips Co. and Sasol North America Inc. have agreed to pay nearly $6.4 million and spend about $10 million more to clean a polluted bayou and settle federal and state environmental claims, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.
The pair of agreements will bring the companies' costs for polluting Bayou Verdine to more than $28 million - they spent $12 million in 2003 to clean up another section of the bayou south of Mossville.
The two parts of the agreement are both up for public comment, Conoco Phillips spokesman Bill Stephens said. "We look forward to finalizing the plan and putting it into action," he said.
Conoco Phillips has a refinery in Westlake, where Sasol has a plant that makes chemicals for soaps, detergents and personal care products.
A news release from the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency said the companies are paying $4.5 million for the Superfund cleanup of part of Bayou Verdine and nearly $1.2 million for past damage to the Calcasieu Estuary. The companies also will restore part of the Sabine Wildife Refuge and pay $750,000 to have that work monitored, the statement said.
"It is important that polluters help pay for cleanup," said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. "Recovering more than $4.5 million is another milestone in our ongoing work to address historical pollution problems in this area of Louisiana."
The agreements will settle federal and state pollution claims against the companies, the news release said.
Bayou Verdine is a winding 4.2-mile waterway between Westlake and Lake Charles. The area cleaned in 2003 was heavily contaminated with ethylene dichloride, a toxic chemical used to make vinyl chloride. It is north of the area to be cleaned up under Wednesday's agreement, EPA regional spokesman Dave Bary said.
The restoration agreement calls for removing 2,500 feet of levees at each end of a former dredge disposal site in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge and using the dirt to build 14.7 acres of new marshland. It would also cut five gaps where water once flowed to let tides to rise and fall in the area, bringing new sediment.
(From Bill White: Sasol owns what was once Conoco's chemical unit, although there were several other owners between when Conoco had it and when Sasol acquired it a few years ago. Sasol is owned by a South African company.)