US: PCB Damage to South Carolina Waters Costs Texas Company $20 Million

Schlumberger Technology Corporation, headquartered in Texas, has agreed to pay $11.8 million to federal and state agencies for damge to natural resources caused by the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's) in the Twelvemile Creek, Lake Hartwell and surrounding areas, the Justice Department has announced.

Schlumberger will spend an additional $8 to 10 million to purchase and remove two hydroelectric dams on Twelvemile Creek, and to conduct stream restoration activities.

The states of South Carolina and Georgia are joining the settlement with the United States, which was lodged Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.

The $11.8 million will be used to provide opportunities for the public to catch uncontaminated fish in the vicinity of Lake Hartwell, to enhance the fishery of Lake Hartwell and Twelvemile Creek, and to improve the habitat and natural resources within the Twelvemile Creek corridor.

Additionally, Schlumberger is required to pay $530,000 to reimburse the natural resources agencies for their costs in assessing natural resource damages.

Schlumberger is the current owner of the Sangamo-Weston plant site, a capacitor manufacturing plant in Pickens, South Carolina. The plant was owned and operated by Sangamo-Weston from 1955 to 1987. Schlumberger assumed the liabilities of Sangamo associated with the PCB contamination in a series of corporate transactions that took place between 1990 and 2003.

PCB's are a mixture of synthetic organic chemicals which, because of their good insulating properties, were widely used in electrical equipment. In the U.S. PCB's were banned from use in most products by 1977 because it was discovered that they accumulate in the environment and can have immunological, developmental and reproductive effects in organisms such as fish, mammals and birds.

"Schlumberger's payment to fund restoration by the federal and state trustees will be used for projects designed to compensate the public for the injury to the fishery and to the habitat from PCB contamination," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The company's agreement to purchase and remove the dams will directly improve the Twelvemile Creek ecosystem and provide significant environmental benefits for the affected communities."

Under an earlier administrative action, Schlumberger is conducting cleanup activities in and around Lake Hartwell under the supervision of the EPA in Atlanta, and these activities will not be affected by today's settlement.

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