This settlement recovers taxpayer money and also ensures the long-term protection of human health and the environment while offering a pathway to redevelopment.
Decades of blight and uncertainty are coming to an end as the city of Des Moines agrees to take ownership of the Des Moines TCE Superfund Site, known as the Dico site locally. This agreement is a major milestone that continues protection for the city’s water supply and moves the site one step closer to productive reuse for the citizens of Des Moines.
To get where we are today, a place where a Superfund site can be restored to productive use, is a major accomplishment. It required the United States to reach a settlement with DICO Inc. and the corporate affiliate, Titan Tire Co.
As a signatory to the settlement, the city of Des Moines will accept the property title and Dico will transfer the property at no cost to the city. In exchange for the property, the city will operate and maintain the groundwater remediation system, maintain the asphalt cap (or enhance the existing cap with the addition of several feet of clean fill material), and implement land use controls to protect those on site from any potential exposures.
The settlement represents a win, not just for the Environmental Protection Agency, but for the citizens of Des Moines and American taxpayers. We are recovering taxpayer money that EPA spent on historical response actions, and the settlement satisfies Dico’s liability at the site. This settlement also ensures the long-term protection of human health and the environment while offering a pathway to redevelopment. It is always our goal to return sites to productive use for their communities, and this important milestone offers a path toward that goal.
EPA’s Superfund program operates under one unifying principle: The polluter pays. After almost a decade of contentious litigation, the U.S. will receive $11.5 million from Dico/Titan in a settlement of the judgments owed to the U.S. With the funds, a special account will be established with $2.9 million for EPA to conduct necessary site cleanup work. The remaining $8.6 million will go to the Hazardous Substance Superfund.
Not every company that violates environmental regulations is so resistant. In fact, from 2017 to 2019, there has been a 79% increase in the number of facilities addressed as a result of self-disclosed violations. Having a tough stance on compliance creates an incentive for the regulated community to self-disclose and ultimately leads to greater compliance. During the Trump administration, our actions have resulted in more civil penalties and criminal fines and restitution than in the first four years of the previous administration.
The Dico site is appropriate for various types of reuse, which the city will ultimately decide. EPA supports this. The remedies in place and institutional controls on the site will ensure protection from potential exposures. EPA will work closely with the city to ensure the protectiveness of the planned reuse and will ensure that it is compatible with the environmental protection remedies in place.
EPA remains committed to its core mission: protecting human health and the environment. This agreement provides for enduring protection of the Des Moines water supply from contaminated groundwater at the site, removal of contaminated buildings and sediments, and long-term maintenance of the protective cap. Collectively these measures not only provide the necessary protection of human health and the environment, they clear the path for site redevelopment. This is a big win for the agency, for city government, and for proud Iowans who call this community home.
As we take our next steps toward reusing this site, I would like to offer my thanks to Des Moines city officials for their vision of the future, a vision that can turn a Superfund site into a community asset.
Jim Gulliford is Region 7 administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.
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