Federal Government to be Reimbursed for Cleanup of Two Superfund Sites Outside of Charlotte, North Carolina
The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement under which Fred D. Godley Jr. and two of his companies – 436 Cone Avenue LLC and F.D. Godley Number Three LLC – will pay $1.25 million for government cleanup work at the Pineville Textile Mill Superfund Site in Pineville, North Carolina, and the Old Davis Hospital Superfund Site in Statesville, North Carolina.
The cleanup effort removed almost 4,000 tons of asbestos-contaminated debris from the Old Davis Hospital Superfund Site and oversaw the removal of asbestos-contaminated debris and drums of oil containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Pineville Textile Mill Superfund Site. Asbestos and PCBs are carcinogenic hazardous substances and may pose risks to human health.
The Justice Department, on behalf of the EPA, sued the defendants in 2019 to recover the United States’ unpaid cleanup costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (also commonly known as “CERCLA” or “the Superfund law”). The United States’ complaint alleged that Godley’s companies owned and operated the two sites. The complaint further alleged that Godley, as the companies’ manager, also operated the sites and made the decision to demolish aged and dilapidated buildings without ensuring that asbestos was surveyed and safely removed before demolition began. These demolition activities caused the release and threat of release of asbestos and PCBs into the air and ground and potentially offsite into nearby residential neighborhoods.
The settlement comes on the heels of a successful trial, completed in January in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, in which a jury returned a verdict finding Godley personally liable for the government’s costs at the Old Davis Hospital Superfund Site under the legal doctrine of piercing the corporate veil.
“This settlement and the jury’s verdict send the message that an individual cannot hide behind the corporate shield when he creates and perpetuates a public health risk in the community,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“EPA is committed to protecting communities by enforcing an individual’s obligations to properly manage and dispose of hazardous waste,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “This verdict reflects EPA’s continued commitment to protect human health and the environment by ensuring compliance with state and federal environmental laws.”
The consent decree requires Godley and his companies to reimburse the EPA $1.25 million in costs, and requires Godley to provide the EPA notice, information, and access and to ensure proper asbestos inspections and abatement whenever he undertakes future demolition activities on properties that he owns and/or controls, regardless of whether he does so in his individual capacity or on behalf of a business entity.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The consent decree will be available for viewing at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.