Sulphur, La. — A handful of companies, including Bridgestone Americas Inc., will pay a total of $5.5 million to the federal government to cover past environmental cleanup costs in Louisiana.
An agreement between the companies and the U.S. Department of Justice outlines the settlement, called a consent decree, that requires the Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker and subsidiaries to pay an undisclosed portion of the past costs to remove hazardous substances allegedly released into the environment.
Named in a complaint and settlement are Bridgestone Americas Inc., Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations L.L.C. and Firestone Polymers L.L.C.
The proposed settlement in U.S. District Court of the Western District of Louisiana, Lake Charles Division, is now in a 30-day comment period before possible finalization.
The settlement covers several industrial sites in an area known as the Calcasieu Estuary Site, including the Firestone Polymers synthetic rubber plant in Sulphur.
That site "provides higher grade polymers, including polymers for improved tire performance," a Bridgestone spokeswoman said in an answer to email questions.
The company also released a separate statement about the consent decree.
"Bridgestone is dedicated to creating a safe working environment for our employees and working toward a sustainable society for the communities we serve," the statement said.
"As part of this commitment, Firestone Polymers, a subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas, has been working constructively with federal authorities and numerous other companies with regard to costs incurred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency related to the Calcasieu Estuary in Louisiana. We are pleased to confirm that Firestone Polymers and the other parties have reached a mutually agreeable Consent Decree with the United States that resolves this matter," the statement continued.
The proposed settlement comes more than 20 years after the opening of a 1999 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into the matter. The Firestone plant has been operating since 1943.
The lawsuit alleged Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations and its corporate predecessors allegedly "discharged wastewaters, including hazardous substances styrene and chromium, from the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant" into Bayou d'Inde. Federal authorities also alleged the plant used transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls and determined those PCBs were disposed and released.
The Bridgestone spokeswoman indicated the company has been involved in talks to settle the matter since the end of 2018. "We are always interested in resolving matters amicably and doing so here made sense at this time," she said.
Other companies included in the settlement are Axiall Corp., Citgo Petroleum Corp., Occidental Chemical Corp., Oxy USA Inc., PPG Industries Inc. and Westlake Polymers L.L.C.