We have previously discussed how banks can find themselves saddled with environmental liability from bank-owned properties they have acquired when they purchase assets of other banks. See Acquisitions Bring CERCLA Liability to Banks
The latest example is In the Matter of Hamburg Mills Creek Superfund Site, Docket No. CERC-03-2013-004 where Wells Fargo agreed to reimburse EPA $30K in removal costs at a bank branch office formerly owned by Wachovia. The proposed settlement was published in the October 24th issue of the federal register. The settlement is available at our Lender Liability Page
The bank property is located in the Borough of Hamburg where lead battery waste and casings were used as fill material. In 2002, EPA performed a removal assessment to determine lead concentrations in sediments and the soils along the Mill Creek. EPA detected lead in the creek bank near the Wachovia Bank property ranging from 5,000 to 183,000 ppm. EPA determined that the creek bank was accessible to the public and that lead-contaminated runoff form the Wachovia property was migrating into the creek.
Wachovia entered into an Administrative Order for Removal Response Action in March 31, 2005 where the bank agreed to delete the extent of the lead contamination associated with the battery waste. Wachovia performed sampling along a 375 strip of land along the creek. The sampling results found lead ranging from 156 to 139,000 ppm.
Wachovia then entered into an Administrative Settlement and Order on Consent for Removal Response Action dated September 18, 2006 where the bank agreed to excavate soil exceeding 1,000 ppm of lead and all surficial areas containing visible battery casings. The current proposed settlement covers removal costs incurred by EPA.