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Koppers closing Gainesville site!

Dec 22, 2009 16:05 ET

Koppers Agrees to Sale of Gainesville, Florida Wood Treating Facility to Beazer East, Inc.

Florida Customers to Be Served by Florence, South Carolina Plant

PITTSBURGH, PA–(Marketwire – December 22, 2009) – Koppers Inc., a subsidiary of Koppers Holdings Inc. (NYSE: KOP), announced today that it has reached an agreement for the sale and transfer of the property and buildings at its wood preserving facility in Gainesville, Florida to Beazer East, Inc.

“The economic downturn has had a significant impact on our operations in Gainesville,” said Walt Turner, president and CEO of Koppers. “It is always difficult to close an operating facility such as Gainesville, as a closure like this directly affects the livelihood of our employees. Despite the closure of this facility, Koppers remains committed to the utility pole business and will continue to serve the needs of customers in the southeastern United States from its Florence, South Carolina wood treating facility. We have always been committed to operating the Gainesville facility in full compliance with state and federal environmental regulations. We do understand that investigation and remediation of historic conditions at this site are important issues in Gainesville, and we are hopeful that those environmental issues, which pre-date our ownership of the facility, will be efficiently and satisfactorily resolved.”

Koppers Inc. has operated the Gainesville facility since December 1988, focusing on the treatment and distribution of utility poles, marine pilings and marine lumber.

About Koppers

Koppers, with corporate headquarters and a research center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a global integrated producer of carbon compounds and treated wood products. Including its joint ventures, Koppers operates facilities in the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, and China. The stock of Koppers Holdings Inc. is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “KOP.” For more information, visit us on the Web: www.koppers.com. Questions concerning investor relations should be directed to Brian H. McCurrie at 412 227 2153 or Michael W. Snyder at 412 227 2131.

Safe Harbor Statement

Certain statements in this press release are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and may include, but are not limited to, statements about sales levels, restructuring, profitability and anticipated expenses and cash outflows. All forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties. All statements contained herein that are not clearly historical in nature are forward-looking, and words such as “believe,” “anticipate,” “expect,” “estimate,” “may,” “will,” “should,” “continue,” “plans,” “intends,” “likely,” or other similar words or phrases are generally intended to identify forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statement contained herein, in other press releases, written statements or documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or in Koppers communications with and discussions with investors and analysts in the normal course of business through meetings, phone calls and conference calls, regarding expectations with respect to sales, earnings, cash flows, operating efficiencies, product introduction or expansion, the benefits of acquisitions and divestitures or other matters as well as financings and repurchases of debt or equity securities, are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and contingencies. Many of these risks, uncertainties and contingencies are beyond our control, and may cause actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from anticipated results, performance or achievements. Factors that might affect such forward-looking statements, include, among other things, general economic and business conditions, demand for Koppers goods and services, competitive conditions, interest rate and foreign currency rate fluctuations, availability of key raw materials and unfavorable resolution of claims against us, as well as those discussed more fully elsewhere in this release and in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by Koppers, particularly our latest annual report on Form 10-K and quarterly report on Form 10-Q. Any forward-looking statements in this release speak only as of the date of this release, and we undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after that date or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

Contact:
Bob Oltmanns
(412) 281-5656 x 228 (office)
(412) 721-0236 (cell)
Email Contact

Background

Background

The Koppers site, located on NW 23rd Ave in the City of Gainesville, consists of the western half of a designated Federal Superfund site (known as the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site) due to contamination with wood treating chemicals in site soils and groundwater. The eastern half is the Cabot site which contains groundwater contamination from past pinetar, pine oil and charcoal production. This site is under active remediation. Since 1983, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and subsequently the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 (USEPA) have been responsible for directing investigation activities at the Koppers site that are being performed by Beazer East, Inc., the responsible party for the site contamination.

These investigations have been directed toward developing a final clean-up strategy for the site contamination. In 1990 the USEPA approved a remedial plan for the site which was only partially implemented by Beazer through the installation of a surface water containment and treatment system. Source remediation was not implemented due to the discovery that the extent of contamination in the source areas and the groundwater had not been adequately assessed.

In 2001, USEPA developed an amended remedial plan for the site in a draft Record of Decision (ROD) that assumed that soil contamination at the site would be prevented from leaching into the Floridan Aquifer (a vital groundwater resource located in the limestone formations beneath the site) due to the assumed impenetrable nature of the Hawthorn Group formation located between the soil contamination sources and the deeper Floridan Aquifer underlying the site. However subsequent testing at the site from 2002 – 2005 confirmed that, in fact, 1) significant levels of dissolved contaminants had migrated to the deeper zones of the intermediate Hawthorn Group formation and the Floridan Aquifer.

The Floridan Aquifer, serves as the source of drinking water for over 175,000 people in Alachua County and is the water source for the City of Gainesville Murphree Wellfield located two miles north of the Koppers site.

Source: http://alachua.fl.us/government/depts/epd/pollution/cabotsite.aspx, 09/10/09

History

The Cabot/Koppers superfund site totals 140 acres. The site is geographically divided by Main Street with 90 acres belonging to Koppers in the west and 50 acres belonging to Cabot in the east. Koppers is a wood treating site (still in use) Cabot was a coal prodution site that has since been redeveloped into a shopping mall, car dealership, and other small retail stores. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) the two parties held responsible are Cabot and Beazer East.

The Koppers site (Beazer East is the liable corporation).

  • 90 acres of land
  • 1916 the fisrt year Koppers site operational. The plant was, and still is, used to soak and treat timber used for the production of telephone poles. Since wood products are quickly destroyed in the subtropical climate of North Central Florida the poles were originally soaked in pools containing creosote and other chemicals. The treatments made the wood impervious to attacks by insects that would otherwise destroy the timber. The chemical soaking agents have changed with time adding to the total list of chemicals at the site.
  • 1983 Koppers was listed as a superfund site.
  • 1988 Beazer purchased Koppers. Beazer sold the plant operation but not the site back to Koppers. Therefore Beazer, as the owner, holds the environmental responsibility.
  • 1990 the EPA approved of a clean-up plan for the site which was only partially implemmented by Beazer. The plan was to install a surface water treatement and containment system. The plan was not finished due to inadequate documentation of the status of the pollution.
  • 1991 Cabot Carbon signed a consent to clean up the site and to pay reparations. Koppers refused to sign the agreement and instead signed a UAO Unilateral Administrative Order. A UAO is a document used by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) when companies responsible for pollution do not comply. It is an attempt to force a company to clean up their pollution. Penalties for not complying with a UAO include judicial action and forcing the company to pay three times what it would cost the EPA to clean the site. The UAO document for Koppers was ammended in 1994.
  • 1995 the first testing wells at Koppers are created
  • 2001 assumptions were made that the Hawthorne clay, a local type of clay, would prevent the contamination of the aquifer. It was believed that the contamination would flow horizontally and the clay would act as a barrier to downward migration.
  • Original assumption proved incorrect what date? It has been proven that the clay will not protect the aquifer. Instead the pollution will flow right down through the clay. The Hawthorne clay will act as points of acess. Like fingers flowing directly into the aquifer
  • 2002 EPA requested Beazer to preform additional soil and groundwater investigation.  Soil now known to be contaminated with dioxin and arsenic.
  • The EPA had targeted March 2009 for a final decision on the site. GOAL NOT ACCOMPLISHED! And now a word from the president of Koppers.
  • 2009 May 20th US Senator Bill Nelson D Florida, letter to EPA re. Koppers superfund site.

The Cabot site

cabotmap

  • 49 acres of land mostly redeveloped into a shopping center and car dealership. There are four lagoons full of toxins on the site.
  • 1945 Cabot has produced pine tar and pine oil at site
  • 1949 industrial products isolation in three unlined pits
  • 1967 Cabot sold the site
  • 1970′s Developer breechs contaminated pits and contaminants discharge into the wetlands/creek. Pine tars and oils discharged into wetlands and creeks
  • 1983 site listed as a superfund site
  • 1991 Cabot Carbon signed a consent to clean up the site and to pay reparations. Koppers refused to sign the agreement and instead signed a UAO Unilateral Administrative Order. A UAO is a document used by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) when companies responsible for pollution do not comply. It is an attempt to force a company to clean up their pollution. Penalties for not complying with a UAO include judicial action and forcing the company to pay three times what it would cost the EPA to clean the site. The UAO document for Koppers was ammended in 1994.
  • 1992-1993 a third party risk assesment of the soil for Cabot was done by Weston. The report proved that for the soil in the Northeast pit there is a one in a million chance of inducing cancer in humans through soil contact.
  • 1994 Wells monitored by Weston are checked for contaminants.
Current Issues
  • Official sources say that the discharge of contaminated water flows from both sites flow into the city sewer. Neighborhood monitors say that it flows into Springstead Creek.
  • a shallow groundwater containment system, an interceptor trench, has been installed along N. Main Street. There are questions about the effectiveness of the trench.
  • Soils at Cabot site are non-toxic according to Weston.
  • Soil contamination remains in the NE pit but according to the risk assesment by Weston there was a one in a million chance of contracting cancer from the contaminated soil.
  • Unfortunately Koppers is still in operation and still polluting next to a residential neighborhood. Koppers (Beazer) continues to pollute and threaten Gainesville while Cabot corporate activity is long gone.
  • Cabot still has contaminated water below the surface.
  • Koppers, although they have discussed soil treatement (soil washing), has not initiated any site repair.
  • Cabot Carbon and Beazer know that it is cheaper to clean the site to industrial standards.
  • The surrounding neighborhoods (Stephen Foster) are beter served if the companies will clean the site to residential standards. (a cleaner more expensive standard)
  • Currently there is no progress toward removing polluted material

Source: http://kopperssuperfundsite.com/history.html, October 22, 2009