Bills Are Piling Up in Water Contamination Case Some Wonder If Lockformer Will Even Be Able to Pay for All the Cleanup, Lawsuits
Pyke, Marni, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Marni Pyke Daily Herald Staff Writer
Recent findings by state investigators could add to the snowballing expenses faced by a Lisle equipment manufacturer accused of polluting hundreds of area wells.
Some already are questioning how Lockformer Co. and its parent company, Met-Coil Systems Corp., can pay for the environmental cleanup and multiple lawsuits.
"They're facing a massive liability," said attorney Shawn Collins, who is representing nearby residents with tainted drinking water. "We're concerned that what may be in jeopardy is Lockformer's ability to clean up the property."
Lockformer, which makes metal-forming equipment, and Met-Coil are subsidiaries of Mestek Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation.
In November, Mestek issued a quarterly statement to the federal Securities Exchange Commission containing a caution to stockholders about attempts to borrow money for remediation.
"Met-Coil has received no formal commitment from any of the lenders it has approached," according to the report. "There can be no assurance, therefore, that Met-Coil will be able to meet its obligations in relation to the work plan."
The update wasn't all gloom and doom. Officials also spoke of setting aside reserves and seemed confident about prevailing in litigation.
An attorney for Mestek says the company can't elaborate on statements in the SEC report.
"We can't give an individual details when we're not giving them to anyone else," George Vurdelja said.
Met-Coil and Lockformer officials did not return calls.
TCE and Lockformer
Authorities say Lockformer's troubles started in the 1970s when gallons of the toxic solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, seeped into the soil of the plant at 711 Ogden Ave. The releases continued for years, authorities say, creating a TCE plume that ended up in people's wells as far as two miles away.
In May 2002, a civil action lawsuit filed by Collins on behalf of Lisle homeowners living near the plant was settled for $10 million.
The company also is being sued by residents from the unincorporated Woodridge Estates and Suburban Estates neighborhoods south of Lisle's borders.
Lockformer has acknowledged some TCE may have left its property but denies it is responsible for widespread pollution.
However, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency officials say new tests on South Road show contamination traveled from Lockformer to Woodridge Estates and Suburban Estates.
"It puts it right in line with those subdivisions," IEPA Project Manager Stan Komperda said.
And monitoring wells on the property indicate TCE may be migrating west toward businesses on Ogden Avenue, compounding the problem, officials said.
A big price tag
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 ordered Lockformer to remediate the TCE-saturated soil at its plant.
Workers will remove the TCE using two methods, one of which requires heating the soil and extracting contaminants through steam and a second that uses a vacuuming process.
The heating stage alone will cost $3.1 million, according to the EPA. Estimates are not available for the vacuuming process.
Once that work is done, there's polluted ground water to deal with.
"Our hope is that there will be enough money there to clean the property up," Collins said. "It could be virtually a never-ending source of contamination."
Purifying the ground water could take years, EPA on-scene- coordinator Steve Faryan said. …