DuPont to pay $50 mn to help clean up mercury contamination

DuPont has agreed to pay the largest natural resource settlement in Virginia history for mercury contamination in Waynesboro.

The chemical company has offered to pay around $50 million to restore the environment. State leaders and the US Department of Justice announced this proposed settlement in Richmond on Thursday.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, DuPont's settlement is the eighth-largest natural resource damage settlement in American history.

The contamination started in the 1930s at a former DuPont plant and affected the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River watershed. The company had used mercury to manufacture rayon from around 1929 to 1950.

Officials say the damage reached more than 100 miles of river and associated floodplain.

Because of the scope of the pollution, fishing was limited and there was extensive ecological harm to the area.

Negotiations began with stakeholders in 2008, and officials say DuPont has worked to make things right.

"In bringing this settlement to a close, we are finally righting a wrong," said Governor Terry McAuliffe (D).

"Obviously DuPont is going to pay for the problems that they caused, but they also stepped up," said John Cruden, assistant attorney general.

Money from the settlement is expected to go to projects for wildlife habitat restoration, water quality enhancement and improvements to recreational areas.

Natural resource agencies at the state and federal level will oversee the restoration projects, but they won't take action until hearing from the public.

Virginians can weigh in or learn more about the settlement plans at a meeting scheduled for 10 January at the Waynesboro Public Library.