DES MOINES, Iowa — Titan Tire International Inc. has agreed to pay more $11.5 million to the federal government to resolve a long-running environmental case in Iowa.
The tire maker has entered into a proposed consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa that calls for the payment to satisfy past judgments of $1.62 million in civil penalties, $5.45 million in punitive damages and another $5.45 million in past costs incurred by the government.
The feds previously sued Titan, including subsidiary Dico Inc., for alleged violations of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order at a Des Moines Superfund site and for recovery of costs at a separate Southern Iowa Mechanical, or SIM, site.
The case is a bit complicated for the uninitiated, but involves both trichloroethylene (TCE), a cleaning solvent, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a group of manmade chemicals that were once widely used but then outlawed when found to cause health problems.
TCE found its way into the surrounding grounds while the PCBs have contaminated the buildings themselves.
Titan had hired SIM to dismantle three buildings on its TCE-contaminated property, but allegedly did not alert the contractor to the presence of PCBs also at the site. SIM removed relocated building materials to its own property in Ottumwa, Iowa, which caused PCB contamination there and required subsequent cleanup, the federal government said.
It was just about three years ago that Titan, which has been dismissive of the case in the past, indicated it would appeal.
A U.S. District Court judge, in 2017, had ordered the company to pay up, but Titan said it disagreed with the ruling at the time. Titan said it did not intend to arrange for the disposal of hazardous substances when it sold the buildings to SIM.
Now the company is ready to move on.
"Titan International, Titan Tire Corp. and Dico share the desire of federal, state, and local government officials to see the Dico site returned to productive use, while also resolving once and for all more than two decades of litigation relating to the property," Titan CEO Paul Reitz said in a statement.
"As a major employer in the Des Moines Metro area, Titan Tire Corp. is particularly glad to be part of an agreement that, if approved, will give the City the opportunity to move forward with redevelopment."
Dico, under the proposed consent decree, also will donate or convey the property to the city of Des Moines for no more than $10. The city will take over ongoing operation and maintenance of a groundwater treatment remedy in place on the property.
The EPA, meanwhile, is committing to other activities, including demolition of remaining contaminated buildings, an upgrade of the groundwater treatment system, and "a removal action" at the site's south pond, according to the federal government.
"Protecting human health and restoring contaminated sites to productive reuse are at the heart of the Superfund program," EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford said.
"This agreement provides for the long-term protection of Des Moines' drinking water supply, and provides an opportunity for the city to develop the property into a community asset."
The federal government is agreeing to not sue the defendants or the city under specific sections of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, better known as Superfund, in exchange for the cash settlement.
The proposed $11.5 million settlement also eliminates a past $4.12 million judgment the government obtained against Dico in 2000 for previous costs.
Dico operated at the Des Moines location for about 40 years, the EPA said, making steel wheels and formulating chemicals and pesticides. Titan acquired the site in 1993 and closed it two years later, according to local reports.
The 43-acre site has been on the Superfund list since 1983.