- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - The city of Hattiesburg will receive approximately $3 million in a settlement resolving certain legal claims relating to groundwater contamination from the former Hercules/Ashland plant.

The Hattiesburg American reports (https://hatne.ws/2aIDoR4) it’s the final resolution in a lawsuit filed three years ago by city officials in U.S. District Court, which claimed groundwater contamination from the closed factory may have leached into the city’s water supply. The suit also alleged Hercules improperly disposed of harmful chemicals in the facility for decades.

“I feel like we’re so fortunate that it’s settled,” Councilwoman Mary Dryden said Monday. “My understanding is that Hercules is responsible for doing whatever needs to be done to that site. It’s one of those examples of how we can’t just do something without thinking about how it affects the environment.”

In late June, city council voted to approve the settlement, the terms of which were kept confidential at the time. The settlement involves only the Hercules property and not outside residences that may have individual lawsuits pending.

“I wasn’t focused that much on the fact that the city got a settlement - I was focused on the fact that we got some closure on a situation that has concerned a lot of people,” Dryden said. “It’s a good opportunity to stop, take stock, and look at the decisions we make every day and how they impact our environment.”

Covington, Kentucky-based Ashland Inc. purchased Hercules Inc., including the Hattiesburg site, in 2008. The following year, operations ceased at the Hattiesburg plant, which opened in the early 1920s to harvest rosin from old pine stumps.

The 2013 suit against Hercules was part of a small handful of legal action plant officials have seen over the last few years, beginning with an early 2011 investigation that uncovered several harmful contaminants that were released into the environment after the facility closed.

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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