Buffalo, New York - Under a proposed settlement to resolve liability for natural resource damages, Honeywell International Inc. and others have agreed to a settlement with a value of approximately $6.25 million to restore natural resources and their services, and to preserve, in perpetuity, over more than 70 acres of natural undeveloped habitat along the Buffalo River in Buffalo, New York. The proposed settlement, which was filed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund), will, if approved by the court, benefit the entire city of Buffalo community, including low-income and Black, Indigenous and minority neighborhoods historically overburdened by environmental pollution.
Today’s action was filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of New York on behalf of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Tuscarora Nation, as trustees for the natural resources that were harmed by the release of hazardous substances into the Buffalo River. The complaint alleges that Honeywell is the successor to Allied Chemical Corp./Buffalo Color Corp., which manufactured dyestuffs and/or organic chemicals at a facility along the River, and discharged process and cooling waters containing hazardous substances into the River from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. As part of the proposed settlement, Honeywell entered into separate agreements with ten other entities that were also allegedly responsible for releasing hazardous substances into the River. These hazardous substances caused injuries to natural and cultural resources in and along the Buffalo River, such as migratory birds, fish and mammals, as well as the sediment and groundwater.
“The Justice Department is committed to working with state and Tribal partners to restore and preserve natural resources and their services for the benefit of the public, including low-income and minority communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The proposed settlement shows how we will strive to promote environmental justice in holding polluters to account.”
“This settlement is a favorable result that provides for substantial restoration work in the area surrounding the Buffalo River,” said U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross of the Western District of New York. “The proposed natural resource restoration projects will enhance access to the Buffalo River and the natural habitat for the use and enjoyment of everyone in the community.”
“The settlement will preserve the remaining natural habitat along the Buffalo River, within the urban environment of the City of Buffalo, providing benefits for migratory birds that use the adjacent Niagara River, an Important Bird Area and Ramsar designated wetland,” said Regional Director Wendi Weber of the North Atlantic-Appalachian Region for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It will also enhance recreational opportunities and provide local communities with greater access to the river, helping to connect people to nature.”
“Today’s announcement is the hard-earned result of years of advocacy and scientific investigation conducted by New York State, our federal partners and the Tuscarora Nation to hold the responsible parties accountable for decades of pollution that contaminated the Buffalo River,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “We look forward to continuing to work together with our federal, Nation, and local partners to support the ongoing transformation of the city of Buffalo and continue our work reconnecting New Yorkers to a cleaner, healthier Buffalo River.”
The settlement will restore native species on over 70 acres of land that will be preserved in perpetuity in its undeveloped condition along the Buffalo River in an otherwise predominantly urban environment. Public access will also be provided to a portion of the City Ship Canal, allowing for recreational fishing from the shoreline. The conservation of the undeveloped land along the River, including portions of the Ship Canal, Concrete Central and Houghton Park, is valued at approximately $2 million. The conservation portion of the proposed settlement will provide increased habitat and natural aesthetic value, and additional trails for public use.
The settlement also includes the payment of $4.25 million for proposed natural resource restoration projects to create natural habitat and access to the River for the use and enjoyment of the public, including local low-income and minority community members. A portion of the recovery will also be used to fund cultural and ecological restoration programs on behalf of Tuscarora Nation. The trustees are engaged in joint restoration planning efforts, including through a proposed restoration plan that is currently subject to public comment.