State Gets $81 Million to Clean Up Henderson Industrial Site
April 8, 2011

by Steve Kaniger

Dawn Cica, a partner at Lewis and Roca, is quoted in this article.

Cleanup of 220 acres of land contaminated with chemicals at the Black Mountain Industrial Complex in Henderson will be made easier, thanks to an $81 million settlement connected with the bankruptcy of chemical maker Tronox.

Las Vegas attorney Dawn Cica, who negotiated the settlement on behalf of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, said Thursday that the money was forwarded in February to a trust benefiting the state agency in its ongoing effort to eradicate contaminated soil and groundwater at the complex.

“If not for the settlement, the state of Nevada would have been responsible for the cleanup using taxpayers’ money,” Cica said. “It’s a massive deal for the state.”

The money is part of $270 million that Tronox last year agreed to pay to help clean up 2,800 contaminated sites nationwide. But Nevada got more than one-fourth of the total settlement for the Henderson site because the state was better prepared than most others to support its argument for such a large sum of money, Cica said.

“This state had done so much to document the cleanup effort that Tronox did not have the ability to fight those claims,” Cica said.

The $81 million went into a trust that has its own environmental consultants. The consultants will devise a plan to spend the money on the Tronox land at the industrial complex east of U.S. 95 between Lake Mead Drive and Warm Springs Road.

The cleanup plan is subject to approval from the environmental protection division, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also reserves veto power if there are recommendations it does not like.

Tronox is a spinoff of Kerr-McGee, the company that used to make the rocket fuel booster perchlorate at the industrial complex. Authorities in 1997 discovered perchlorate, which can cause thyroid problems in adults and brain dysfunction in infants, in Lake Mead. The perchlorate found in the lake, which is Southern Nevada’s primary source of drinking water, was traced to the old Kerr-McGee plant at the industrial complex and to a neighboring chemical maker.

Tronox, which took over the Kerr-McGee plant, still makes manganese dioxide, boron trichloride and elemental boron. Perchlorate is no longer made there.

But Cica said that groundwater at the Tronox site still contains perchlorate contamination that needs to be cleaned up.

Tronox filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code in January 2009. The $270 million settlement was reached in November as part of the bankruptcy case.

To read the article as originally published in the Las Vegas Sun, please click here.