By Erik Olson, February 9, 2013, Longview Daily News
The Port of Longview on Friday accepted a partial settlement of nearly $1 million in its suit against some insurers to force them to cover the cost of cleaning up decades-old soil contamination, but the legal fight will continue.
Following a closed-door session at the port, commissioners accepted a $950,000 settlement offered by three companies: Arrowood Indemnity Co, Indemnity Marine Assurance Co. and Marine Indemnity Insurance Co. of America.
Seventeen other underwriting companies, which operate under Lloyd’s of London insurance exchange, are continuing their battle against the port in a jury trial in Cowlitz County Superior Court. The trial is expected to continue through Friday.
Port officials declined to comment on the case during the trial.
At stake is the future of two sites in the port’s west industrial park, which port officials want to clean up and make attractive for future developers. One is at the former International Paper Co. creosote plant, which was used for treatment of wood products on about four to six acres of land. The second is along the rail line at the port’s west end, where an underground pipe leached bunker fuel from the Berth 1 docks to an old storage tank owned by what was then Longview Fibre Co.
Some of the contamination occurred in the middle of last century.
Port officials say they had liability coverage at the time but only discovered the contamination in the late 1980s. They learned they might be eligible for insurance coverage in 2009, when they filed a claim.
Attorneys for the insurance companies argued their clients shouldn’t be responsible to pay for all the damages caused decades ago.
The port wants to clear away the contaminated soil and replace it with new fill, which could cost millions of dollars. A second option would be to pour concrete on the sites to cap the pollution, which would be less expensive but more difficult to develop.