Federal environmental officials have offered deals to the 2,700 businesses and government agencies that have been held liable for toxic pollution at the Peak Oil Co. site.
Hundreds of service stations, automobile shops, car dealers, trucking companies and others sent oil to Peak Oil for recycling between 1954 and the early 1980s.
Peak Oil created cesspools of toxic sludge on its property east of Tampa by dumping waste laden with lead, acids and other poisons left over from the oil refining.
And though most companies who dumped there were being environmentally responsible by recycling, anyone who contributed waste to a site designated under the 1980 Superfund law can be held liable for cleanup costs.
When Peak Oil went out of business, the EPA used the Superfund law to pursue hundreds of businesses that either sold or gave oil to the company. The cost of filtering pollutants from the soil and groundwater is estimated at $27-million, including $11.3-million already spent.
The Environmental Protection Agency planned to hold meetings at the end of this week in Tampa to explain the settlement offer. About 720 of the parties received the offers within the past week, but it could be months until each is notified.
The settlement is being offered to an estimated 2,700 parties that sent less than 22,000 gallons of oil to the site. About 150 businesses that sent larger volumes to the site would then pay the remaining costs.
Businesses are given two settlement options:
Pay $4.02 per gallon, with possible future costs up to $1.50 per gallon if the remaining cleanup costs exceed the $10-million "best-case scenario."
Pay $5.52 per gallon and be relieved of any further responsibility, regardless of how much the cleanup eventually costs.
For example, one party is the city of Lakeland, which would have to pay $77,567 to be assured of no future liability for the Peak Oil site. Assistant City Attorney Tim McCausland said the city made allowances for the payment in the budget.
"I don't think you will find anybody involved in that Superfund site that will tell you there's anything about this process that's fair," McCausland said.